Tag Archives: NGO Monitor

Odious NGO Monitor smears Electronic Intifada, tries to cut funding

NGO Monitor was captured perfectly in The Forward by liberal jewish thinker Leonard Fine who said it was “an organization that believes that the best way to defend Israel is to condemn anyone who criticizes it.” But now, no longer satisfied with its McCarthyite efforts to not just condemn, but actually take down respected human rights organizations, it is seeking to stop critical funding of the Electronic Intifada, a key media source for information and analysis about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Electronic Intifada (EI) is a pioneering online news outlet that has been an essential resource for activists, scholars and journalists since its inception in 2002.  Its coverage is unapologetically sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle for human rights, grounded in an understanding of international law and universal human rights. Years before the current proliferation of blogs and alternate news sources, EI was there first, providing a much needed antidote to one-sided mainstream news coverage of Israel and Palestine. And they continue to provide original reporting and news and analysis you still can’t get anywhere else.

Which perhaps is why NGO Monitor has made the preposterous claim that EI is “an anti-Semitic website,” stunningly based on the fact that one staffer is a supporter of the BDS movement and executive director, Ali Abunimah, in his non EI-related speaking engagements, “calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and routinely uses false apartheid rhetoric.” Really? This is what they’ve got? (They’d have to start throwing a lot of Jewish Israeli government officials into the anti-Semite dungeon if invoking ‘apartheid” is officially verboten… and Abunimah’s one state is different in substance but certainly similar in form to an increasing number of Israeli right-wingers who also push for a “one state solution”. And then there’s the entirely reasonable observation that we seem to already have a de-facto one state after 43 some years of occupation.. but I digress)

Yet another of thousands of such a ridiculous claims would be laughable if NGO Monitor didn’t have a card up its sleeve–EI gets about one third of its funding from a Dutch government-funded aid organization. According to the Jerusalem Post, NGO Monitor’s unsubstantiated charges

“prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday to the Post, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”

As EI has documented in this must-read report, NGO Monitor has very close ties to the far-right. They use the language of NGO (non-governmental organization) transparency to go after funding of Israeli and other human rights groups and funders (including the New Israel Fund and Amnesty International) while remaining completely silent on Israel’s funding-dependent and law-breaking settler groups. EI writes:

NGO Monitor is an extreme right-wing group with close ties to the Israeli government, military, West Bank settlers, a man convicted of misleading the US Congress, and to notoriously Islamophobic individuals and organizations in the United States….

NGO Monitor’s attack on The Electronic Intifada is part of a well-financed, Israeli-government endorsed effort to silence reporting about and criticism of Israel by attacking so-called “delegitimizers” — those who speak about well-documented human rights abuses, support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), or promote full equality for Palestinians. Last February, The Electronic Intifada reported that a leading Israeli think-tank had recommended a campaign of “sabotage” against Israel’s critics as a matter of state policy (“Israel’s new strategy: “sabotage” and “attack” the global justice movement,” 16 February 2010).

NGO Monitor has already been at the forefront of a campaign to crush internal dissent by Jewish groups in Israel that want to see Israel’s human rights record improved.

The Jerusalem-based organization poses as a project concerned with accountability for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but as Israeli human rights activist and journalist Didi Remez has stated, “NGO Monitor is not an objective watchdog: It is a partisan operation that suppresses its perceived ideological adversaries through the sophisticated use of McCarthyite techniques — blacklisting, guilt by association and selective filtering of facts” (“Bring on the transparency,” Haaretz, 26 November 2009).

There is good news here- thus far EI reports that no action has been taken thus far to end their funding. Presumably anyone who does so would have to actually substantiate NGO Monitor’s spurious charges. Good luck with that.

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Reut Institute report author lies about Naomi Klein

Let’s review shall we?

Reporters questioned the Reut Institute about their use of the terms “sabotage” and “attack” in a set of recommendations for how the Israeli government should respond to human rights group who said things they consider a threat. In response, Reut didn’t say, “We were misunderstood and we reject violence of any kind.” But they did suggest that what they mostly meant was sabotage and digging campaigns against individuals who work for human rights organizations- nasty work pioneered by NGO Monitor. (Which may be why one acquaintance at a human rights group that does work in Palestine said that the director sent an email to staff suggesting they come forward now with any personal information that could be used against them. Sad days indeed.)

