Professor Gerald Steinberg’s article, “Why Does the EU Continue to Fund Anti-Peace NGOs?”, published in February 2014 in the Jerusalem Post, contributes to the general debate about foreign funding of NGOs in Israel, and the use of EU funds by radical organizations to engage into a political warfare and to promote an offensive narrative against Israel.
Steinberg denounces these organizations’ hidden agenda that aims to deepen Israel’s diplomatic and economic isolation, and, more generally, to fuel the Middle East conflict rather than to seek peace. In addition, he deplores Brussels’ failure to release relevant documentation and urges more transparency from the EU in this area. Prof. Steinberg expresses the view that EU officials conceal and distort the EU’s role in dealing with the consequences of this financial flow, and thus, recommends that his claim be investigated further by Brussels.
In March 2014, Amb. Faaborg-Andersen replied with an article entitled “Setting the record straight on EU funding of NGOs in Israel”. Although the attempt to justify the EU funding to NGOs is legitimate, the tone of his article belies his role and experience as a senior diplomat. Steinberg’s article, it seems, touched a nerve.
Amb. Faaborg-Andersen’s disagreement with Prof. Steinberg’s arguments, including the “obscure policies of Brussels”, is part of a broader debate that is also taking place in Europe, where citizens and NGOs such as Transparency International can feel free to petition the core power of their nation-states and of the EU without fearing hostile responses from officials. This is one of the privileges of living in Western democracies, where such criticism is actually encouraged in a pure Kantian tradition.
To accuse Steinberg of tendentious research and inaccuracy reporting because of his position looks more like a bald attempt to intimidate the entire Israeli academic establishment, and more generally members of the local civil society who take issue with the Middle East Peace Plan’s approach. It shows as an effort by a government executive entity to dissuade researchers, NGOs and the public from opening their eyes – and their mouths. It is in blatant opposition to the exercise by ordinary citizens of critical judgment about public institutions whose actions influence their lives, and in this case, their security.