Hagai Elad, head of “B’Tselem,” and Lara Friedman from the U.S. branch of “Peace Now”, portrayed settlements in areas captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war as the sole cause of the conflict and Palestinian suffering. Elad called for “decisive international action” against Israel, and neither NGO official mentioned decades of Palestinian extremism, incitement, war and terror.
Elad’s passionate ideological statement comes during a bitter struggle in Israel over the influence of foreign (mostly European) government-funded NGOs on Israeli politics and policies.
B’Tselem and its supporters seized the opportunity, hysterically denouncing “threats to free speech” and to “Israeli democracy.” Journalists at Haaretz, who might have examined the process by which B’Tselem’s head was brought to New York for this event, instead lined up to defend and contribute to the NGO.
The hugely disproportionate (and secret) money behind the power of a few radical and unaccountable Israeli NGOs is the key to understanding the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu. B’Tselem, like the other NGOs in its network, derives its visibility and influence from an annual budget of $2.5 million, of which two-thirds is provided by European governments, and the rest by the NIF (which also gets EU grants), George Soros, and some other private funders. If Israelis with different views had access to similar budgets, they would be able to promote their opinions, and at least present a real debate.