Ford Foundation: 2006 Update on Funding for Political NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Summary: The Ford Foundation’s 2006 grants to NGOs involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may reflect some changes from 2005. But overall, Ford (in cooperation with the New Israel Fund) continued to support many problematic NGOs in 2006. These include major international organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) as well as Palestinian NGOs such as the DWRC and PHRO, which promote the anti-Israel boycott movement. These organizations conduct some productive programs, but often exploit human rights rhetoric as part of the Durban strategy of demonizing Israel, while opposing a two state solution. This report aims to draw the Ford Foundation’s attention to the fact that continued funding for these radical political NGOs fuels the conflict and impedes the compromises necessary for a settlement. Many of these NGOs may also be planning to participate in the 2009 Durban conference, called as a follow-up to the 2001conference in which Ford-funded groups led the demonization of Israel.
Introduction: Ford Foundation’s Grantees
Ford’s 2006 Funding to NGOs:
- General Grants
- Designated Grants
Introduction: Ford Foundation’s Grantees
The 2001 Durban conference revealed that many of the Ford-funded NGOs purporting to be apolitical human rights activists were in fact promoting a clear anti-Israel bias. Following intense criticism, including 2003 Congressional hearings on Ford funding for radical NGOs like the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) and Al Mezan, Ford released new funding guidelines. A memorandum released on 8 January 2004 stated: “By countersigning this grant letter, you agree that your organization will not promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor will it make sub-grants to any entity that engages in these activities.” Ford also clarified in this memo that “this prohibition applies to all of the organization’s funds, not just those provided through a grant from Ford.”
NGO Monitor’s report on allocations for 2005 detailed a number of Ford-funded NGOs whose "activities are primarily political, and… [which] exploit human rights rhetoric to delegitimize Israel, while undermining efforts towards a peaceful end to the conflict." While many high profile 2005 recipients were not listed in 2006, including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Haq, Miftah, and the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, this may reflect multiple year grants in 2005 which are carried over and therefore not listed again for 2006. If funding has indeed ceased, this is a marked improvement in reducing Ford’s support for the most virulent “Durban strategy” NGOs that focus primarily on demonization of Israel However, highly political NGOs such as PCHR , Al-Mezan, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), and Ir Amim continued to list Ford as a funding source on their websites, although they were not included in Ford’s 2006 report.
Three 2006 grantees reviewed in this report also received grants in 2005: Human Rights Watch (for programs in Mexico and Brazil), International Commission of Jurists (general grant in 2005; directed grant in 2006 to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights), and the New Israel Fund (a five-year partnership). Despite the Ford Foundation’s pledge to stop “support[ing] organizations whose conduct is antithetical to our objectives of promoting peace, justice, tolerance and understanding,” in 2006 Ford continued to support several other NGOs that promote an anti-Israel agenda under the guise of human rights advocacy.
2006 Ford Foundation Grantees: General Grants
Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)
The PHRO, a member of the EMHRN and FIDH (both of which are heavily involved in the demonization of Israel, as detailed by NGO Monitor), received $150,000 from the Ford Foundation in 2006 “to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon through legal aid, research, education and training.” The PHRO calls itself “a non-partisan institute” that dedicates itself to “monitoring and documenting human rights violations, education and training on human rights, research, advocacy and lobby, dialogue and legal aid” for Palestinians in Lebanon. PHRO is listed as having participated in the 2001 Durban Conference and continues to promote the NGO strategy adopted there: The document produced by this conference accuses Israel of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” as well as “perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including…acts of genocide,” and calls for “complete and total isolation of Israel.”
A PHRO report on the 2006 Lebanon War, published in July 2006, denounces what it terms a repeat of the “Quana genocide” by the Israelis against the Lebanese. While the authors recognize that the war was conducted in response to the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, PHRO neglects to condemn this as a crime. The report calls on Hezbollah to cease firing rockets from populated areas in Lebanon to protect Lebanese civilians, but, it does not denounce the rocket fire aimed exclusively at Israeli civilians. Furthermore, the report argues that “civilians especially children” were the “non-neutralized target” of the IDF and accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity.”
Another example of demonization was the PHRO-hosted Palestinian Debate Meeting, “What Do Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon Want?” which took place in Beirut in October 2005. The statement issued by the meeting advocated the “right of return” for Palestinians to all of Israel (equivalent to opposing a two-state peace agreement), and discussed the need to “organize Palestinian arms – to be considered as a political weapon.” Through this funding, Ford violated its post-Durban pledge, which promises to “never support groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel.”
