Calls for the creation of an ombudsman office

In advance of the New Israel Fund’s (NIF) board meeting next week in Israel, NGO Monitor proposed funding guidelines designed to increase the NIF’s “transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility.” The document, entitled “Ethical Guidelines for the New Israel Fund,” was sent to NIF board members on June 20, 2010.

According to NGO Monitor President Professor Gerald Steinberg, the recommended guidelines, which include the creation of an independent ombudsman’s office to review NIF grants, were written “in response to the intense debate on the NIF’s role in Israeli society, and the contributions of some grantees to anti-Israel demonization.”

“The proposed guidelines address these issues in a positive, constructive, and realistic manner,” Steinberg continued. “If adopted, these guidelines would strengthen the NIF’s position on refusing to fund groups that cross its own ‘red lines’ on attacks against Israel.”

“Ethical Guidelines for the New Israel Fund”:

  • Urges the NIF and other groups pursuing a “moral agenda” to fulfill their “particular obligation to operate according to ethical principles, such as transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility, including responses to criticism.”
  • Notes “the frequent absence of these ethical principles” in human rights and humanitarian NGOs, some of which are funded directly or indirectly by the NIF.
  • Calls on the NIF board to “debate and adopt binding funding guidelines that would preclude groups engaging in demonization.”
  • Would prohibit grantees’ involvement in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns; accusations of “apartheid” or other demonizing terminology; legal threats or actions against Israeli officials abroad; or promoting UN-related activities that further such tactics, including the Goldstone Report.

In addition, NGO Monitor suggests that the proposed ombudsman prepare biannual reports on advocacy activities of NIF-funded groups, to determine compliance and investigate complaints about intolerant or uncivil statements or remarks from NIF officials and employees.

In its letter to the NIF board, NGO Monitor cited several examples of such uncivil attacks on NGO Monitor, including an obscene cartoon directed at Prof. Steinberg and NIF’s dissemination of an NGO Monitor “parody” Twitter account attributing offensive, racist remarks to NGO Monitor.