RBF Statement on Campus Protests

On December 11, 2023, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) issued a statement on its support for Israeli, Palestinian, U.S., and international grantees working “to open space for pluralistic debate and build civil and political will for successful future negotiations toward just and durable peace” in the Middle East. The statement also expressed the Fund’s deep concern for growing antisemitism and Islamophobia, both in the United States and internationally. 

In the half-year since, the people of Israel-Palestine have experienced enormous human suffering. More than 35,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children in Gaza. Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets calling for the safe return of their friends and loved ones held hostage by Hamas, while still in mourning for their 1,200 Israeli neighbors brutally murdered on October 7. Families across northern Gaza are in the grips of a “severe manmade hunger crisis” as Israel limits the flow of humanitarian aid. Unprecedented direct military exchanges between Israel and Iran in April have been contained but still risk turning the Israel-Hamas war into a broader regional war that could claim thousands more lives. 

Given this desperate situation, significant numbers of Americans have chosen to protest their government’s role in the conflict. The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The RBF rigorously defends this precious right and is dismayed by the excessive use of law enforcement against peaceful protestors. Public protest has been a hallmark of American democracy since our nation’s founding. However, incidents of antisemitism, intimidation, violence, and property damage at today's protests are morally repugnant and undermine the majority of peaceful protesters and their genuine efforts to focus attention on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

The RBF respects Israel’s right to exist and supports the right to self-determination for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Since 2011, the RBF has made $22 million in grants to help build durable peace that provides justice, dignity, and security for both peoples. Our grantees include think tanks, independent media, lawyers, human rights defenders, advocates, and activists committed to nonviolence. 

Significant misinformation about RBF and campus protests has circulated in the media and online communities. The RBF has had no direct involvement in the campus protests nor have we earmarked funds for them. Some RBF grantees have provided training, messaging, and/or legal support to student protest leaders. The Fund does not direct the activities of any grantee organizations. Details of all our grants for the last five years are published on our website and annually in our publicly available PF990 annual tax forms. 

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is an independent private foundation that operates on income from an endowment established by its founders in the 1940s through the 1960s. A board of trustees provides fiduciary oversight of the Fund's vision, mission, and activities. A professional staff of grantmakers selects organizations and initiatives that will help advance the vision set forth by the trustees.