Joel Balsam, an intern with Alternatives (Canada), has published a highly misleading “investigation into NGO Monitor’s participation in the defunding of Canadian human rights organizations Kairos and Alternatives” (“NGO Monitor-ing,” June 2, 2010). Mr. Balsam, a student at Concordia University, contacted NGO Monitor, and to his credit included, in full, a statement from us.
Unfortunately, Balsam was not as careful when it comes to basic facts about NGO Monitor, and apparently sought, without much success, to find some evidence that would fit his pre-formed indictment.
NGO Monitor’s analysis is not focused solely, or even primarily, on Canada. Ottawa’s funding is one element of wider research that includes massive funding from the EU and European governments – often without requisite transparency and accountability. This essential context is absent from Balsam’s piece.
Balsam’s most egregious errors surround the repetition of the myth that NGO Monitor somehow manipulated the Canadian government into defunding Kairos and Alternatives. As noted by Balsam, NGO Monitor did not include Kairos in the August 2009 submission to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. Our “extensive report” on Kairos “demonization” of Israel was published on December 8, 2009, after Kairos announced that its funding was not renewed. Not before, as implied by Balsam.
Similarly, Balsam refers to a December 16, 2009 article in the Jewish Tribune, which claimed that “NGO Monitor broke the story first” — that Alternatives’ CIDA grant would not be renewed. Once again, Balsam failed to check the details and got it wrong: On December 5, 2009, the National Post ran a story alleging that the Canadian government was “set to slash millions of dollars in funding to Alternatives.” Alternatives knew about this report, since CEO Michel Lambert responded that he had not been informed officially by the government (and Balsam cites to this article). On December 8, NGO Monitor issued a press release, referring to “media reports” to this effect. And on December 10, we updated our research on Alternatives’ advocacy and political agenda to reflect the growing focus in this NGO and its funding from the Canadian government.
The inaccuracy may have been rooted in the Jewish Tribune’s turn of phrase, but, as with his other mistakes, Balsam could have avoided this error by checking the claims with the original source.
Finally, in contrast to Balsam’s claims, NGO Monitor is an independent organization, and is has not been affiliated with the JCPA for a number of years. (Also, our managing editor spells his name with two a’s, “Balanson.” Like Balsam.) If Balsam and Alternatives expect to be taken seriously, they will have do some serious work.