This article originally appeared on Haaretz and is reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to have Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.
The American-Jewish billionaire behind the controversial think tank pushing for an overhaul of Israel’s judicial system is Shalom, an educational center dedicated to Jewish pluralism and liberal Zionism. He is also a major contributor to the Hartmann Institute.
According to public records, the Hartmann Institute received more than $25 million in donations from the CLAWS Foundation over a ten-year period. The organization is led by Jeffrey Yas and Arthur Danczyk, principal funders of the Koheret Policy Forum, a conservative-libertarian think tank that laid the groundwork for a plan to undermine Israel’s court system.
The Knesset is currently debating a bill submitted by Justice Minister Yariv Levin. The bill would give Congress the power to overrule decisions of the Supreme Court by a simple majority, give the ruling coalition a majority on the committees that appoint judges, and abolish the rationality standard in trials. court judgment.
The law draws much of its inspiration from policy documents Kohelet has drafted over the years, and Israel’s new far-right government will face fierce public opposition and the end of democracy in the Jewish state. We are going full speed ahead to get the bill through despite our fears. .
Among those who have spoken out openly against the plan is Donyell Hartman, director of the Shalom Hartman Institute founded by his father.
In a podcast he co-hosts, Hartman last week urged opposition to judicial reform to take to the streets for the first time in his life, joining hundreds of thousands of other Israelis who take part in protests every Saturday night. Said.
“For those of us who oppose this government’s far-reaching plans to weaken judicial independence by subordinating the judiciary to politicians, we feel that this determines the face of our country. It’s one of the key moments,” Hartman said.
A 2021 Haaretz investigation found that donations to Kohelet were traced to previously anonymous beneficiaries Yass and Dantchik. The US business partners control the Susquehanna International Group, a securities firm, and both are major contributors to the US Republican Party.
According to public records, their CLAWS Foundation also donated to the Hartmann Institute almost every year from 2010 to 2020. For most years, annual giving was $3.25 million. This makes CLAWS one of the largest, if not the largest, single donor to the Hartmann Institute during this period. In some years, donations from CLAWS accounted for nearly half to one-third of his total funding from private organizations.
When asked how he would be able to receive funding from foundations that support the Koheret Forum at a time when he is so opposed to the Koheret Forum’s judicial agenda, Hartmann said: . The only thing I can tell you is that people can be a little more complex and multidimensional than you believe.
Calling the CLAWS Foundation a “very good friend,” he insisted it had no impact on the Hartmann Institute’s agenda. “Our record speaks for itself,” he said.
Lilla Corwin Berman, a professor of American Jewish history at Temple University, said the US experience shows that funding sources matter. “Large donors like Kohelet funders, whose main causes are privatization and deregulation, are funding anti-democratic policies,” she said. “Even though they support museum wings and other institutions that seem to be out of their message, they are validated by a system that offers no real democratic checks on their actions. It is.”
Corwin Berman, a prominent authority on Jewish philanthropy in America, said the Hartmann Institute could respond to the expected backlash to the revelations about donors in one of two ways. “Whatever the source of the funding, you can virtually say that you are doing a good job with the money you are given, or that the money is connected to the world you are trying to build.”
She added: But a second response may be our current imperative when it comes to asking whether democracies can withstand the attacks of dark money that flood the realm of law and policy. ”
The mission of the Hartmann Institute, as described on its website, is to “strengthen Jewish humanity, identity, and pluralism; to enhance Israel’s Jewish and democratic character; and , to make Judaism a powerful force for good in the 21st century.”
Headquartered in Jerusalem, the Institute consists of five independent centers, including two high schools in Jerusalem and the Shalom Hartmann Institute in North America. Thousands of Diaspora Jews participate in programs it sponsors, including interfaith activism and programs on gender inequality.
when contacted by HaaretzYehuda Kulzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, declined to comment.