As a result of a concerted research effort by several bodies, including NGO Monitor, Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Rick Santorum, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, have launched a campaign to investigate the Ford Foundation’s funding of anti-Semitic and highly political anti-Israel NGOs. A major pillar of the enquiry will be the legality of tax-exempt funding of these extremist groups.

After meeting with Nadler, Ford president, Susan Berresford acknowledged that she did not have a clear picture of all grantees’ activities and stated that she was “disgusted” at the antisemitic atmosphere of the 2001 United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa.

Ford’s donation money was instrumental in funding NGOs responsible for the hate-filled anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist literature used at the NGO Forum that eclipsed the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. Some of the main protagonists include Adalah ($200,000), Al-Mezan ($100,000), and PNGO.

NGO Monitor first drew public attention to Ford’s problematic activities in the Middle East in an article published 15 July 2003. The article drew particular attention to the discrepancy between the mission statements of many of these NGOs promoting ‘human rights’ and their highly partisan agendas. The Ford Foundation, initially dismissed the accusations and failed to respond to several written request to NGO Monitor for comment. The American Jewish Congress took up the issue on October 21 with a request to study the legality of tax-exempt organizations funding extremist groups.

Susan Berresford, however, issued a letter just one day after seventeen house representatives signed a letter calling for Ford to “cease funding of subversive groups.” In a letter to Nadler appearing at the moment on the Ford site, Berresford comments,

the Foundation has not and would never knowingly support racial, religious, ethnic or other forms of bigotry. Nor have we or would we knowingly fund any group that advocates violence or denies the legitimacy of Israel’s existence.

Berresford has stated that Ford has now undertaken a specific series of new measures to ensure that its funds no longer go to “groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel.” It also promised new efforts to address “the alarming rise of antisemitism around the world” through “significant regional and global program actions.” According to an article in Forward newspaper by Ori Nir, Senate Critic Undeterred by Ford Apology Rick Santorum will push for further scrutiny of the organization’s funding of extremist anti-Israel groups. This followed a meeting between Nadler and Ford president Susan Berresford who issued a formal letter in response.

This is the first time that the Ford Foundation has admitted that it was a main funder of several groups who preparted anti-Semitic literature and anti-Israel statements beyond the scope of their mission statement for the World Conference against Racism in Durban of 2001. The process is being covered in the JTA newspaper (Click here for more details) whose articles have been instrumental in publicizing this issue.