Molad: Avraham Burg's non-transparent NGO for "democratic renewal"
August 14, 2012
- The new Israeli NGO/“think tank” Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Democracy has the appearance of a political and ideological vehicle for founder Avraham Burg, and for individuals from radical NGOs such as Breaking the Silence and Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM).
- Lack of transparency: As of August 9, 2012, Molad’s website is devoid of all content. Molad’s funders refused to respond substantively to inquiries from NGO Monitor, and one scrubbed key information from its website following inquiries (see below). This absence of transparency and democratic accountability stand in sharp contrast to the slogan of “democratic renewal.”
- Funding: NGO Monitor research shows that Molad is funded by New Israel Fund (NIF), Skoll Global Threats Fund (Information regarding funding from Skoll Global Threats Foundation was reported on the Anna Lindh Foundation website, and subsequently removed in early July 2012), and “left-liberal foundations and groups from the U.S. associated with the Democratic party.” Molad is also listed as a partner by the EU-funded Anna Lindh Foundation (as of August 13, 2012, Anna Lindh Foundation had not responded to NGO Monitor inquiries about funding for Molad.)
- The activities that are visible to date focus on reinforcing misleading portrayals of Israel and its government in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, and using secret funding to manipulate Israeli politics outside the democratic process. In Israel, these activities have generated significant controversy and criticism.
- In August, Molad and Burg launched a full-scale advocacy campaign, including articles by Burg in the New York Times (“Israel’s Fading Democracy,” August 4) and the Economist (“Is Israel succumbing to Jewish fundamentalism: Defending the motion,” August 7). Ha’aretz ran a high-visibility profile of the organization (“Think tank: Reviving Israeli left a ten year project,” August 9).
- In his op-eds, Burg attacks Israeli democracy, referring to “winds of isolation and narrowness” and “democracy-eliding fear.” This highly exaggerated rhetoric presents no criteria or comparative framework and repeats double standards used to demonize Israel. After being rejected in the democratic framework, Burg’s new venture takes on the appearance of using foreign-government NGO funding to advance his private agenda.
- Burg has held a number of positions with the NIF and is currently listed as a member of the International Council. This constitutes a potential conflict of interest.
Additional information on Molad:
- Established in January 2012. Registered in Israel as a Company for the Benefit of the Public.
- “Molad is an Israeli think tank devoted to the development and promotion of a progressive vision for the state of Israel.” The New Israel Fund (NIF) describes Molad as a “think-do tank.”
- Mission: “Molad aims at becoming a hub for progressive thinking in Israel, drawing the most creative and innovative intellectual and social forces in the country, facilitating exchange of ideas and amplifying their impact on Israeli society and politics. Molad’s principle undertaking of is to counter a long-lasting attenuation of political reason in Israel by proposing a unified vision of the State of Israel as a progressive democracy in the Middle East.”
- Officials: Head of the Molad is Avner Inbar, co-founder of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. Research director is Assaf Sharon, a leader of Breaking the Silence, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, and Ta’ayush. Director of Policy is Mikhael Manekin, former Breaking the Silence official. Avraham Burg is a founder and chair of Molad.
- Funders: Molad is listed as a grantee of NIF’s Social Justice Fund (Ford-Israel Fund) in 2011. In correspondence, NIF would not reveal how much it had granted Molad in that year.
- According to the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Skoll Global Threats Foundations also funds Molad. In contrast to transparency norms, following inquiries regarding Molad to Anna Lindh Foundation and NIF, this information, as well as references to NIF funding, was removed from the Anna Lindh Foundation website.
- Projects: “Current projects include research on ‘Israel’s international standing’, ‘Transforming political ideologies’, and ‘the crisis of the middle class’.” (This information was also removed from the Anna Lindh website at some point during the period of July 1-16, 2012.)
Screenshot of Anna Lindh Foundation website, July 1, 2012
Screenshot of Anna Lindh Foundation website, July 16, 2012