Summary: Alternatives has won generous funding from the Canadian government on the basis of its human rights principles that “meets the needs and responds to the demands of progressive Canadians” but its domestic and foreign activities reveal a highly inaccurate ideological agenda to undermine Israel.

The Montreal-based organization Alternatives demonstrates the ease with which NGOs can contradict their own stated objectives by obscuring contexts and distorting facts. This NGO claims that it "meets the needs and responds to the demands of progressive Canadians, and tries to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all." In response to these objectives, it has won partial funding from the Canadian International Development Agency through its NGO Project Facility (Link has expired). Yet the group engages in a wide variety of highly unbalanced and politicized activities both within Canada and abroad. Rather than "truly mirror(ing) the expectations of all Canadians," the organization’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals an extreme approach.

Alternatives’ activities fall under the two broad categories of domestic advocacy and overseas projects. The former includes articles published in Canada through the organization’s newsletter and on its website, both designed as clearinghouses for progressive thought and opinion. The latter includes partnerships and funded projects outside of Canada, including projects based in the Palestinian Territories.

Its domestic advocacy is unceasingly critical of Israel even as it downplays Palestinian human rights abuses and ignores Palestinian terrorism. An op-ed on the Alternatives website by Neve Gordon on the subject of the construction of the security fence accuses Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ignores the complex reasons behind the wall. Instead, Gordon resorts to simplistic slogans such as exhorting "international leaders" to "tell Prime Minister Sharon that at this historical moment he has an option between walls and ethnic cleansing, on the one hand, and open borders and freedom, on the other." Moreover, Gordon simplistically compares the State of Israel to Nazi Germany: "As the government of the Jewish state forces the Palestinians in ghettos, history must be turning in its grave… yet the so-called security wall does not separate these Palestinian residents from Jewish Israelis, but rather from their brethren in the West Bank."

Instead of providing balance to such perspectives, other articles, such as those by author Phyllis Bennis published in June and December 2003, reinforce the same partisan message. Bennis analyzes the American-led ‘Roadmap’ and the extra-legal Geneva negotiations through highly subjective and politicized language. Her rejection of the Geneva principles because "any further struggle for a broader level of sovereignty… would be deemed illegitimate" reveals an agenda designed to de-legitimize the state of Israel rather than to create "a more equitable and just world."

The failure of Alternatives’ advocacy is apparent in both what is written and what is left unsaid. One can read all of the group’s featured articles and never encounter an acknowledgment of Palestinian terrorism that threatens the right of Israeli citizens to live in peace and security. Nor would one discover any critical analysis of the role of the Palestinian Authority, terrorist organizations and even international aid organizations in creating and perpetuating poverty and injustice within the Palestinian territories. By refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israeli interests, Alternatives endorses an approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which holds Israel entirely responsible for the current situation and which comes close to excusing Palestinian terrorism in the pursuit of political ends.

Alternatives’ bias is apparent in its overseas projects as well. The group’s website lists activities under the heading ‘Palestine,’ and in fact Alternatives funds no activities wholly within the pre-1967 Israeli border. Among the organization’s projects are the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and the Palestinian NGO Network. Badil provides resources for Palestinian refugees and promotes, as a ‘durable solution’ to the refugee situation, the complete restoration of Palestinian property inside Israel lost during the 1948 War for Independence, which Badil calls the ‘Naqba’ or ‘Catastrophe,’ and the 1967 Six Day War, which Badil labels an "Arab-Zionist/Israeli" war.

The PNGO Network is an umbrella organization of Palestinian NGOs which has recently been under scrutiny for its role in drafting preparatory documents for the 2001 Durban conference. On January 5 the PNGO Network issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to foreign government funding conditions which required Palestinian NGOs to affirm that they did not pass money on to terrorist organizations.

Alternatives also supports the Alternative Information Center, "a Palestinian-Israeli organization which disseminates information, research and political analysis on Palestinian and Israeli societies as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while promoting cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the values of social justice, solidarity and community involvement." Any claim to objectivity on the part of the AIC is belied, however, by its repeated references to "the apartheid wall," its accusations of Israeli atrocities including the destruction of historical sites and its generally evocative language and tenor. The AIC is little more than an ideologically-driven opinion outlet, and not a serious and objective source of information – alternative or otherwise.

Alternatives’ political agenda masquerading under the rhetoric of ‘equal rights’ is symptomatic of the contradiction apparent in so many non-governmental organizations around the world. Merely advocating equal rights does not grant an NGO the right to ignore the wider picture. In order to ‘truly meet the expectations of all Canadians’, Alternatives should either restyle itself a political action committee or a lobby-group, or it should address the political prejudice evident in its work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.