(Jerusalem) – Tomorrow, December 1, 2009, NGO Monitor’s president Prof. Gerald Steinberg will speak at a Knesset event entitled “Foreign Government Funding for NGO Political Activity in Israel.” The conference will focus on the political, diplomatic, and legal issues, as well as legislation being examined in response.

Participants, including members of Knesset from a wide range of political parties (see below), will also discuss NGO Monitor’s study, Trojan Horse: The Impact of European Government Funding for Israeli NGOs (Hebrew), which provides a detailed analysis of the activities of more than twenty Israel-based NGOs that receive funding from European governments. The report examines the political agendas of these groups, and the way that they influence Israeli policy making and public debate, including their extensive use of the legal system. The research was published jointly with the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

Speakers include: Minister Michael Eitan (Likud), Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), MK Uri Ariel (Ichud Leumi), MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), MK Yariv Levin (Likud), MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas), MK Zevulun Orlev (HaBayit HaYehudi), Mk Yohanan Plessner (Kadima), MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), Prof. Gerald Steinberg (NGO Monitor, Bar Ilan University), Israel Harel (Institute for Zionist Strategies), Prof. Berachyahu Lifshitz (Hebrew University), Prof. Marc Cogen (University of Ghent, Belgium) Prof. Moshe Koppel (Bar Ilan University).

Officials from Israeli NGOs – including B’Tselem, Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Adalah – were invited to speak at the event, but declined to participate in this public discussion.

NGO Monitor’s President Prof. Gerald Steinberg said, “For over a decade, European governments have been manipulating Israeli politics and promoting demonization by funding a narrow group of favored non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For the first time, the Knesset will be holding a public discussion of this practice and its implications, including the degree to which this European policy violates norms of democratic behavior.

As will be discussed in this conference, we will argue that the first step to ending this practice is to require full transparency – a principle that European officials preach, but when it comes to Israel, do not practice. If this legislation is enacted, before any NGO can accept foreign government funding, the details would have to be made public. Israeli law should also require full notification when foreign government money is used by NGOs for newspaper ads, political protests, and conferences. Transparency would also allow European parliamentary oversight and expose the absence of professional evaluation of various NGO funding programs.”

Editor’s Notes:

English summaries of remarks at the conference will be available upon request.

See Prof. Steinberg’s op-ed in Ha’aretz: “Manipulating the marketplace of ideas,” November 27, 2009