According to reports in Canadian newspapers, in April 2010 the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian government body, ended funding for Mada al-Carmel, an Israeli-Arab NGO. In response, Mada al-Carmel filed suit against the Canadian government, alleging a “campaign” by NGO Monitor and the Israeli government.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg and Prof. Nadim Rouhana, director of Mada al-Carmel, were interviewed on this story on the Hebrew-language radio program “Ma Bo’er,” hosted by Talia Lipkin-Shahak.
(Transcribed and translated by NGO Monitor staff)
Tali Lipkin-Shahak: $776,500, that’s the sum of two research grants given to the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, located in Israel, and called Mada al-Carmel. Hello to Prof. Nadim Rouhana.
Prof. Nadim Rouhana: Hello Tali.
TLS: And what happened to these $776,500 dollars?
NR: We heard at the beginning of March that these two research grants, received from a Canadian research institute called the International Development Research Center (IDRC), which is operated by the Canadian government, have been completely stopped.
TLS: Let’s begin with a question Prof. Nadim Rouhana; what exactly is your research institute and towards what studies were these American grants earmarked?
NR: It is a research institute, and its mandate is studying the collective situation of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the central questions that interest them, their relationship with the State of Israel, with the Palestinian people and with the Arab world, the questions of identity, citizenship, and democracy. Both grants — the first, dealt with political participation, the effectiveness of Arab political participation in Israel, in five fields. One of the fields is the parliamentary one. As you know, Tali, there are many questions about the impact, the effectiveness of the parliamentary participation; extra-parliamentary participation, such as protest actions; the legal track, turning to the High Court of Justice etc.; NGOs and their effectiveness, such as Mada and other organizations; and the institutions, as they are called, the national institutions such as the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel. The other study discusses the question of the economic situation of the Arab women in Israel, and the connection between it and Israeli policy towards Palestinian society in Israel.
TLS: Now, there funds were already allocated, and you started these studies. Who are your researches? How many people work, where exactly are you located?
NR: We have a large number of researchers, a large number of researchers, some are the “who’s who” among Arab researchers in Israel. We also sometimes cooperate with Israeli researchers.
TLS: You mean Jewish Israelis?
NR: Doctoral students, lecturers in Israeli universities etc.
TLS: And where is your institute located?
NR: The institute is in a modest place in Haifa. It was established in the year 2000, and operates on donations. Raising funds from places that give research grants such as the Ford Foundation, and this institute that gave us the serious study, the EU, the European Community, etc.
TLS: And you started research, using this money for these two studies that you enumerated?
NR: Actually, Tali, we were already a year into the research. The people from Canada responsible for the research, for these studies were full of admiration. Really.
TLS: Did they give you this, this admiration in writing?
NR: They asked us to participate in more studies, and in the letter terminating the grant they did, meaning, they were clear that terminating the grant is not related to the quality of our work, but to what they called, and later it became clear why they did it, legally, yes?
TLS: How did they define it?
NR: It has to do with that they called a change in their priorities, their agenda.
TLS: In priorities.
NR: Yes. And not the quality of our activity, our research.
TLS: Okay, and you Prof. Nadim Rouhana, being the CEO of this institute, and your friends, claim that Israeli pressure is behind this Canadian decision – by the Israeli ambassador, meaning the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by an organization that observes non-profit organizations and Amutot, that spoke against you and pressured that Canadian government to stop the funding?
NR: Right. The truth is Tali, is that that was our concern. But we verified it. That was our concern. The shock we received, without giving reasons. We turned to the court, we have a law suit in Canada. And it turns out that in a sworn deposition that the president of this institution, IDRC, two thing: one less frightening, and the second frightening for me personally and for us as a community. The first is that the NGO Monitor petitioned them, this group you mentioned, petitioned them and their petition was, in my opinion, full of fabrications and inaccuracies. Because they can’t deal with our discourse, with our democracy, so they fabricate. That’s less scary. So they didn’t accept it and they said, listen, we don’t accept, we are continuing to fund this.
TLS: Meaning, you know that the NGO Monitor approached the Canadian International Development Research Center.
NR: Yes, we know.
TLS: It’s known to you. It’s a fact.
NR: It’s in the sworn deposition of Mr. David Malone. David Malone the president of the IDRC.
NR: But more importantly, Tali, is that after refusing NGO Monitor’s petition they met with Ms. Miriam Ziv in her office. They also approached the Canadian ambassador Mr. Jon Allen. The Canadian ambassador to Israel investigated Mada and his investigation showed that Mada is a credible research institute, reliable and credible. Very professional, etc.
TLS: This is also quoted from one of the depositions?
NR: Exactly. This is not from the sworn deposition but from the cross examination made by our lawyers.
TLS: During the legal procedure?
NR: In the legal procedure also under oath. So they met with Miriam Ziv. During the legal investigation they were forbidden by their lawyers to disclose the nature of the discussions with Miriam Ziv, because they said it is confidential material, sensitive, material relating to international relations and national defense.
TLS: Okay, so I’m stopping you here, Prof. Nadim Rouhana and want to speak with you, Prof. Gerald Steinberg chairman of NGO Monitor. Hello.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg: Hello, also professor of political science at Bar Ilan University.
TLS: Yes, Yes, there. I was about to give you that credit and we know each other well. And I’m asking you, what do you have against Mada al-Carmel?
GS: First, I don’t have anything against anyone, and I have to correct all the mistakes that have been said until now. We are a research institute, more modest than Mada al-Carmel, we are involved in research, and these are organizations, certainly Mada, as well as many other groups, with a great deal of power. And, as you know, this is about political power, with large sums going to organizations involved in a political framework to promote a highly political agenda.
In this discussion, there has been no mention of Mada’s “Haifa Declaration” that calls for changing the definition of Israel from a Jewish state, for instance; and no mention of their conference promoting the “one-state solution”, meaning rejecting the right of the State of Israel to exist; or of the other anti-Zionist activities, including the references to Zionism as colonialism and the alleged dangers to Palestinian women. NGO Monitor does not only report on Mada; our research covers 150 organizations, and when we have the resources, we will expand this.
We speak truth to power, in this case the power of NGOs – or what are referred to as NGOs, but in reality, groups that receive most of their funding from foreign governments.
On the specifics of this case, perhaps Prof. Rouhana would like to correct the things he said. I do not understand his allegations against NGO Monitor role as a research Institute. He also referred to Israel’s ambassador to Canada, and we have no way of verifying what he said.
TLS: We are going to get a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so I ask you – did you approach the Israeli ambassador to Canada and others and say: we have information that we can’t disclose and that can explain why they should stop the funding?
GS: No, of course we disclose our information. We disclose and publish reports which can be read by anyone making the effort to visit our website, and see the hundreds of reports, everything fully sourced, so that anyone can very the details – in Arabic, in Hebrew, in English, in French, every language that is used. All of our research is accurate and based on academic standards. We also occasionally write letters to verify the data [on the internet].
TLS: Meaning, your argument, Prof. Steinberg, yours meaning NGO Monitor’s, is that this organization, the Mada research institute, is not worthy of receiving these funds for research, because of what?
GS: No, no. That’s a decision of all the funders. We asked them [if they if the funding reports are accurate].
TLS: No, no. But you expose information that’s supposed to influence the decisions?
NR: Yes, so what is the claim against Mada? Tali, I hope that you will give me time to respond regarding the Haifa Declaration and to correct in a word.
GS: I do not see the analysis of …
TLS: Yes, yes, Prof. Rouhana, you spoke and now Prof. Steinberg is speaking. We want to hear him, one moment please. Yes.
GS: Anyone who enters our website can receive the information there is on Mada al-Carmel, not only the claims made by Mada and Prof. Rouhana, but the actual quotes, and the documents.
TLS: Okay, but on the basis of these things that you already enumerated and you already mentioned the decision, the Haifa Declaration, a bi-national state, etc. on the basis of these things you say…
GS: No, we send. The only thing we did regarding Canada is to send a letter. And again we sent this letter to different officials in Canada, including David Malone and others, and we asked: It says in Mada’s material that your organization funds them with such and such amount for these projects: do you still fund them? (I don’t know if we even wrote “still,” but is it true? This is in order to verify our data. And if the funding data is correct, we ask about the projects for which this money is earmarked. And we received an answer, and it probably was confirmed. It’s possible that the Canadian government (we don’t talk to them directly) [made its own decisions]. It is absurd to think that our organization controls the Canadian government.
TLS: No. no. but the fact is, the fact is that your information, Prof. Steinberg, that you raised it only as information, you can’t demand that anyone do something or the other. Maybe it influenced the decision regarding the funding of the two studies, I want to ask you about these specific studies that Rouhana, Prof. Rouhana enumerated. Is it not legitimate for these studies to be held?
GS: Our questions are different — this is an issue that should be asked.
TLS: Please answer shortly because we need…
GS: Regarding Canada, or the EU, or any other government – with what criteria do they make decisions to fund activities such as these?
TLS: We aren’t speaking of activities but of two studies, one asks about the effectiveness of political action, extra- and intra-institutional of the Arabs in Israel, the second about the situation of the political infrastructure of Arab women in Israel.
GS: Tali, It’s true that this is their claim. Mada and Prof. Rouhana say that that is how the money will be used, but the Mada al-Carmel website, regarding the same project funded by Canada, states in English: “The project will critically examine the Zionist Colonialist rule of the Israeli state” etc.
TLS: Meaning and I’ll be glad to translate.
NR: And what’s wrong with that? We want to check the Israeli policy, which in our opinion is colonialist? Does Tel Aviv University have a right to hold a conference on the one-state and the Arabs in Israel are forbidden of thinking of a one-state conference? What’s wrong with the Arabs in Israel starting to think politically?
GS: The question is Prof. Rouhana…
NR: Surely also in the Haifa Declaration, listen Dr. Steinberg, you fabricated.
TLS: Prof. Steinberg
NR: You should take responsibility for your fabrications. You said that the Haifa Declaration says to exploit the Holocaust. And the Haifa Declaration is the first Palestinian declaration to recognize the suffering of the Jewish people, and the Holocaust etc. you quoted…
GS: Prof. Rouhana, anyone can read the text himself, these are quotes. You cannot invent anything now. You want to tell me that what is written…
NR: Do you want to listen for a moment? You quoted half a sentence. Half truths. You don’t have the courage to deal with our democratic discourse. That’s why you fabricate.
GS: You should be telling me whether or not I have courage. This is exactly the problem – the effort to avoid dealing with the facts. And I suggest that Tali and all the readers, listeners to read the entire document.
NR: So read to Tali the Haifa Declaration, what the Arab intellectuals say about the Holocaust.
GS: I disagree with your interpretation, which is also legitimate, correct?
TLS: Friends, Friends, Prof. Steinberg & Prof. Rouhana. I think we aren’t going to reach agreements on this issue. At least we have raised the issue and uncovered it.
GS: But Tali, I ask to say one more sentence.
TLS: One sentence, Prof. Steinberg, please.
GS: Again, we [NGO Monitor] publishes research – and Mada claims that they do research. And of course the Canadian government does not claim that we forced them change their policy. But every government, every responsible public body, must verify that the money that is allocated to a group is not being used for doing exactly the opposite.
TLS: Okay, Okay, thank you. Prof. Rouhana.
NR: Check if Miriam Ziv, if the Israeli ministry of Foreign affairs intervened against an Amuta registered in Haifa, in the Israeli Ministry of Interior, for research of matters of political participation.
GS: That isn’t the problem of NGO Monitor. That’s a question for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
TLS: So now, now friends, I will make both your lives easier. I will tell you both thank you very much. To you Prof. Nadim Rouhana CEO of Mada al Carmel research institute, and to you Prof. Gerald Steinberg chairman of NGO Monitor, and of the Political Science department at Bar Ilan University. Thank you both.
GS: Thank you very much.
TLS: And you are invited to listen the response of the ministry of foreign affairs, brought to us by Ilil Shachar, our political correspondent. Hello.
Ilil Shachar: Hello again Tali, indeed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells us: The State of Israel and its emissaries abroad do not intervene in the considerations and the decisions of foreign governments and bodies regarding their support to Israeli bodies. Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv, did indeed, in the framework of her regular meetings with the president of the organization, Mr. David Malone, but she did not raise arguments for or against supporting one or another Israeli body. Additionally, we can tell you that the same David Malone was interviewed to an Australian [sic.] newspaper The Global Mail, and he said there at least that the decision not to grant support was an internal decision of the organization, and was not caused by Israeli government pressure. He also said that what at least brought about the organizations stopping its support and changing its policy towards the Israeli organization is in fact the same information given to him by NGO Monitor, and that’s according to what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, information that was given without connection to any Ministry of Foreign Affairs authorities.
TLS: Despite Prof. Steinberg’s modesty that they don’t have any influence on the Canadians. Thank you very much.
IS: Indeed. But we will remind of one more thing. In other cases the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was proud that it approached other governments and tried to stop support for Israeli organizations. We remember the case of Braking the Silence after the report the organization published, based on the testimony of discharged soldiers that they used Palestinian civilians as human shields. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached loudly and proudly the governments of Holland and Spain and asked them to stop the support for this organization. Then they said they have no intent of doing it to other organizations, definitely not to organizations that support coexistence.
TLS: Ilil Shachar, our political correspondent, thank you very much for this response.