Democracy and Workers Rights Center in Palestine (DWRC)
Ford provided the DWRC $200,000 “for training, networking and legal aid on protection and promotion of labor rights in Palestine and the Arab Region” in 2006. The DWRC is active in promoting labor rights for Palestinians, but often includes a rejectionist anti-Israel agenda that fuels the conflict. For instance, the DWRC is part of the PNGO network that signed a “call for a comprehensive academic boycott of Apartheid Israel” in May 2005. The DWRC uses inflammatory language to describe the situation of the Palestinians, referring to the community’s current status as an “unrelenting tragedy.” The constructive work that the DWRC does in the area of labor rights does not justify Ford funding an organization that promotes demonization.
Throughout 2007, the DWRC is co-sponsoring a program on women’s rights in the workplace with the Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD). This program (funded by both Ford and the European Union) represents some of the DWRC’s beneficial work in the community. The Legal Aid and Human Rights program within the DWRC focuses on challenges and weaknesses in the Palestinian legal system. The program’s goal is to “support and convince Palestinian policymakers that establishing a socially just Palestinian society in which employers respect employee rights in accordance with internationally recognized human rights principles bolsters Palestine’s credibility and influence, and thus enforces Palestine’s legitimate place in the world.” In this area of its work, the DWRC endeavors to empower marginalized groups, protect workers’ rights, reinforce the rule of law, and develop further human rights awareness.
Other DWRC programs, however, require further scrutiny by Ford to ensure compliance with the post-Durban guidelines. In February 2006, the Democracy and Workers Rights Center launched an emergency job creation project “in response to massive unemployment among the Palestinian labor force after the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada on 28 September 2000 due to Israeli military closures and economic measures aiming at preventing Palestinian workers from working in the Israel labor market and disrupting the Palestinian economy.” Here, the DWRC fails to acknowledge that these measures were implemented as a result of Palestinian terror and violence and ignores the effects of Palestinian corruption and infighting on their economy.
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center received $100,000 “for a program of advocacy and legal aid in Jerusalem and the West Bank” in 2006. Established in 1974, JLAC’s vision is “a liberated Democratic Palestinian Society governed by the rule of Law.” However, according to a more detailed version on the FIDH website:
The JLAC offers legal advice and representation to Palestinians facing the consequences of the ongoing battle for political, economic and demographic control. That battle is waged, particularly in Jerusalem, through policies of arbitrary arrest and detention, house demolition, identity card confiscation, denial of residency rights, land seizures, and other measures which essentially violate the inalienable right of Palestinians to live, develop and prosper in their homeland.
JLAC has been a signatory to a number of letters submitted to the UN and the international community, including the May 2005 boycott letter mentioned above. For example, a 3 October 2006 letter to the “Representatives of the International Community” blames Israel for the infighting between Hamas and Fatah factions: “It must be recognized that the current crisis stems from the almost 40-year-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip…[this letter was written after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza]. ”
Another such letter dated 21 November 2006 to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights signed by several Palestinian NGOs including JLAC describes the current situation in the Palestinian Authority with inflammatory and biased language: “The current reality in the OPT is one of gross and systematic violations of international human rights law, as well as serious and grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, amounting to war crimes.” The same letter describes the separation barrier as the “Annexation Wall.” This language and exploitation of international legal terminology defy the Ford Foundation’s new funding guidelines, which restrict Ford from funding any organization which promotes or engages in “bigotry.”
Muwatin: Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy
Muwatin received $180,000 from Ford in 2006 “for policy studies and research informing debate on the issues of democracy, Islamism and secularism and for public education on the performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council.” Muwatin claims to “promote the study and development of democracy in Palestine and in the region” and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter entitled Parliamentary Horizons, a “critical newsletter focusing on the work of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and Other Critical Issues.”Muwatin was a signatory of the aforementioned May 2005 letter from the PNGO network that called for an academic boycott of “Apartheid Israel,” which violates Ford’s post-Durban prohibitions.
The summaries of Muwatin’s books on its website shed light on its political agenda. In its most recent book, Where Now for Palestine: The Demise of the Two-State Solution, Muwatin characterizes “Palestine” as “The Last Colonial Issue” in the book’s introduction. This book discusses the “illusory” nature of the two-state solution. Another book, State Formation in Palestine, “challenges the widely prevalent view that the Palestinian Authority collapsed because of its internal governance failures, its lack of commitment to democracy and its failure to control corruption.” The authors concede that “while there were indeed internal failures of governance, the institutional architecture set up by the Oslo agreements established an asymmetric Israeli control over the emerging Palestinian state and this was responsible for many of the most serious failures of governance.” In essence, this book blames Israel for the failures of the Palestinian Authority. Another book, Liberation, Democratization, and Transition to Statehood in the Third World examines South Africa as a model for the future Palestinian state, which compares Israel to the Apartheid South Africa regime. The clear bias present in these books promotes the Durban Strategy and counters the Ford Foundation’s mission to “strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement,” and contradicts Ford’s new funding guidelines.
International Peacebuilding Alliance (Interpeace)
In 2006, the Ford Foundation granted the International Peacebuilding Alliance, or Interpeace, $160,000 “for two parallel processes of dialogue aimed at articulating a common vision of the future for Palestinian and Israeli societies.” This organization “assists societies torn by war to overcome conflict and to build lasting peace. It does this by promoting processes of consultation, research and analysis with all sectors of society, including international assistance agencies and donors.” Interpeace conducts field programs in Guatemala, Peru, Central African Gangs, Rwanda, Burundi, Guinea-Bassau, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. Interpeace seeks to carry out this mission through dialogue between the affected groups of people, particularly those with minority positions in a conflict.
Despite Interpeace’s claims to be promoting constructive dialogues, the information on its website contains notable biases that are not consistent with this goal. Its Palestine Program section, uses language that reinforces Palestinianian victimization myths: “For Palestinians, the last 100 years have brought colonisation, expulsion and military occupation.”
In addition, the claims regarding the “dialogue programs” are not verifiable. Between November 2004 and July 2005, Interpeace claimed to have facilitated a dialogue between Gaza settlers and “left-wing activists” from southern Kibbutzim. After eight months of dialogue, the sponsors contended that “all of the settlers who took part in the meetings, left their homes peacefully… [and] the left-wing participants agreed to help the settlers together after the evacuation [of Gaza].” No further details are given about participants or program content.
Another dialogue program allegedly facilitated meetings between the National Committee of Local Arab Authorities in Israel and the SHAS party (the Association of Torah-Observant Sephardis) . Since September 2005, Interpeace has worked with the National Committee of Local Arab Authorities to develop a common standpoint on the future constitution of Israel, in order to help the Arab-Israeli community define their role in Israel. Through its work with the SHAS party, Interpeace aimed “to bridge some of the internal divisions within the party and clarify its geopolitical vision for the future of Israel and its relations with the Palestinian people.” The ultimate goal of this project is to enable the SHAS party to “engage with other sectors of Israeli society to develop a common agenda for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinian people.” The details of this dialogue, however, could not be verified and the content of neither dialogue program is available for outside scrutiny of potential bias.
New Israel Fund (NIF)
After the Durban funding controversy, the Ford Foundation announced a five-year partnership with the New Israel Fund with a $20 million grant to establish a new peace and social justice fund. This grant was renewed in September 2007. Its remit is to support organizations in Israel in order to achieve three main goals: “promoting civil rights and human rights in Israel; promoting equity and equal opportunities for the Palestinian minority in within Israel; [and] promoting a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The New Israel Fund is particularly active in funding many NGOs in the Arab sector in Israel.
Through its grant program, the NIF funds many NGOs and individuals that argue for the complete removal of the Jewish elements of Israel. Some of these NGOs go beyond the scope of their mandates in their use of inflammatory language to promote the destruction of Israel. Shmuel Rosner at Haaretz commented on this problem in his 4 April 2007 blog:
The New Israel Fund (NIF) gives a lot of money to organizations like Adalah which played a central role in the provocative document [The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel], and this fact compelled Garber [executive director of the American branch of NIF] to engage in verbal acrobatics. They played a role, he says, but this is not the main issue for which they exist. If they become an organization whose principal objective is to implement the manifest, the NIF will have to reconsider [funding them].
Other politicized organizations and individuals receiving money from NIF are also involved in demonization and promotion of the boycott movement. Examples include Shamai Leibowitz, as documented in a previous NGO Monitor article, and the Mossawa Center which argues that only “Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous people of the country” ignoring Jewish historical ties to Israel and Jewish communal continuity. According to Mossawa, Israel cannot be both a democracy and a Jewish state, declaring Israel “inherently illegitimate.” The same document calls on Israel to grant Israeli Arabs and their descendents the right to return to the land from which they fled in 1948, and argues for the abolishment of Israel’s Law of Return. This “opposition to the existence of the State of Israel” contradicts Ford’s guidelines.
2006 Ford Foundation Grantees: Designated Grants
Over the past year, the Ford Foundation also funded several other politicized organizations. Although these grants were designated toward specific programs, money is fungible and NGO budgets are at times diverted to other activities.
PANORAMA: The Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development
Located in the Palestinian Territories, PANORAMA received $90,000 from the Ford Foundation “to enable participants in the second phase of the Palestinian-Israeli Young Political Leaders Program to engage in dialogue and address key contemporary issues to enhance peace in the Middle East.” PANORAMA advocates for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with Jerusalem as a shared capital between Israel and the future Palestine. A signatory on the May 2005 academic boycott as part of the PNGO network, PANORAMA’s mission involves working “to contribute to community development…as a means to build a pluralistic Palestinian civil society.”
