Summary: HIC provides another example of how the Ford Foundation and European funding bodies support highly politicized human rights NGOs. HIC engages in inaccurate reporting to further the campaign to demonize Israel. This article highlights HIC’s assertion that "Israel’s legal structure guarantees institutional racism".
As reported in NGO Monitor, Ford Foundation President, Susan Berresford pledged in a letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler that, "if we find evidence that grantees [who participated in Durban] behaved inappropriately, we will investigate fully." She claims that Ford has taken steps to ensure 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."
The highly politicized work of Habitat International Coalition (HIC), and the fact that the Ford Foundation, along with a number of other European funding agencies, continues to provide funding, confirms the urgency of Berresford making good on her pledge.
HIC describes itself as "an independent, international, nonprofit movement of some 400 organizations and individuals working to support campaigns for housing rights." The movement is "coordinated geographically" by way of regional focal points, and maintains offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa (MENA), and North America. HIC is financed by a "consortium of funders who shares HIC’s objectives," including the ICCO, Ford Foundation and Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft.
While offering support for "housing rights" is an important endeavor, as is "defending the human rights of the homeless, poor and inadequately housed", HIC has deliberately chosen to suspend its professional standards of independence and integrity in its analysis of these issues in Israel. Indeed, the very name ‘Israel’ is absent on the HIC MENA wesbite http://www.hic-mena.org/main.htm. Instead, HIC MENA chooses to disseminate thinly veiled anti-Israel propaganda, without even including an "Israel" link under its "country" section. Reports and other materials pertaining to housing issues inside Israel are found in the "Palestine" section. This is precisely the type of politicization that Ford President Susan Berresford promised to stamp out.
Furthermore, HIC’s "news" section also reveals a blatant anti-Israel bias. An article dated February 4, 2003, bears the title "Zionist Entity plans Demolition of 50,000 Arab Houses"(Link has expired). The article, originally published on www.palestine-info.co.uk, describes a dubious survey carried out by the "Arab planning center in occupied Palestine 1948 areas." According to the center, "the "Zionist entity" is planning "the demolition of 50,000 Arab houses in the Negev, Galilee and Triangle areas." In addition, the article quotes Dr. Amer Al-Hazeel, a member of the regional council for "unrecognized villages," as accusing "Tel Aviv" of "plotting a settlement plan on the lands of unrecognized [Arab villages] in the Negev."
Another article, entitled "Administrative Demolition of Homes Inside Israel", (Link has expired) proclaims that, "the state has a policy of demolishing Arab houses inside Israel, on the accusation of ‘unlicensed’ or ‘illegal’ building."
Similar anti-Israel sentiments can be found in HIC’s "documents" section. An HIC MENA report entitled "The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Related Intolerance", (Link has expired) describes the activities of the movement in Durban, South Africa during August-September, 2001. The report states that, "the key to understanding institutionalized racism in Israel is in the legal structure of the state." To qualify this outrageous claim, the report cites a questionable "historical overview" given at Durban by HIC MENA representative, Mr. Schechla. In the overview, Schechla compares the "legal mechanisms in Israel" to those of "the apartheid regime in South Africa," and notes that such mechanisms "reflect the racism at the base of the state’s colonial ideology."
Despite HIC’s manifest intentions to de-legitimize Israel, the NGO still attracts considerable donations from several European sources, on top of the Ford funding. One example is a government-funded Church NGO, the Interchurch Organisation for Development Co-operation (ICCO), based in the Netherlands. This NGO receives approximately 133 million Euros from the Dutch and other European governments and claims to maintain a policy of accountability. According to its mission statement, it is working towards a world "where poverty and injustice are no longer present…" The mission statement also notes that ICCO is "accountable to politicians and society for the way in which these moneys are spent."
A second organization, the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft, a German based non-profit organization "dedicated to international advanced training and human resource development," states as its goal initiating "global cooperation."
The evidence presented above stands in fundamental contradiction to the goals of all three funding organizations. The fact that HIC is successful at attracting funding from Ford, ICCO and the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft raises serious questions of accountability.
HIC, in fact, is part of a much wider process of self-defined ‘humanitarian’ NGOs highjacking the human rights agenda for partisan anti-Israel ideological goals. This repeated pattern, documented in successive editions of NGO Monitor, and now being taken up in Congress, casts a dubious shadow over contemporary ‘human rights reporting.’
The issue of the politicization of the NGO community and its contribution to the de-legitimization of Israel warrants a major public debate. Meanwhile, donor organizations and government funding agencies need to implement more rigorous accountability instruments from grant recipients.