To: Hon. Justice Dalia Dorner (ret.), President of the Israel Press Council

Subject: Complaint against an article in Haaretz, on the topic of the discussion of the European Parliament Committee on Human Rights

On June 23, 2010, Haaretz (Hebrew edition) published an article by Dana Herman and Jack Khoury, “The Flotilla to Gaza | Turkey and Balkan countries demand an investigation of the events.”  The article included coverage of a discussion in the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in Brussels, Belgium. According to this Haaretz article, “the committee… invited two Israeli human rights groups to the discussion- the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Mossawa Center. Representatives of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network invited these groups to report on the human rights situation in Israel.” The article’s authors claim that “Parliament members demanded a discussion following four different law proposals that were recently submitted to the Knesset, and there is a suspicion that the goal [of these laws] is to limit freedom of organization,” and that “members of the European Parliament sought to clarify to the Israeli government that should the laws be approved, they would damage all cooperation programs between the European Union and Israel.”

This article contains several major inaccuracies in claiming to report on a very important issue:

  1. In addition to the heads of organizations mentioned in the article, I was also invited to speak before the committee, in the framework of NGO Monitor’s research. I described in detail the issue of governmental funding, including European Union (EU) funding, for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel. I presented details of the exploitation of the façade of human rights in the de-legitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel, and the other serious ramifications of the issue. However, my words, and my very presence at the committee discussion, were omitted from the article. My speech appears on the EU website, and the original invitation that details the other speakers appears on Mossawa’s website. Even if the article’s authors were not present in the auditorium at the time of the discussion, and did not witness the events on which they reported, they were able to read and view all of the material.
  2. Mr. Tzvi Tal, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the EU, also spoke before the committee, and his comments were also not included in the article.
  3. After hearing the participants speak, only four parliament members supported the positions of Mossawa and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). A number of other parliament members requested an additional discussion on the problems of the lack of transparency and political bias in the allocation of European funding to NGOs.

This issue is central in the important public debate taking place regarding NGO politics in Israel, and the issue is controversial. The article presented the events in an extremely distorted manner, and in manner that is inconsistent with professional journalistic ethics.

On this basis, we are requesting that the Council open an investigation regarding this and similar reports in Haaretz regarding Israeli NGO activity at the European Parliament. We are also asking that the Israel Press Council require that Haaretz publish a correction, and refrain from publishing such misleading reports in the future.

I look forward to your response,

Prof. Gerald Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor- Jerusalem
Faculty of Political Science, Bar Ilan University

cc: Adv. Orna Lin, Acting President of the Council; Dov Alphon, Editor of Haaretz; Dana Herman, Haaretz; Jack Khoury, Haaretz