Dear Ambassador Chevallard and Mr Breteche,
We would like to thank you for your detailed response to our article, "EU Funds for NGOs Misused."
First, a clarification of the aims and objectives of the NGO Monitor project is in order. We exist to promote greater transparency on behalf of the general public and donor organizations within the ‘human rights’ NGO community. An integral part of our mission is to draw the attention of funding organizations, such as the EU, to the widespread phenomenon of the manipulation of the label ‘human rights’ in pursuit of anti-Israel political and ideological agendas.
In response to similar research by NGO Monitor and other organizations, the Ford Foundation President Susan Berresford has already acknowledged the gravity of this trend and promised to halt funding groups that fund political campaigns against Israel http://www.fordfound.org/newsroom/docs/svb_letter.pdf . Another major funding body has also withdrawn funds to HRW for its politicized activities and Oxfam Belgium withdrew an offensive poster and issued a public apology.
Your reply to the analysis produced by NGO Monitor focused primarily on EU guidelines and funding criteria, and this is precisely the problem. EU funds are allocated to organizations whose mission statements fit EU funding criteria but whose activities on the ground do not. It is this contradiction we believe needs addressing. Although there are extensive criteria for allocating funding, you do not address EU mechanisms that exist for monitoring and demanding accountability for organizations whose activities are very obviously contradicting their very own mission statement, and your criteria. As in the case of other funding organisations, such as the Ford Foundation and the US government have recognised these abuses and instituted monitoring and criteria to assess the activities of these NGOs, we expect the EU to do the same.
On this basis, we featured the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)’s funding of ‘Ilam. Although its mission statement promises independent, unbiased and democratic standards to empower the Palestinian residents of Israel, we provided evidence in the article to the contrary. We systematically point out that ‘Ilam uses highly biased and politicized language to insinuate that Israel’s media reflects draconian censorship imposed by the government. In sharp contrast to the claims that you made in reply, our analysis includes an extensive seven-line quote from the mission statement to illustrate the discrepancy between its claim to be unpartisan and ‘Ilam obvious agenda.
‘Ilam is entitled to its view and to criticise Israel, but it is far from unbiased in its presentation of material. Nowhere does it mention the large elements of the Israeli press who freely criticize the government, nor the fact that the Arab press is free to operate within Israel. Whatever one’s political views, the comments on ‘Ilam’s website concerning the Israeli press are extremely misleading. NGO Monitor has uncovered similar evidence regarding EIDHR funding of Adalah in previous years.
NGO Monitor argues it is inappropriate and unethical for the EU to provide taxpayer’s funding for an organization that ostensibly promotes democracy without bias, but in fact is a political tool in the wider the campaign for the de-legitimisation of Israel. The general public also has a right to know that public taxpayer’s funds are being allocated to NGOs with political dimensions, and the EU’s absence of a transparency adds to the problem.
A second point we would like to address is the issue of Yasser Arafat and the connection between EIDHR and European Commission Technical Assistance Office (ECTAO) to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In your letter, you rejected the evidence linking EIDHR and Arafat are "nonsensical", asserting while MEDA is an official framework where such links exists, "There are therefore no links whatsoever between the EIDHR and Mr Arafat or any other official of the Palestinian Authority." Furthermore, you assert "The extract from the ECTAO website quoted in the article to support the allegation that the Palestinian Authority interferes with the EIDHR funded project, does not refer to EIDHR but to the MEDA development programme".
In contrast, the evidence we received from a member of the ECTAO staff that ECTAO provides consulting and advice for EIDHR funding allocations, thus showing the permeable political boundaries. Because we cannot prove this point, we will amend the ambiguity on our website. Your claim is also entirely inconsistent with the ECTAO website http://www.delwbg.cec.eu.int/en/about_us/jeanb.htm (Link has expired) which has a large picture of Jean Breteche, shaking hands with Yasser Arafat after the numerous allegations of corruption and embezzlement that the European Parliament has raised against him.
In addition, according to information provided by member of the ECTAO staff, this organization provides consulting and advice for European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) funding allocations, which indicates a close link to Yasser Arafat. However, because we cannot prove this point, we will amend the text on our website. The original text read:
"There are three major channels by which EU aid is directed to human rights and democracy programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
1. Aid distributed directly to NGOs
Twenty per cent of EU project funding is channelled to NGOs from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). In the PA territories, EIDHR works through the European Commission Technical Assistance Office to the West Bank & Gaza Strip and enjoys very close links with Yasser Arafat, whose influence is strongly felt."
The amended text reads:
"This article looks at three routes by which EU aid is directed to human rights and democracy programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
1. Aid distributed to NGOs by the EIDHR
Twenty per cent of EU project funding is channelled to NGOs from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). It should be noted that there are also other EU bodies operating in the PA territories, such as the European Commission Technical Assistance Office to the West Bank & Gaza Strip and enjoys very close links with Yasser Arafat, whose influence is strongly felt."
On another issue, you write,
"Surely you cannot imagine that the United States, the European Union and all other major donors for that matter would support a UN Agency if it was responsible for inciting hatred and violence through its support for Palestinian education?"
Unfortunately, we feel this is precisely what is happening. Instead of relying on circumstantial evidence or instantly dismissing these issues out of hand, the EU should investigate independent reports, such as produced by the Boston Globe on UNWRA (Link has expired), showing how the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees ignores the use of its camps for bomb factories and terrorism and allows its schools and other facilities to be used for anti-Israel incitement.
Finally, on the subject of ECHO funding, we would be interested to hear more of your opinion on the article we linked to our article, http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/corruption.htm on the subject of the irregularities recorded in the use of EU funds to the Palestine Authority. The EU states that NGOs are a vital conduit of its public funds and we are therefore interested in what accountability mechanisms are in place to prevent NGOs being involved in the corruption process. In your response, to simply failed to respond this clear evidence presented in the NGO Monitor of the abuse of ECHO funding to further anti-Israeli political objectives.
To conclude, the NGO Monitor investigation is not designed to accuse the EU and is certainly not opposed to providing humanitarian funding to the Palestinian people. Our objective is to expose the pervasive trend, as shown in numerous editions of NGO Monitor, of the manipulation of ‘human rights’ agendas throughout the NGO community in the campaign to de-legitimize Israel.
We call on the EU to take the bold steps adopted by the Ford Foundation and to launch a thorough investigation to ensure that taxpayer’s money is not channelled to ideological causes. We also urge the EU to take a major role in preparing an implementing a code of conduct for NGOs to prevent such moral and ethical abuses in the name of human rights.
We look forward to hearing your responses, Gerald M. Steinberg, NGO Monitor
To read part 2 click here.