June 18, 2009
I have no objection to being criticized, just as I expect NGOs and their funders, like NIF, to accept the legitimacy of criticism and the importance of informed public debate on these important issues. However, I do think that your blog item was unfair and inaccurate, and that you seem to be targeting NGO Monitor, beginning with the headline.
The text starts by referring to NGO Monitor as “a pro-Israel watchdog group whose favorite targets are Arab-Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups”. This is an ideologically loaded description. Instead, you might have described us as “an Israel-based watchdog group that examines NGOs for bias and inaccuracy in regarding alleged human rights violations”. And regarding “disingenuous (read: inaccurate) elements in Steinberg’s item”. Disingenuous implies that what you read as a mistaken reference to ongoing NIF funding for ICAHD was placed there deliberately, which you cannot know and which is untrue.
You also did not give the reader a chance to judge the syntax for him/herself (other than linking the item). The text (before the change in syntax) read: "…WILPF – along with Mossawa (also funded by NIF) and ICAHD (funded by the EU until recently),…". It is a stretch to read this as claiming NIF funding for ICAHD is continuing, and the syntax error may be yours, but the reader would have to open the link to check this. However, to remove any possible misunderstanding, the sentence has been changed. In terms of accuracy, we have demonstrated this – your first email to me claimed that Mossawa was also not funded by NIF, but when I sent you the link to the NIF annual report, you dropped this claim.
On the substance of NIF’s support for NGOs promoting BDS, you refer to “NIF funding rules”, whereas NGO Monitor used the term “funding criteria”, based on Naomi Paiss’s 2006 letter, which states that “NIF has never funded groups that call for divestment”. In her statement to you, she said: "It’s not something that disqualifies all by itself a grantee from NIF support." Perhaps it was Paiss who was being disingenuous. You then wrote a pejorative sentence on “Steinberg having to stretch the truth”. Readers can judge for themselves, but I think many will find NGO Monitor’s wording to be an accurate reflection of the evidence.
As I wrote at the beginning of this response to your blog item, I and NGO Monitor accept and learn from criticism, particularly when it is valid. In this case, however, the evidence indicates that your criticism “stretched the truth”.
I look forward to your response, and suggest that you post this on your blog for others to read.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
Executive Director, www.ngo-monitor.org
1 Ben Maimon