Reut Institute’s Eran Shayshon got a chance to explain the report on The Current, Canada’s flagship radio morning program : CBC Listen here.

It’s interesting that out of the 92-page report (download it all here), Naomi Klein isn’t mentioned once. Yet Shayshon confidently says that Klein, and her opposition to “Israel’s right to exist”, is one of the main reasons that Toronto is considered a hub of delegitimacy. Only problem? Klein has never been opposed to Israel’s right to exist.

(Another problem? My guess is that there’s a second report or database somewhere that is full of names of people like Klein and specific organizations conspicuously missing from the published report. They knew issuing a list of enemies of the state would cause more of a firestorm, but it’s the obvious next step when you’re fighting a war. And it works in Israel and Palestine, why not the rest of the world?)

The report also says “there was an attempt to boycott the Toronto Film Festival because it thematically spotlighted Tel Aviv”. That’s a lie too. The Toronto Declaration explicitly did not call for a boycott of the festival. It opposed showing films under a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv.

What Shayshon says about me is a flat out lie. I have made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine. He can search all my writing and public statements, he won’t find anything. What I do advocate, and what the BDS campaign advocates, is for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws. Any political outcome — whether one state, two state or more — must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles. Though I do have personal preferences, I have no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles.
Shayshon’s other big lie is his claim that I oppose “Israel’s right to exist”; indeed that I “have stated it out[right].” Once again, I challenge him to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim. He won’t find it.
This lie could just be slander, and attempt to inflict more “shame” on BDS advocates, as the leaked internal document explained to all of us recently. But I suspect that if challenged, Shayshon would simply claim that to support BDS is to oppose Israel’s existence, a claim I have heard before. This is interesting. Since the unequivocal goal of BDS is to force Israel to abide by international law, what Shayshon seems to be saying by implication is that Israel cannot exist within the confines of international law. I would never make such an argument but it does explain the recent aggressive “lawfare” campaign taking aim at the very existence of these laws.
One last point: if supporting boycotts against a place means supporting its annihilation (the claim being made here and elsewhere), what precisely are we to make of the Gaza seige, infinitely more brutal than anything BDS advocates? Does that mean Israel is denying the right of Gaza to exist?
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$7 million muzzling shocker- Canadian government cuts off funds for church group it calls anti-Semitic

Despite a 35-year collaboration, the Canadian church group KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, “one of Canada’s most respected and important charitable organizations,” was stunned when their likely routine 7 million dollar request for the human rights program was denied by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). But they were even more surprised when they discovered why: although the group’s board had made public their opposition to sanctions and boycotts against Israel 2 years earlier, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in a speech he gave this week in Israel charged the group with being anti-Semitic for “taking a leadership role in the boycott.” Kenney, speaking at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, said they were “defunding” groups as part of their new “zero-tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism.  (Read the full text of his speech here. )

In his speech, Kenney included in a list of acts of anti-Semitism, like the spray-painting of swastikas on a Canadian Holocaust memorial, the spray-painting of the phrase “Stop the Israeli genocide in Gaza”.

Anti-human rights/Israel lobby group NGO Monitor built an extensive dossier on KAIROS– which represents Canada’s Mennonites, the Anglican, United and Catholic Churches and does work in some of the poorest regions of the world.

Kairos came under fire for co-sponsoring, along with 50 other groups, an international Sabeel conference in 2005 on morally responsible investment. (Sabeel is “an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians,” and Jewish Voice for Peace frequently co-sponsors Sabeel conferences here in the United States.)

In this comprehensive and thoughtful 2008 strategy paper on using “economic advocacy measures… to advance peace between Palestinians and Israelis, ” KAIROS said:

KAIROS affirms the desire of the Israeli people for a secure homeland, recognizing the long, terrible and continuing history of anti-Semitism, and the vital role of Israel to Jewish people around the world. KAIROS also recognizes the great suffering of the Palestinian people, many of whom live as refugees in surrounding countries, and others who have lived under Occupation for 40 years, and affirms their right to a secure and viable homeland. KAIROS calls for an end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories and for two secure states based on the June 4, 1967 borders.

