On October 25, 2010, B’Tselem announced a donation from a group known as “Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace” (BZP); Executive Director Jessica Montell wrote on Twitter, “I don’t know the group but it brought a big smile to my face.”
Due diligence would have revealed that BZP endorses the antisemitic BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) movement and employs the demonizing rhetoric of the Durban strategy – in violation of B’Tselem’s stated principles and growing adoption of ethical guidelines, such as by the New Israel Fund.
NGO Monitor wrote to B’Tselem informing the NGO of BZP’s BDS advocacy and asking whether the donation would be refused. B’Tselem responded that it was “honored to receive [the] contribution.”
BZP, based in Philadelphia, claims to work towards “justice in the Middle East.” Using its disarming name to mask its agenda, “Bubbes and Zeydes” participated in Israeli Apartheid Week by hanging “BOYCOTT ISRAELI APARTHEID!” signs on major Philadelphia highways. The group demonstrated outside local cellphone stores that sell Motorola phones, in order to “call on the corporation to cease producing and selling equipment to the Israeli army to prevent its involvement in future abuses.”
BZP members also joined “Divestment Teach-ins.” BZP co-sponsored a Sabeel Conference at Villanova in March 2008. Sabeel is a leader in the church divestment campaign, and uses antisemitic imagery and theology to demonize Israel.
In her response to NGO Monitor’s inquiry, Spokesperson Sarit Michaeli provided contradictory claims on B’Tselem’s position towards BDS. On one hand, she claimed that “B’Tselem’s board has explicitly rejected BDS tactics against the State of Israel.” Yet, Michaeli also implies that BDS activism does not contradict universal human rights principles.
Michaeli’s reply also contained a derogatory reference to “evangelical Christians who foresee an end to the Jewish people.” However, B’Tselem’s major funders include church groups – Christian Aid, DanChurchAid, Diakonia, ICCO, and Trocaire – that invoke theological themes in their anti-Israel campaigning and engage in, promote, and/or fund anti-Israel BDS efforts. These include lobbying for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, opposition to Israel’s membership in the OECD, and partnership in a “Call for Action” that advocated BDS and efforts to “[e]nlist journalists to organize a targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation.”
BZP’s support for B’Tselem, B’Tselem’s refusal to return the donation, and Montell’s statement that “I don’t know the group” reinforce the need for clear and firm guidelines in NGO funding. NGO Monitor has created ethical guidelines, and the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s policy is instructive, as well. This episode also highlights the need for proactive decision making by NGOs, as noted by a Washington political strategist, “Non-profits need guidelines, because who has the time to think about this in the heat of the moment?”