Diaspora Philanthropy To Israel Is No Longer A One Way Street

Forward, February 26, 2018.

I follow Anshel Pfeffer’s column in Haaretz with assiduity. I usually find his mordant analyses profound and insightful. But I can’t help but take exception to his recent article, “Help Israel. Stop Giving It Money.”

Pfeffer makes a bizarre intellectual summersault to link the bribery allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu with the corrupting influence that Diaspora money — including philanthropy that supports social needs — supposedly has over Israeli politicians and society as a whole.

The picture Pfeffer paints of “the schnorer industry” seems to be stuck in the 1970s, when American contributions represented a much higher portion of Israel’s budget, and when those contributions were one-way transactions: Americans gave, Israel received.

But today, donations by Israelis represent almost half of the ₪17 billion that funds the Israeli nonprofit sector. Moreover, to describe Israelis as “schnorers” is insulting to a new generation of Israeli philanthropists who are contributing not just money, but also effort and brainpower, to create one of the most vibrant nonprofit economies in the world.

The emergence of Israeli philanthropy has created a new paradigm of Jewish philanthropic involvement with Israel. Today, most philanthropic projects in Israel consist of partnerships between funders on both sides of the ocean, with Israelis as equal partners...

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