Prof. Gerald Steinberg’s op-ed article in Haaretz, “Transparent meddling, opaque funding: the EU and NGOs” (January 8, 2013), triggered a number of ad hominem attacks, with false and misleading allegations, written by beneficiaries of the EU’s secret funding processes.
The following analysis of Elie Friedman’s Haaretz article, “In defense of NGO’s right to meddle” (January 11, 2013), briefly notes some of the blatant errors and violations of professional and academic norms. (See also Gil Troy, “Debate the flaws of the Left, not just the Right,” Haaretz, January 16, 2013)
Claim: “Steinberg’s detailed article, based on years of the highly meticulous, McCarthy-like inquiry of NGOs and their funders, is conducted under the auspices of, ironically, an NGO, aptly named ‘NGO Monitor’.”
Analysis: The phrase “McCarthy-like,” regarding demands for transparency in government funding, is entirely inappropriate. In the Israeli context, it is designed to intimidate and reflects a profound ignorance. As stated by Prof. Gil Troy, such language “is itself a McCarthyite technique.”
Claim: “… the EU may not publish the protocols of their internal meetings and decision-making processes … [but] the list of organizations funded …, a description of the organizations’ projects, and the amount of funding each … is readily available.”
Analysis: Friedman repeats official EU denials and accepts them at face value, and appears totally unaware of extensive evidence showing: 1) The EU and many of its member states do not, in fact, publish a comprehensive listing of Israeli and Palestinian political NGOs that they fund. An unknown number of NGO grants are classified, citing invented “security” concerns. 2) The refusal to make protocols and other documentation public, and the intensively censored material provided in response to NGO Monitor’s Freedom of Information requests violate the norms of due process and transparency, which the EU (with the support of its Israeli grantees) preaches to others but does not practice.
Claim: “Steinberg still believes that the world… in which nation-states operated…as isolationist islands. … the 21st century has created a global village… through the wielding of “soft power” resources, such as support of NGOs. Indeed, states are constantly ‘meddling’ in other states’ affairs….”
Analysis: a) The primary issue is secrecy – if EU funding for Israeli NGOs that promote BDS and other forms of political warfare is legitimate, why go to such great lengths to hide it? This discussion also confuses slogans with 21st century political reality, in which national sovereignty remains central.
b) The three billion NIS of European taxpayer funds provided to Israeli NGOs over 12 years, such as the “Four Mothers Movement” in 1999 and Peace Now’s efforts to persuade “Russian” and “religious” voters to vote for the Left, epitomize meddling and neo-colonialism, under the façade of “soft power” and faux globalization. Does Friedman justify external funding for groups involved in European conflicts, such as Basque separatists or Irish nationalists?
Claim: “These EU-funded NGOs are simply sticking to the goal of a negotiated settlement that Netanyahu himself declared in his Bar Ilan speech…”
Analysis: Of the approximately 50 Israeli NGOs funded by European governments, a number promote one-state formulas, meaning the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Others are deeply involved in BDS and demonization. And even if Friedman’s assertion was not fiction, it would not justify the extreme secrecy and foreign manipulation of Israeli society.
Claim: “According to Steinberg’s line of reasoning, he should also condemn American attempts to import democracy into Iraq through regime change, Western attempts to shape the direction of the ‘Arab Spring’ …and even peacekeeping attempts in Sudan.”
Analysis: Friedman’s facile comparison between Israeli democracy and the dictatorships in Iraq, Syria and Sudan speaks for itself.
Claim: “As a project manager in an academic think tank administering a research-based project under the auspices of the European Union’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ program, I feel an obligation to attempt to correct the skewed picture painted by Steinberg.”
Analysis: The entire oped is itself a banal and skewed defense of secret EU funding for Israeli political groups, by an author with a personal interest in a project funded by the EU.