They also explicitly rejected “sanctions against Israel” and “a boycott of products from Israel.” But in line with the universal recognition of the illegality of settlements, they did also advocate for things like:

limiting the geographical applicability of Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement to within the 1967 borders of the State of Israel; and

enforcing a certification of origin for goods coming from settlements in the Occupied Palestinians Territories;   

and, almost identical to the Presbyterian Church USA’s strategy:

That where KAIROS members opt to pursue shareholder action respecting Canadian companies doing business in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories (that are contributing directly or indirectly to violence, occupation or other human rights abuses in the region), shareholder action shall move through several stages, from dialogue with senior company management to filing shareholder proposals and, as a last resort, divestment. 

So, after so much thoughtful and sensitive delving into ways to responsibly use economic pressure and investment, what did they get for their troubles? Charges of anti-Semitism.
(At Jewish Voice for Peace, where we have devised a similarly nuanced approach to economic pressure that works for us, choosing to focus on companies that profit from the occupation, or groups that fund settlements, we’ve seen from day one how pro-occupation groups purposefully and immediately ignore the facts, and raise the urgent flag of anti-Semitism as a strategy to kill virtually any resistance activity that goes beyond nicely asking the Israeli government to stop violating international law. Ironically, as they deny more and more people the right to boycott settlement goods only, they leave them with no choice but to boycott all Israeli products. )

A KAIROS official responded in The Star:

“It’s a horrible charge to make, and to do it with so little thought cheapens the reality of anti-Semitism in the world and diminishes the very careful attention that it deserves,” said United Church spokesperson Bruce Gregersen. “We’re quite disappointed in the government on this.

“The policies of KAIROS have all been approved by the collective board of KAIROS, so in a sense what Mr. Kenney is doing is accusing Canadian churches of being anti-Semitic and I think that’s really unfortunate,”

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NGO Monitor’s campaign to silence dissent in Israel

We’ve covered NGO Monitor’s strategy to weaken the human rights infrastructure because they regard it as essentially a plot against Israel, rather than a necessary part of a healthy and functioning civil society. Israel’s Didi Remez sounds the alarm on their latest efforts to sideline human rights organizations through enacting new laws.

Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, and his associates in government, have entered a new phase in their campaign to suppress Israeli human rights NGOs. This morning (November 27 2009) Haaretz’s English edition ran an op-ed by Steinberg. No longer satisfied with de-legitimization, Israeli neoconservatives have begun taking concrete parliamentary action to silence internal dissent.

As Steinberg writes

For over a decade, European governments have been major sources of funding for dozens of Israeli and Palestinian organizations claiming to promote human rights and similar moral causes. While these groups are known as “nongovernmental organizations,” or NGOs, they are, in fact, selected and nurtured by foreign governments. And as seen in research to be discussed in a Knesset conference on December 1, their agendas are more political than moral.

With little acknowledgment that Israel was built and is in many ways maintained by international funds, in his campaign against human rights groups like B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, he calls for a new Israeli law to demand full “transparency” for donated funds coming from the EU in particular.

Predictably enough, as Remez points out in his response in Ha’aretz, Steinberg holds up Israeli human rights groups for opprobrium, but has nothing to say about the numerous US based NGOs which fund overtly illegal settlement activity (See Akiva Eldar’s recent piece on the growing backlash against U.S. tax-breaks for law-breaking 501c3s, and hear Akiva on Beyond the Pale radio).  The gutting of human rights organizations, I’m fairly certain, is not what our grandparents had in mind when they imagined the creation of a Jewish state.

Didi’s op-ed on Haaretz is worth reading in full:

Bring on the transparency

Op-ed, Didi Remez, Haaretz, November 27 2009

The government of Israel is waging an aggressive campaign to suppress internal dissent. Most of its targets have been organizations operating in the occupied territories, and the campaigners would have us believe that they are acting in the interest of “national security.” However, a closer look indicates that they are motivated by a general disrespect for the role of civil society in a democracy. Any NGO in the government’s way seems to have become fair game; indeed, officials have even started calling refugee-aid groups a fifth column.

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Anne Bayefsky is an anti-Semite and a hypocrite, attacks on Goldstone cross the line

In the embedded video (after 25 second ad, go to 6:10), The Hudson Institute’s wacky Anne Bayefsky couldn’t be clearer. She spells out her strategy of turning Israel into a perpetual victim to divert world attention from the serious charges in the Goldstone report, the UN’s human rights investigation of Gaza:

I think that the world of human rights has developed a weapon, I call it the ‘human rights weapon’. It’s one which inverts victim and perpetrator. It’s one which is designed to deflect attention from the human rights abuses by those who violate human rights. It is intended to circle the wagons, to invoke mass hysteria which suggest to people that they are under threat, which is in fact, imaginary. And to develop excuses for hatred and for terrorism. It’s a tried and trued formula after all isn’t it? To create imaginary enemies, to exaggerate what is a kernel of truth and to divert attention from the real violations in our midst.

Oops, she’s actually referring here to what she calls “the phenomenon that surrounds the rise of allegations of Islamophobia,” not, amazingly to the rise in allegations of anti-Semitism against all critics of Israel.

She and her friends at the American Jewish Committee’s UN Watch and NGO Monitor are some of the world’s top practitioners of this technique. They do everything they can to weaken and destroy the international human rights infrastructure so that Israel is never held accountable for its illegal occupation, siege of Gaza and more. And, just as she describes above, they do it through elevating the anti-Semitism threat level to HYSTERICAL RED! everywhere, all the time.

(Let’s be clear: The UN Human Rights Council unfairly targets Israel for opprobrium- that’s simply a fact. But the mission of these groups isn’t to restore balance; it’s to make sure Israel is never held accountable for its ongoing illegal behavior, which, it should be obvious to anyone, makes them the worst kinds of “friends” Israel could have. And their preferred method of achieving this goal is to use charges of anti-Semitism to vilify good human rights workers and institutions, peace activists, and from what I’ve seen with my own eyes, Islam and nearly all of its adherents.)

But back to Bayefsky’s talk from the video. “Imaginary enemy” #1 of the Jewish people? According to Bayefsky, in “UN report a 21st century blood libel, scholar says in Geneva,” it is none other than world-respected-jurist, friend-of-Israel, Hebrew University-board-of-governors-member Richard Goldstone.

South African jurist Richard Goldstone exploited his Judaism to endanger the State of Israel, the Hudson Institute’s Anne Bayefsky charged on Tuesday, slamming the chief author of the controversial UN report on the IDF incursion into Gaza in January.

“Richard, how does it feel to have used your Jewishness to jeopardize the safety and security of the people of Israel and to find yourself in the company of human rights abusers everywhere?” Bayefsky asked.

She was one of the few pro-Israel speakers to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which spent the entire day debating the report commissioned by the council, a draft copy of which was released two weeks ago.

Bayefsky compared the Goldstone Report to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“The Goldstone mission will go down in history as the 21st century’s equivalent,” said Bayefsky, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute in New York and an outspoken critic of the UN’s stance on Israel.

“At its core, the Goldstone Report repeats the ancient blood libel against the Jewish people – the allegation of bloodthirsty Jews intent on butchering the innocent,” she said.

With this report, the UN has rendered the right of the Jewish people to self-defense a “crime against humanity,” she continued.

Someone has to finally call this kind of viciousness what it is and stop putting up with it- she’s an anti-Semite. The peculiarly epic charges she wields against Goldstone are clearly reserved for that most evil entity, in Bayefsky’s eyes, another Jew willing to take a clear-eyed look at Israel’s undeniable human rights violations. That level of demonization, in the context of a continued rise in violent religious zealotry, means she is literally willing to sacrifice him.

But he’s also a proxy. She hates Jews like Goldstone, but also Jews like Philip Weiss, Jews like Naomi Klein, Jews like Sara Roy, Jews like Norman Finkelstein.

She makes my family less safe because she cheapens the charges of anti-Semitism, which in itself is a form of Jewish hatred and contempt. And she makes my Muslim and Palestinian friends less safe because the only way she can make her case it to demonize them.

I first encountered Bayefsky at the UN’s Durban Review Conference in Geneva, where she put together a panel of all-stars like Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz (who actually called Goldstone “some Jew” while on the panel) and (a clearly not entirely there) Jon Voight, only too willing to serve their purpose of demonizing and dehumanizing Palestinians, and all other Muslims for good measure. One Palestinian friend who was also there called it, “the worst two hours” of his life.  I could barely believe that people displaying this kind of outrageous racism- at an anti-racism conference no less-could be taken seriously.

No one should take her seriously now, except as a dangerous bigot, willing to sacrifice not just Palestinians and Muslims, but now at least one Jew named Goldstone, by all accounts a good and decent man, to achieve her objectives of making sure that Israel remains above the law.

It’s entirely likely that Goldstone, who cares deeply about Israel, and who also condemned Hamas for their well-documented war crimes, understands the danger (to Israel) of wanting it to be above the law. If only Bayefsky and her friends did.

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