Organizations that pursue moral agendas have a particular obligation to operate according to ethical principles, such as transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility, including responses to criticism. However, analysis of the activities of powerful “political advocacy” NGOs involved in human rights and humanitarian aid issues demonstrates the frequent absence of these ethical principles.
These issues are relevant to the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has supported groups that clearly violate NIF’s declaratory “red lines” regarding demonizing attacks against Zionism and Israel. Additionally, NIF responses to differing views and criticism have been characterized by incivility and intolerance (Appendix 1). While NIF officials and publications often refer to the importance of Jewish ethical values, such as Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), these are not always reflected by NIF officials.
Therefore, NGO Monitor is proposing the following ethical guidelines, based on existing models, designed to convert the declaratory “red lines” into substantive policy, and to address the incivility.
- The NIF should debate and adopt binding funding guidelines at the board of directors level, specifying advocacy activities related to demonization that are not permitted for organizations funded directly or indirectly by the NIF. These guidelines should be stated clearly and published to ensure transparency.
Existing guidelines and definitions include the 2005 European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism” and the 2010 San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s “Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees” (Appendix 2).
- Based on these standards, NIF’s guidelines should prohibit grantees from involvement in:
- Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)
- Accusations of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and similar terms of demonization against Israel or Israelis, and “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity” based on gross distortions of international law. These tactics emerged from the 2001 Durban NGO Forum Declaration, which called for the “complete and total isolation of Israel” through sanctions, boycotts, and legal processes.
- “Lawfare” − legal threats or actions against Israeli officials abroad.
- UN-related activities that promote lawfare and demonization, including the Goldstone report.
- Opposition to Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state, including calling for the elimination of the Jewish framework of the state; a ”one-state solution”; Palestinian “right of return” claims; or the revocation of the Law of Return for Jews.
- Antisemitic statements or activities.
- Funding for NGOs found to have violated the guidelines should end immediately.
- The same guidelines should apply to all donor-advised funding.
B) NIF should create an independent ombudsman’s office, staffed and operated without involvement of the main NIF leadership.
- Based on the number of grants provided, the number of personnel required and their qualifications, and other factors, a percentage of the total NIF budget should be allocated to staff this office.
- The ombudsman’s office should prepare biannual reports on advocacy activities of funded organizations, to determine compliance with the guidelines. The summary information and analysis should be made available to the board, and afterwards, sent to donors and made public.
- The ombudsman’s office should also serve as an independent investigative body for complaints resulting from intolerance and uncivil statements or remarks from NIF officials and employees.
Appendix 1 – NIF Incivility and Intolerance
- NIF advertisement, “Who is Monitoring NGO Monitor” (Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2010): “NGO Monitor is ... anti-democratic in principle and practice.” “NGO Monitor is a mouthpiece for the extreme right. They have no regard for objectivity or transparency, and only disdain for democratic process and open debate.”
Dissemination by NIF and related supporters/employees (e.g., NIF Twitter account; Ben Murane, New Generations and Development Associate at NIF; and Didi Remez, senior partner, Ben-or Consulting (coordinates activities for NIF) of an NGO Monitor “parody” Twitter account. The fake account, designed to appear to be from NGO Monitor, attributes highly offensive remarks to NGO Monitor: “You're right -- should we strip of MK Zoabi of her citizenship without trial or just have her killed?” (June 7, 2010); “Our logic: Israel: innocent until proven guilty. Human rights groups: guilty until proven innocent. #Ameermakhoul: Arab until proven human” (May 11, 2010); “What do you call a live Palestinian? A terrorist. What do you call a dead Palestinian? A human shield” (Feb. 9); “Is all criticism of Israel anti-semitic? Of course not! Israel has huge problems. Ex: it's still letting Arabs on its land breed” (Feb. 9); “Council on Foreign Relations?! Please, our donors are WAY more extreme than that! Transfer or kill, not this bantustan shit” (April 8); “You know what kind of 'transparency' we like? The kind that comes after razing a forest of Arab olive trees” (April 13).
- Ben Murane, Director of New Generations at NIF, blog (July 30, 2009): Cartoon with obscene gesture directed at Professor Gerald Steinberg (removed from site following protest).
- Naomi Chazan, President of NIF (March 26, 2010): “The NGO Monitor may be the most dangerous of the organizations we are dealing with” (she does not explain why).
- NIF Twitter account (April 13, 2010): “@ngomonitor If you keep repeating the lie that NIF was responsible for Goldstone, you will still be a liar.”
- Nicholas Saphir, Chair NIF-UK, “It’s time to nail the lies…” public letter (August 2009): “ [NGO Monitor and others] may lie and misrepresent these organisations (NIF grantees) and their work…”
- NIF Twitter account (April 14, 2010): “And by ‘lots’ you mean there is 1% of our grantees who are Arab, who you won't like no matter what they say.” (The implication here is that NGO Monitor is racist, in order to preclude any civil discussion on NIF’s funding for groups that call for the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state.)
- Didi Remez, senior partner, Ben-or Consulting (coordinates activities for NIF and its NGO recipients), Exposing Gerald Steinberg and NGO Monitor (November 27, 2009): “No longer satisfied with de-legitimization, Israeli neoconservatives have begun taking concrete parliamentary action to silence internal dissent.”
- Didi Remez Twitter account (June 3, 2010): “Hamas spokesman denies they were acting on @ngomonitor orders when they raided Gaza NGO offices.”
Appendix 2: Existing Definitions and Guidelines Relevant to NIF Funding
1. European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism” – 2005 (excerpts):
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
This definition was also reflected in the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups Against Antisemitism.
2. The San Francisco Jewish Community Federation “Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees” (2010) restricts eligibility for groups that “through their mission, activities or partnerships”
advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.