Vivien Duffield: I’ll be more ‘choosy’ in backing Israel after ‘apartheid’ law

Vivien Duffield: I’ll be more ‘choosy’ in backing Israel after ‘apartheid’ law

British Jewish philanthropist who supports education and arts projects in the Jewish state, in an uncompromising attack on Nation state law

Joe Millis is a journalist

Dame Vivien Duffield
Dame Vivien Duffield

One of Britain’s biggest donors to Israel has said she will now be more “choosy” in selecting causes as she condemned the Nation State law, saying “my Israel has died”.

Dame Vivien Duffield –  the driving force between JW3 who also backs a wide variety of education and arts projects in Israel – described the new act as an “apartheid law”, in forthright interview with Haaretz.

“To be honest ‘my’ Israel has died”, she said. “I’m a very pragmatic person, but do I like what has been going on in Israel in the past few years? No. I hate what is going on in Israel.”

She added that she was aware that “hatred is a strong word, but I detest the processes Israel is going through. In my opinion, the vote in the Knesset on the Nation State law, all the latest laws that Israel has passed, are appalling. Dreadful. The new Nation State law is apartheid, it’s South Africa.

“It’s one law for one group and another for a second group. And that’s repulsive. There are two million Arabs in Israel and obviously they have their own language. It’s impossible not to recognise [officially] the language spoken by millions of citizens.”

Dame Vivien Duffield (centre) outside JW3 with former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and the centre’s CEO Raymond Smonson

Describing Israel as a “wonderful place”, she believed it was now “two states. Tel Aviv is multicultural and sophisticated … it is full of nice people who never go to Jerusalem. And there are other places. There’s always been a huge difference between people and the chasm has grown recently.

“At first, everyone was poor and they all lived modestly. Today there are very rich people who live in massive houses, there are serious disconnects between the religious and the secular… And in recent years the attitude towards the Arab minority is more brutal than it has ever been.”

Dame Vivien made it clear she was “not influenced by the BDS movement, and in the past, I have donated to organisations that have fought BDS, in both Britain and Israel. And as far as I am concerned, the developments regarding [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn show the depth of antisemitism in Britain. However, BDS isn’t as strong as it used to be.”

Asked whether she would continue donating to Israel, her answer was “yes, but I will have to be more choosy in what I donate to. The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot [to which the foundation has donated vast sums and whose Clore Center for Biological Physics is named after her father, Sir Charles Clore], is a non-political, non-Israeli centre. It helps the whole of humanity. I expect those are the kind of projects I will support.”

Dame Vivien Duffield supports Israel through the Clore Israel Foundation of which she is chair. The foundation donates to a variety of projects related to education, science, arts, culture, sports, welfare, diverse community and arab community. Tower of David is one of the Foundation’s flagship projects.


It supports the Clore Scholars Programme – an annual award of scholarships for outstanding doctoral students in science from all of Israel’s universities – and helps new immigrants with job retraining programmes and employment advice.

Israel’s Nation State Law, passed on 19 July, specifies the nature of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. The Law was adopted by Knesset 62 in favour, 55 against and two abstentions, and as a Basic Law will need a two-thirds majority of the 120-seat Knesset to be repealed.

One of its most contentious clauses says that “the State views the development of Jewish communities as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation of such communities”, a move seen as excluding Israel’s minorities.

However, Sara Greenberg, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Adviser for World Jewish Communities, dismissed the claims that the new law represented “apartheid”.

She wrote in the Jerusalem Post, that “Israel already has basic laws to protect individual freedoms [such as Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty] and to define the various branches of government [such as Basic Law: The Knesset].

“The new basic law does not, however, contradict or supersede the basic laws that protect and guarantee individual rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender… The new law does not erode a single right or protection of any minority.”



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