Yesh Din and Ben-Or get “Wikileaked” 

The NGO known as “Yesh Din” and the strategic communications company Ben-Or Consulting, two closely affiliated entities, were embarrassed by the publication of internal documents in Israeli and American newspapers. The newspaper articles revealed the controversial strategies and activities of Yesh Din, including pressing war crimes complaints against Israeli soldiers, and major conflicts of interest in Ben-Or Consulting’s business dealings with the J Street lobby. 

On December 26, 2010, Yisrael Hayom, Israel’s most widely-read daily, published excerpts from a Yesh Din document entitled “Law enforcement against security forces: Concept 2011-2012.” In the strategy document, Yesh Din details a project to “encourage the entry of the topic of war criminals into the legal discourse relating to the actions of security forces in the occupied territories.” The goal of this strategy is to make accusations of “war crimes” against Israeli soldiers an integral part of the discourse in Israeli society.

Internal Yesh Din documents were also at the center of two December 2010 articles in Makor Rishon (December 10, December 17). According to the news reports, despite lacking substantive evidence to corroborate its claims, Yesh Din filed police complaints alleging that Israelis damaged Palestinian olive trees. 

Similarly, on December 30, 2010, the Washington Times reported that the J Street lobby had been paying tens of thousands of dollars in fees to Ben-Or Consulting, a firm that was founded by J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami. Although Ben Ami is no longer involved in the daily management of Ben-Or, he retains a 15 percent share in the company. Experts quoted in the Washington Times article said that this raised ethical issues of self-dealing; Ken Berger of Charity Navigator said, “Even if it's technically legal, it gets very messy when you have these sorts of deals going on.”

There are strong links between Yesh Din and Ben-Or. The communications company established the NGO, and until recently, they shared offices in Tel Aviv. Ben-Or employee Ran Goldstein is Yesh Din’s spokesperson, and former employee Lior Yavne is the NGO’s director of research (his work for the two entities overlapped).

In the days before the publication of the news articles (apparently after being approached by journalists), Yesh Din filed a police complaint, claiming that hundreds of documents were stolen from its offices. Yesh Din legal adviser Michael Sfard said that internal documents were also stolen from his offices. Ha’aretz suggested that the incidents raised “suspicion that rightist groups have managed to plant a mole in the organization.”

NGOs collaborate (again) to demonize Israel on Gaza

A group of 22 NGO – including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children-UK, Trocaire, FIDH, Christian Aid, Diakonia, and ICCO – issued the November 2010 report “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade.” It is part of a series of anti-Israel publications by this coalition, which began with the “Humanitarian Implosion” in March 2008, and repeats false accusations of “collective punishment” and the “illegal blockade” of Gaza.  

“Dashed Hopes” uncritically quotes other NGO allegations, ignoring evidence that does not support the biased conclusions and erasing the context of terror. For instance, the growing number of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians is only mentioned in the report’s last footnote. The NGOs also repeat the false legal claim that “the primary responsibility for ensuring the welfare of Palestinian civilians lies with Israel as the occupying power.”  

The report received extensive press coverage in the New York Times, CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Guardian UK and other news sources and blogs. 

BDS Updates:

1)War on Want’s war on Israel

The November 2010 War on Want (WoW) report, "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: Winning justice for the Palestinian people," accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and constructing an “Apartheid Wall.” WoW recommends measures such as campaigning for local UK stores to pull Israeli goods, an end to the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and divestment from companies doing business with Israel, and working to secure the Palestinian “right of return.”

As part of WoW’s BDS agenda, the NGO targeted the telecommunications firm BT for its ties with the Israeli company Bezeq International. On November 11, WoW activists protested outside BT’s offices in central London with a seven foot high replica of the “Apartheid Wall.” 

A letter signed by WoW, Amos Trust, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, film director Ken Loach and others (Guardian UK, November 12, 2010) declares that “BT will remain complicit in Israel's breaches of international law unless it cuts all ties with Bezeq International immediately.” WoW, A Just Peace for Palestine, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and ICAHD UK established a website, “Disconnect Now,” devoted to this campaign.

In response, BT’s Group Director of Communications refused to sever ties with Israel and noted that PalTel, the Palestine Telecommunications Company, also partners with Bezeq.

WoW government funders include the UK Department of International Development (£231,592), European Commission (£240,068), and Irish Aid (£69,995). The UK Charity Commission has repeatedly investigated WoW for political activities, such as the April 2010, supermarket protest against Israeli goods.

2)NIF’s new BDS policy

In the last months of 2010, the New Israel Fund (NIF) clarified its position on BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions), culminating in the adoption of revised funding guidelines. These reflected NGO Monitor’s proposed guidelines regarding grantees with an anti-Israel agenda. 

NIF’s Director of Communications, Naomi Paiss, published an op-ed in Zeek entitled “Don't Divest, Invest,” explaining NIF’s “nuanced” approach to “inflammatory and counter-productive” BDS. In response, NGO Monitor highlighted Paiss’ unwillingness to criticize BDS as being inherently immoral and demonstrating NIF’s continuing funding for NGOs active in BDS campaigns. (“The Moral Argument Against BDS,” Naftali Balanson, Zeek, November 30, 2010). 

