Dear Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Booker,

We write to you regarding concerns over Ford Foundation funds to the Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

In October 2022, the Ford Foundation approved a three-year $1,000,000 grant to DAWN to “inform US foreign policy debates on human rights and democratization in the MENA region including by increasing participation of the Arab-American diaspora and allies.”

In contrast to this declaratory agenda, DAWN’s activities reflect its role as a primary leader of legal attacks (“lawfare”) targeting Israel. As documented in detail by NGO Monitor, DAWN officials have voiced support for the Hamas terrorist group and demonized Israel following the barbaric Hamas massacre of October 7. In contrast to seeking justice for the Israeli and other victims of the atrocities, DAWN amplified the abuse of legal frameworks in order to harass Israeli officials and promoted vicious anti-Israel propaganda in the effort to harm Israel’s ability to defend its citizens.

DAWN Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson, who has referred to “Israeli ISIS,” has a long history of antisemitism and race-baiting American Jews. For example, in March 2020, in response to a cynical tweet that “6 million jewish [sic] Israelis” will now understand life under “occupation” due to virus-related restrictions, Whitson used the classic antisemitic blood libel, lamenting that it was “such a tiny taste. Missing a tablespoon of blood.”

Since October 7, there has been a very disturbing increase in global antisemitism – which the Ford Foundation has recognized by providing grants to “combat antisemitism in the United States.”  The Ford Foundation’s simultaneous support for an NGO that is contributing to  antisemitism in the United States stands out as a singular contradiction.

In addition, we note that approximately half of DAWN’s budget is from undisclosed sources, which could include foreign governments.

On this basis, we have the following questions:

  1. Are there restrictions on the Ford Foundation grant to DAWN?
  2. Has the Ford Foundation reviewed DAWN’s agenda to determine the degree to which it is consistent with the terms of the grant and the Foundation’s ethical guidelines?
  3. Would antisemitism, atrocity denial, and bolstering terror groups be grounds for terminating Ford Foundation’s relationship with a grantee?
  4. Does the Ford Foundation know the sources of DAWN’s undisclosed funding?

We conclude by noting that similar funding for advocacy NGOs that demonized Israel, particularly in the antisemitic NGO Forum of the 2001 UN Durban Conference on Racism, triggered major controversy, condemnations of Ford Foundation, a Congressional inquiry, and a major policy change from then Foundation head Susan Berresford.

We look forward to your response,


Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg