Outspoken pundits on NIF’s invite list

IRVING Wallach (pictured) is planning an eventful period for the New Israel Fund (NIF) Australia, after being elected its second president at the annual meeting last Sunday.

The Sydney barrister is a deputy and former executive member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and has been secretary-general of the World Union of Jewish Students, head of Betar Australia, and chair of the Zionist Youth Council of NSW.

Wallach told The AJN plans are underway to bring outspoken commentators Peter Beinart and Daniel Levy to Australia on speaking tours.

Beinart, an American, who has been described by Haaretz as “the Jewish establishment’s enfant terrible”, caused a stir with an address to the 2012 J Street conference, calling for more space in public discourse for critics of Israel.

Levy, a Briton, is a policy analyst, author of Identity Crisis: Israel and its Arab Citizens, and a member of J Street’s advisory council.

Wallach took over the NIF Australia reins from Robin Margo, founding president of the three-year-old local organisation, spun off from NIF, which has been running internationally since 1979.

He dismissed widespread criticism of NIF that it supports international NGOs with anti-Israel positions.

“There’s a lot of baseless hysteria that’s drummed up unfortunately quite deliberately because there are certain people who don’t want to deal with difficult questions about Israel.

“I think there’s a big constituency who want to support Israel but don’t want to support some of the anti-democratic legislation that’s coming in of late, but want Israel to prosper in a moral sense.”

At its AGM, NIF Australia renewed its leadership team, also electing Mandi Katz as vice-president. Margo joined Associate Professor Mark Baker, Justice Stephen Rothman, Ronald Sackville and Robyne Schwarz on NIF’s advisory council.

PETER KOHN