Jeffrey Goldberg (“The New Israel Fund, Dipping Its Toe Into the BDS Swamp,” The Atlantic, November 17, 2010) also criticized NIF for its indecisive stance on BDS: “It would seem that if the New Israel Fund believes BDS to be immoral, then it will defund grantees that support BDS, even incidentally.  This is one of those bright-line issues, and if NIF wants to get on the wrong side of that line, it should not call itself a pro-Israel organization.”

Following this criticism, NIF released new guidelines stating that it “will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.” On December 13, NIF’s website also included a new provision declaring that NIF “opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.”

It is unclear whether NIF will implement it decisively. As noted in an NGO Monitor press release (”NIF Adopts Guidelines Recommended by NGO Monitor," December 14, 2010), the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), a key player in the BDS movement, still provides links for donations via NIF on its website.

3)“War crimes” claims on Seattle Buses

An organization calling itself the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign commissioned 12 advertisements to run on Seattle's Metro buses, reading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.” The ads were scheduled to run on the second anniversary of the Gaza War, and advanced the false allegation of disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks during the fighting. The slogan is also calling for an end to U.S. government foreign aid to Israel.

Following local, national, and international criticism, King County, Seattle executives canceled the ads. The county also placed a moratorium on all new non-commercial advertising.

The group responsible for the ads appears to be associated with similar anti-Israel campaigns, such as the “Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel” - referring to the 2007 American commitment to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid over the next decade. (The “Coalition to Stop $30 Billion” includes the Albuquerque chapters of Amnesty International and Pax Christi. The role of the international organizations remains unclear.)

HRW and Palestinian NGOs still lobbying for Goldstone

A year after the release of the widely discredited Goldstone Report, NGOs continued to lobby for the implementation of its recommendations. For instance,  Aldameer, Al Haq, Al Mezan, BADIL, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights submitted a joint open letter to member-states of the UN General Assembly entitled “The Deadline for Justice is Long Overdue.” The letter, which singles out Israel, condemns Israel’s supposed “underlying unwillingness... to ensure genuine mechanisms of justice for victims.” The letter concludes with a demand for anti-Israel lawfare: “refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor of International Criminal Court.”

In 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced 34 documents endorsing the Goldstone Report, more than on most countries, and in 2010, HRW continued to lead this campaign. For instance, “Turning a Blind Eye,” HRW’s 62-page report alleging “impunity for laws-of-war violations during the Gaza war,” is based on “the many credible allegations of laws-of-war violations documented by HRW, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, and others.” Amnesty International also continued to issue statements in support of Goldstone.

The Goldstone Report includes more than 500 direct citations from politicized NGOs that lack credibility (including the NGO signatories to the letter, as well as HRW and Amnesty). In return, the NGO network actively promoted the Goldstone process, supported claims of a balanced mandate and unbiased conclusions, and attacked Israel for not cooperating.

U.S gov't gives Israeli NGO $770,000 for non-political diversity projects

In November 2010, the U.S. State Department awarded $770,000 to Merchavim, an NGO whose stated mandate is helping Israel’s citizens “live together better by learning about each other, valuing diversity, developing a shared civic awareness and cooperating to make their classrooms and communities, fairer and more cohesive.” 

The vast majority of the grant ($750,000) will be used for a joint venture between Merchavim and Sesame Workshop, to enable the continued production of the Israeli version of Sesame Street, “Rechov Sumsum.” The program is being developed in coordination with the Preschool Department of the Ministry of Education, and will also benefit 1,200 kindergarten teachers from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. 

The remainder of the funds will be used to develop a training manual for Merchavim's Kulanana program - a collaboration between NGO, government, business, and philanthropic partners that aims to “frame an inclusive civic identity” around the themes of citizenship, diversity, and fairness.

Al Haq director denied another travel visa for alleged PFLP ties

On November 19, 2010, director of the Palestinian NGO Al Haq Shawan Jabarin received an award from NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights. Israel denied his travel visa request because of his alleged affiliation with the PFLP terror group. 

Jabarin’s visa requests have previously been denied by both Israel and Jordan as a result of his alleged terrorist links. On July 7, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the visa denial based on reliable evidence that Jabarin is “among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization.” 

In March 2009, Jabarin was also refused a travel visa to the Netherlands to receive a so-called “human rights defenders” prize from the Dutch Geuzen Resistance Foundation for similar reasons. At the time, NGOs including B'Tselem, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued condemnations of the Israeli government, omitting any reference to the PFLP connection.

In response to the latest incident, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin told the Irish Times that “Al- Haq was an important and respected human rights organisation which was supported by Irish Aid” ($186,689 in 2009, $48,000 in 2008) and urged Israel to lift the ban. In June 2, 2010 correspondence with NGO Monitor about ongoing Irish support for Al Haq, representatives of the Irish MFA praised the NGO and ignored its role in anti-Israel boycotts and similar campaigns. It is unclear whether the Irish government has conducted any due diligence regarding Mr. Jabarin’s alleged ties to the PFLP.  

Al Haq is a leader in the anti-Israel "lawfare" movement and was an active participant in the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It regularly submits highly biased reports to UN human rights frameworks. 

Al Haq funders in 2009 included the Ford Foundation ($395,289), Christian Aid ($61,445), Norway ($246,927), EED ($186,193), OSI Development Foundation ($260,333), NGO Development Center ($350,000), Spain ($8,872), and Diakonia ($185,170).

NGO Monitor in the media