White & Case is one of the world’s leading and largest law firms.
According to their website, they have “advised on some of the largest transactions ever to come out of Israel, including advising on the two largest-ever Israeli IPOs — the $1.6 billion IPO of Oil Refineries Ltd. (Bazan) and the $1.4 billion IPO of AFI Development. Over the last decade, we have helped Israeli companies raise over $20 billion in debt financing and Israeli companies and investors in raising over $9 billion in equity financing.”
Shockingly, we can now reveal that a senior executive of White & Case and the company’s “chief knowledge officer,” Oz Benamram, is also a leader of the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization which supports a boycott of Israel and is widely regarded as extremist outside the political mainstream.
At White & Case, Mr. Benamram provides the firm “with strategic direction on knowledge management and technology and leads the Knowledge Management department in developing and implementing the systems and processes that enable the Firm to use its collective knowledge to benefit its clients worldwide.”
A worldwide organization that works closely with Israeli companies, issuing recent position papers on the Israeli economy, also has a global senior manager who serves as a leader of an organization that advocates a boycott of Israel — that is the very definition of a conflict of interest.
Benamram is a member of the New Israel Fund’s International Council, which “is an advisory group established in 2002 to supplement the work of the organization’s governing Board. The role of the IC is to sustain involvement of past Board members and to educate, motivate, and nurture future leadership for the Fund.”
Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following:
“The New Israel Fund is a foreign organization that receives funding from foreign governments and elements hostile to Israel, such as from the fund of George Soros. The ultimate objective of the fund is to erase Israel’s Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens alongside a Palestinian nation-state that is free of Jews on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital. For decades the fund has supported anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organizations, including those who slander IDF soldiers such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem and those who fight for Palestinian terrorists such as Adalah. I do not know any Western democracy, especially the United States, which over time was prepared to tolerate hostile activity funded by foreign countries, as has been happening here in Israel with the fund for decades. Therefore, I asked coalition chairman Dudi Amsalem to lead the process of establishing a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the activities of the New Israel Fund, which endangers the security and future of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
A spokesperson for White & Case told us “NIF doesn’t support BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions].” He’s right — as the New Israel Fund says on their website NIF opposes the “occupation” (which includes Jerusalem and the Western Wall). As their website notes, “NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.”
It’s quite unclear how a company that works so extensively in Israel can have a senior executive who benefits clients worldwide, yet also serves as a leader of an organization that supports boycotts of Israel.
The high-profile SodaStream debacle, which saw actress Scarlett Johansson step down as “global ambassador” of Oxfam centered around this very issue, when she noted she has “a fundamental difference of opinion” with Oxfam International because the charity opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, and noted that she and Oxfam “have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
SodaStream, of course, is in the “West Bank.” Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled recently that the Finance Minister can “impose fines and withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel and the power to file lawsuits against those NGOs.” Unfortunately, NIF continues to practice what Justice Hanan Meltzer described as “political terrorism.” (NIF sponsored organizations petitioned the court to overturn the law against boycotting Israel.)
Boycotts are simply beyond the pale. Several Knesset members from Israel’s political left have expressed their opposition to the boycott against Israel, MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Camp) lambasted 16 foreign ministers from the European Union who called for the labeling of products from the settlements. He said, “This is blatant anti-Israel activity and should be condemned…” Centrist MK leader Yair Lapid has written and spoken on this exact issue repeatedly.
Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said, “Yes, New Israel Fund, I will boycott whoever persecutes Israeli soldiers. I will not apologize for it. Members of the New Israel Fund, listen carefully: Whoever harms, slanders and persecutes Israeli soldiers are not my brothers. The NIF works methodically and consistently to attack our Israeli soldiers, accuse them of war crimes of torturing Palestinians and intentionally attacking women and children. They turn to the UN and to the committees that are most hostile to Israel and try their best to convince them that Israel is a war criminal. I repeat: They say that our soldiers — you, I, your friends and your families, your children and their friends — that we are all war criminals. The New Israel Fund invests large amounts of money through its organizations with one purpose — to harm IDF soldiers who are physically protecting us with their bodies.”
While Mr. Benamram and the New Israel Fund have the right to their viewpoints, there is an inherent conflict of interest between working with Israeli companies and supporting a boycott of Israel.
A partner at White & Case wanted it known that “Our firm is global and diverse, and I am quite sure employs individuals of varying political views and affiliations. Their views are their own, and are not views of the firm.” While he is right and surely many White & Case employees have diverse viewpoints, one wonders if White & Case would allow radical right-wing extremist leaders to simultaneously serve as Senior Executives.
The New Israel Fund is currently under investigation in Israel and its leaders have been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport for questioning for “national security reasons.” Organizations such as Birthright Israel have said they will not work with NIF — so why does Mr. Benamram?
President Harry Truman said, “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” As PM Netanyahu recently noted, the New Israel Fund is beyond the pale. Those who work with Israel — and decent people everywhere — must oppose a boycott.
Authors: George Birnbaum is an international political consultant, who formerly served as chief of staff for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications is a leading political strategist whose clients have included former President Bill Clinton. Ronn Torossian is CEO of a top 20 US PR Agency and author of “For Immediate Release.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.