Q: What is NGO Monitor?
A: NGO Monitor, a project of the Institute for NGO Research, is an independent and nonpartisan research institute dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability of NGOs claiming human rights agendas, primarily in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
NGO Monitor is the leading source of information on political NGOs active in delegitimization campaign against Israel and the role of both government and private funders-enablers.
It was founded following the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, where NGOs adopted a strategy of using the instruments and language of “human rights” and “international law” to isolate Israel and undermine its right to sovereign equality. (See Durban Strategy below.)
Q: What is an NGO?
A: NGOs or non-governmental organizations, are civil group associations ostensibly working independently from governments to provide services on social and political fields. In Israel, are about 40,000 NGOs are active in numerous aspects of life, and their activities include providing services, lobbying the government, legal action and advocating various causes.
NGO Monitor’s research touches on a small subset of NGOs in Israel and around the world, particularly those that make human rights claims in the context of conflict zones, and their governmental and private funders. Most of our work focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Q: Who are NGO Monitor’s funders?
A: NGO Monitor is supported by foundations and individuals in Israel, North America, and Europe. Information and financial documents are available on NGO Monitor’s website.
NGO Monitor receives no government funding, and all donations are reported in accordance with Israeli law.
Q: Does NGO Monitor investigate and report on “left-wing” organizations only?
A: For NGO Monitor’s research, the “left” and “right” labels are irrelevant and misleading. NGO Monitor focuses on the organizations and their funders active in delegitimization campaigns against Israel, including BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), “lawfare,” promoting a 1948 agenda, and antisemitism. Our research exposes groups that misuse or exploit human rights values to promote anti-Israel agendas – regardless of stated or implied political affiliations.
Why European governments only fund a narrow, politicized fringe of Israeli civil society is a question for those governments to answer.
Q: Is NGO Monitor a political organization?
A: No. NGO Monitor does not take a position on any of the central political questions of the Arab-Israeli conflict (e.g. settlements, Jerusalem, borders, the blockade of Gaza). NGO Monitor’s concern is with NGOs that abuse the values of human rights or international law to achieve their political aims in the context of the conflict.
Q: Are you affiliated with the Israeli government?
A: No. NGO Monitor is not affiliated with the government, Knesset, or any political party. NGO Monitor does not receive any financial support from any government. Our research is open to everyone, including to decision makers, and is used by officials from across the political spectrum in Israel and abroad.
Q: What is the Durban Strategy?
A: The 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, featured an NGO Forum, involving representatives from some 1,500 organizations, and characterized by many displays of antisemitism; Jewish and Israeli participants were intimidated, verbally and physically.
In this environment, and with the active participation of groups like HRW and Amnesty, the NGO Forum adopted a Final Declaration, singling out Israel and creating a plan of action for political warfare against Israel, based on strategies used in opposing apartheid South Africa.
The powerful and well-financed NGO network called for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.”
Read more about “new” antisemitism and its connection to the Durban Strategy.
Q: What is the NGO “halo effect”?
A: The “halo effect” is a term used in psychology, describing the tendency to favorably judge people, companies, groups, products etc. based on the image of morality or some other positive factor. In the context of NGOs, groups that claim to promote values that are seen as universally good – peace, human rights, justice, coexistence – are automatically perceived as credible and constructive forces, immune from investigation and criticism.
This cognitive bias is manifest in the way in which factual and legal statements by politicized NGOs that claim to represent human rights are routinely accepted at face value and without question by journalists, diplomats, academics and other opinion makers. This “halo” shields NGOs from the independent analysis and scrutiny that is directed toward other political actors.
Q: Why is government funding for NGOs different than private funding?
A: Funding from private organizations and individuals represents personal interests, and does not reflect relations between states on the political and diplomatic levels. In contrast, government funding originates with taxpayers.
Government funding comes with the sovereignty, power, and resources of the state, providing influence that would otherwise not be available. Moreover, when a government gives public money to an NGO, taxpayers have no say in the choice of causes or in the process of distributing these funds (particularly when these are closely held secrets, as in the case of Europe).
This is particularly important when government funds are used for immoral campaigns of demonization, which expressly aim to damage mutually-beneficial relations between Europe and Israel and stand in direct opposition to the foreign policies of the donor countries.
In Israel, the nature and scale of foreign government funding is unique, and the impact is magnified by the primary use of this money: to oppose government policies. This is seen by many as an attempt to circumvent diplomatic channels and manipulate Israeli democracy.
Click here to read more on the differences between private and public funding.
Q: What is NGO Monitor’s position on proposed legislation in Israel that would restrict foreign government funding for political advocacy NGOs?
A: NGO Monitor views as problematic any restrictive measures taken against NGOs and opposed similar proposals in the past. Israel’s democracy is vibrant enough to withstand the existence of groups that criticize, demonize, delegitimize, and even undermine the state. In this respect, freedom of association and freedom of speech are paramount.
At the same time, extensive foreign government funding is often a vehicle for attempts to manipulate Israeli society, by artificially amplifying the voices of marginal actors and groups. This issue, including the resulting polarization, needs to be addressed by diplomatic means. NGO Monitor proposes that Israel and Europe engage in a dialogue to establish and implement funding guidelines.
NGO Monitor strongly supports the call for greater transparency regarding European funding for politicized NGOs in Israel within the existing “Transparency Law” (2011).
Q: How do you conduct your research? Where do you get your information from?
A: NGO Monitor’s research team examines open sources and a variety of methods. The information and data in NGO Monitor reports originate, primarily, in publicly available publications from government and private donors and NGO grantees, correspondences with funding frameworks within the EU, as well as submissions to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits.