Dr. Ralf Hexel, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Marc Berthold, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Michael Mertes, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung
Dr. Angelika Timm, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung
Dr. Hans-Georg Fleck, Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit
Richard Asbeck, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung

Open Letter to German Political Foundations regarding the Israeli debate on foreign government funding for political advocacy NGOs

I write you as the head of NGO Monitor, an Israeli civil society organization that does research on the funding for and political impact of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

From this perspective, I wish to convey our concerns about your public letter to “all Members of Knesset,” dated November 20, 2011, expressing “concern about a series of legislative initiatives that would fundamentally change the financial framework for the activities of Israeli non-governmental organizations, and thus civil society involvement overall.”  (Published on the Heinrich Böll website.)

The impression, perhaps incorrect, from this letter, is the denial of the legitimacy of an internal Israeli debate over the unprecedented foreign government funding for a small group of Israeli civil society organizations that promote divisive agendas, both in Israel and before external bodies.  Indeed, as stated, you represent “German political foundations,” and this letter might be seen as an example of attempts by foreign political and government-funded groups to influence or prevent the Israeli democratic debate.

In addition, the claim that “our work is at all times based on the State of Israel’s right to exist, its right of self-determination, its security and its innately democratic character” can be debated.

Examples that are inconsistent with this claim include the partnership between the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Ta’ayush, an anarchist group that engages in highly uncivil activity (see NOTE, below) and provokes violent confrontations with soldiers and settlers. Another partner is Yesh Gvul, which is involved in lawsuits targeting Israeli officials that are responsible for anti-terror operations.

Similarly, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation has funded the Coalition of Women for Peace, a leader in the global BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaign.

There are many other examples in which European taxpayer funds are channeled (usually without transparency) to political advocacy organizations active in promoting delegitimization under the façade of human rights. The intense use of false allegations by these NGOs to demonize Israel is also highly destructive to the universality of human rights principles.

Concerns regarding foreign government funding for such NGO-led political warfare are widely shared in Israel, and are the direct cause of the current debate in the Israeli Knesset.

The commitments of your foundations to Germany-Israel ties and to Israeli security and self-determination are important, not only rhetorically, but also in the implementation of these principles. We therefore urge you to reconsider your letter regarding the Knesset debate, to act with full transparency regarding funding from German foundations to Israeli NGOs, and to adopt guidelines which would prevent funding for highly political organizations, regardless of their position on the ideological spectrum.

Gerald M. Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor
Jerusalem, Israel

NOTE – For instance, in April 2010, activists from this group visited a religious settlement on the Sabbath. One of the activists removed her clothing and began playing a musical instrument (in violation of the strict Sabbath observance of that community).