TIKKUN READERS KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE PROBLEMS IN ISRAEL OFTEN KNOW FAR less about the dynamic community of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are the engine for challenging this reality. With the diminishing of the Israeli welfare state and collapse of the collective national ethos, on the one hand, and the absence of any cohesive left political movement, on the other, these organizations are now the driving force of legal, advocacy, and educational work for social change in the country. The past two decades has brought a dramatic increase in the number of these social change organizations. There are hundreds of organizations working on issues as diverse as economic justice, civil and human rights, community economic development, environment, and religious pluralism. They range from small, grassroots organizations to large professional ones.
The list below provides just a flavor of the work of some of the groups, supported over recent years by the Ford Foundation Israel Fund (www.fordisraelfund.org). Some of these groups, and numerous others, receive financial support from the New Israel Fund (www.nif.org) and ongoing capacity-building assistance from its empowerment and training arm, Shatil. Ha'aretz recently stated: "There is hardly any significant, socially-oriented organization in Israel today that does not owe its existence to the New Israel Fund."
CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI, www.acri.org.il) is Israel's oldest and largest flagship civil rights organization, often described as the Israeli equivalent of the ACLU. The organization's precedent setting Supreme Court victories, won over the past 26 years, have advanced the rights afforded to Israelis in all communities from left to right, secular to religious, Jews and Arabs alike.
While ACRI is the only national organization working on the full spectrum of issues, there are a host of other, smaller, human rights organizations focusing on specific issues or constituencies. For example: Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (www.phr.org.il) monitors and advocates for the right to health within Israel and in the Occupied Territories; Workers Hotline (www.kavlaoved.org.il) works to protect the rights of vulnerable workers in Israel and the Occupied Territories; and Rabbis for Human Rightswww.rhr.israel.net introduces Jewish tradition and sources into its work to promote the rights of Israelis and Palestinians.
B'Tselem: the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (www.btselem.org) monitors and documents Israeli human rights policies in the Occupied Territories. Since its inception close to twenty years ago, its reports have earned high marks for accuracy and credibility. If you go into the offices of Israeli government and military officials, and senior offices within the U.S. State Department, you will undoubtedly see B'Tselem reports on staffer's desks. B'Tselem's work is focused on the macro level, leaving other organizations, such as HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual (www.hamoked.org) to offer free legal and administrative services to individual Palestinians suffering consequences of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories. The organization has handled more than 60,000 individual cases.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS
Mirroring a global phenomenon, Israeli social change organizations are increasingly working in areas of economic and social rights. A leading example of this approach can be found in the work of Yedid: The Association for Community Empowerment (www.yedid.org.il). Utilizing a network of twenty Centers across the country, Yedid empowers Israelis to break the cycle of poverty through free individual legal and social assistance, community education initiatives and grassroots organizing for social change.
New, critically important work is being undertaken on the allocation and development of land and other national resources. Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights (www.bimkom.org) works on system-wide change by encouraging the development of new planning practices and procedures that are more accessible and responsive to the needs of local communities in Israel. Since its founding seven years ago, Bimkom has assisted hundreds of local communities throughout Israel on questions relating to land zoning, planning and building regulations, and neighborhood redevelopment plans, and has run planning rights workshops for disadvantaged communities and other social change NGOs.
The Arab Center for Alternative Planning (www.ac-ap.org) works on exposing and challenging discriminatory planning and development policies directed towards the Palestinian Israeli community. The Israeli Association for Distributive Justice (www.adj.org.il) addresses the lack of transparency and accountability in official policies related to land distribution, water, and other natural resources.
EQUALITY FOR PALESTINIAN ISRAELI CITIZENS
Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (www.adalah.org) is often viewed as the legal arm of the Palestinian minority in Israel, which numbers close to 20 percent of the country's citizens. Utilizing Supreme Court litigation, the organization works to acheive individual and collective rights. Its dynamic cadre of lawyers is equally comfortable discussing the intricacies of Israeli law or citing international human rights standards and minority legal rights canon from the U.S. Supreme Court. This young, sophisticated organization reflects the growing face of the NGO sector within the Palestinian Israeli community.
Other Palestinian Israeli organizations working to advance equality: Al Ahali: Center for Community Development (www.ahalicenter.org), a center focused on community organizing and training initiatives; Galilee Society: the Arab National Society for Health Research and Services (www.gal-soc.org) advances equitable health and environmental policies; Mossawa: the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel (www.mossawacenter.org) and Sikkuy: the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel (www.sikkuy.org.il) organize advocacy campaigns to advance equality; and Al Tufula (www.tufula.org) and Women Against Violence (www.wavo.org) are two leading women's organizations working to advance the rights of Palestinian Israeli women within their community and within the larger society.
NEW PARTNERSHIPS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change (http://law.huji.ac.il/eng/, click on Institutes and Centers/Academy-Community). This new Center, established in 2006, promotes the mutual commitment of institutions of higher education, students, and the community towards advancing social justice and human rights in Israeli society. The Partnership, hosted by the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has developed and implemented a national network of community engaged courses--academic programs integrating learning, research and social action. The Center also serves as a national hub for dozens of student-led organizations working to promote social change within the community.
Maala: Business for Social Responsibility (www.maala.org.il), inspired by the U.S.-based Business for Social Responsibility, has taken the lead since its founding ten years ago in educating and organizing the Israeli business community in developing strategies of corporate social responsibility.
Agenda--the Israeli Center for Strategic Communications (www.agenda.org.il) recognizes that the Israeli media is a powerful tool shaping public opinion, the public agenda, and influencing decision-makers. Sixty-three percent of adults (as compared to 40 percent in the United States) read at least one newspaper; 68 percent (United States: 41 percent) listen to the radio regularly; and 40 percent of Israeli adults (United States: 16 percent) visit Internet news sites on a regular basis. In this robust media environment, the critical perspective of Israeli social change activists and organizations often goes unheard. Founded in 2003, Agenda provides training and consultation to Israeli social change NGOs in how to influence the ways their issues are presented in the media. Through its work, Agenda seeks to establish a new public discourse where voices outside of the established mainstream are heard and a central place is given within the media to issues of peace and social justice.
CENTERS FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
Adva Center: Information on Equality and Social Justice in Israel (www.adva.org), conducts research and analysis focused on social and economic inequalities. Much of this work is done within the framework of its National Budget Analysis Program, in which the draft national budget is analyzed annually, in real time, regarding its implications for disadvantaged social groups in particular and Israeli society in general. Members of Knesset are as eager as civil society organizations to read Adva's analyses so as to better understand the often impenetrable budget, leading Adva's work to be compared favorably with that of the highly respected Center for Budget Policy and Priorities in Washington, D.C.
Two new applied social research and policy institutes have emerged within the Palestinian Israeli community in recent years. Mada al-Carmel: the Arab Center for Applied Social Research (www.mada-research.org) develops theoretical and applied research on issues of identity and citizenship for the minority community, while the newly founded Arab Center for Law and Policy focuses on applied research that can inform strategic goal-setting, law and policy reforms affecting Palestinian Israeli citizens.
PUBLIC INTEREST LAW
Over the past twenty years, the New Israel Fund Law Fellows Program (www.nif.org/programs-and-partners/fellowships/) has nurtured an impressive stratum of lawyers who have gone on to form the core leadership of Israeli law based NGOs. Building on this foundation, the Public Interest Law Program (www.law.tau.ac.il/Eng/?CategoryID=248) based at the Tel Aviv University, is spearheading the development of a legal culture and practice in Israel advancing public interest law.
Aaron Back is Director of the Ford Israel Fund, a grant making partnership between the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund.