The Miami Herald
Letter to the Editor
Jun. 25, 2005
Re Ike Seamans’ June 17 Other Views column, Palestinian NGOs after own agenda: Seamans makes several allegations about the Ford Foundation and misquotes its president, Susan Berresford. Ford has not and would never knowingly support racial, religious, ethnic or other forms of bigotry. It would not fund any group that advocates violence or terrorism or denies the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. Berresford never called Ford grantees ”subversive groups,” nor did she say that she, to quote Seamans, ”had no clue how Ford’s cash was spent.” Like the U.S. government, we recognize that the world has changed since 9/11. We have put in place extra oversight measures to ensure that our money is spent where it is intended.
Ike Seamans responds: Ms Tellado either overlooked–or never heard–President Susan Berresford’s earlier comments on this controversial topic. I have attached a letter she wrote in November, 2003 to Rep. Jerrold Nadler after being under intense pressure from him and other members of congress as well as several Jewish organizations to stop funding anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and violent Palestinian NGOs. Ford was also being hammered by NGO Monitor, a watchdog group. and news organizations (New York Sun, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jerusalem Post), but chose not to respond to media inquiries.
In 2003, there was a congressional investigation into Ford’s alleged funding of Palestinian NGOs, specifically citing their egregious behavior at the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Seventeen members of Congress signed a letter sent to Ms Berresford which asked her to "cease funding subversive groups." In my column, I inadvertently attributed that quote to her.
However, in her letter to Nadler (attached). who led the probe, she clearly supports that comment. She writes that to get more Ford money in the future, grantees must agree not "to promote violence or terrorism." She also spells out, "new prohibitions against all forms of bigotry and against calls for the destruction of any state." Sounds like an apt description of "subversive groups" to me, but that doesn’t excuse my mistake.
Further, she concedes that neither she nor the Foundation knew precisely how their money was spent. "We now recognize that we didn’t have a complete picture of the activities, organizations and people involved," she writes. "Ford will now reinforce its oversight with a new and expanded worldwide program of grantee audits."
The Ford spokesperson is wrong to claim I directly quoted Ms. Berresford as saying she, "had no clue how Ford’s cash was spent." A re-reading of the column will clearly reveal that was my conclusion (without quote marks) based on her own written comments.