Despite the fact that the Palestinian-Israeli Young Political Leaders Program seems to be a constructive program, it is important to note that PANORAMA politicizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by using biased language and unbalanced accusations. In its report on Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, entitled “The Israeli ‘Disengagement’ Plan: Gaza will be Vacated but still Occupied,” PANORAMA calls the disengagement “a colonialist strategy: the occupier gets to choose not only its own representatives, but those of the occupied as well, with no respect to political agreements or initiatives.” Israel’s plan, PANORAMA contends, “is no surprise to the Palestinians: it has always been that Israel destroys and the Palestinians pick up the pieces.” In a PowerPoint presentation denouncing Israeli settlements, PANORAMA distorts the conflict by using provocative language, referring to Jewish settlements as “colonies,” to Palestinian towns as “ghettos,” and to the security fence as “the annexation wall.” The presentation also argues that “Israel will keep finding excuses to blame Palestinians for not abiding by the performance based road map” and blames Israel for “destroying the Two-State Solution” by building the security fence. No mention is made of Hamas’s failure to reject violence or to recognize previous peace agreements. By supporting PANORAMA in spite of its politicized and accusatory language that fails to denounce Palestinian government-sponsored violence, the Ford Foundation supports “violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state,” rather than abiding by its new guidelines.
Save the Children – UK (SCF)
The Save the Children Fund received two grants from the Ford Foundation in 2006: $50,000 was dispersed to support the prospective Save the Children China Foundation, and $200,000 was given to Save the Children to fund human rights education in Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco. Save the Children “fight[s] for children in the UK and around the world who suffer form poverty, disease, injustice and violence, working with them to find lifelong answers to the problems they face.” While Save the Children does impressive work, its publications contain biases and omissions that should be recognized by Ford.
In Israel, Save the Children works through a partner organization, Al Tufula, “to address the psychosocial support needs of children who have witnessed violence and are exposed to great risk.” Al Tufula “is a non-profit independent organization founded in 1984 by Palestinian women citizens of Israel in order to develop Early Childhood Education for Palestinian children in Israel and to improve the status of Palestinian women.” This NGO “serves the Palestinian citizens of Israel and networks with regional Arab organizations as well as international groups on specific issues.” Within Israel, Al Tufula has partnered with several of the highly politicized NGOs watched by NGO Monitor, including Adalah, the Arab Association for Human Rights, and the Ma’an Network. Save the Children’s work in Israel focuses exclusively on Palestinian and Arab children in Israel and does not benefit the Jewish children who have also been affected by the ongoing violence. Accordingly, SCF fails to follow its own belief that “all children are equally entitled to human rights.”
On 11 July 2006, Save the Children published a brief update on “Living with the Wall.” In this article, Save the Children “urge[s] the Israeli government to heed the experience of Palestinian children, and…to immediately stop construction of the Wall and dismantle the sections of the Wall already in existence.” By doing so, SCF ignores the right of Israeli children to grow up without the danger of being killed by suicide bombers.
Human Rights Watch, a 2005 Ford grant recipient, received a $300,000 grant for an HIV/AIDS program and a $60,000 grant for a full-time researcher in Brazil in 2006. NGO Monitor has documented in detail the anti-Israel activities of this NGO including its participation in the Durban conference, and its disproportionate condemnations of Israel when exercising its legitimate right to self defense.
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
In 2005 ICJ received a general support grant for $325,000. In contrast, in 2006 it received $40,000 to organize a meeting to improve the African Court on Human and People’s Rights. These directed funds, however, still promote the ICJ, which continues to support its highly politicized anti-Israel affiliates, Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. These organizations frequently distort the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and demonize Israel, which is counter to Ford’s prohibition of giving “sub-grants to any entity that engages in [violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state].
The Ford Foundation released new guidelines after the 2001 Durban conference which state that its grantees “‘will not promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor will it make sub-grants to any entity that engages in these activities.’ This prohibition applies to all of the organization’s funds, not just those provided through a grant from Ford.” It is impossible to know whether Ford has ceased funding for radical 2005 grant recipients, such as Al Mezan and others. And in 2006, Ford provided new or continuing grants to politicized NGOs with a strong anti-Israel and anti-peace agenda. This is inconsistent with Ford’s claimed objectives: to “strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement”. Furthermore, in the preparations for the planned 2009 Durban follow-up conference, the evidence presented in this report demonstrates that there is a very real danger that Ford-funded NGOs will again lead the demonization of Israel.
1. NGO Monitor contacted the Ford Foundation repeatedly throughout March 2007 to establish whether any 2005 grant recipients continued to receive support in 2006, through multi-year grants or dispersions of previous grants. Despite several attempts, however, Ford did not provide a substantive response.