Summary: This major Israeli-Arab NGO that was very active in the Durban conference continues to receive funds from EU, NIF and others despite continuing demonization and refusal to accept Ford and USAID anti-terror guidelines.
Established in 1985 and based in Haifa, Ittijah describes itself as "the network for Palestinian non-governmental organizations in Israel… Ittijah strives to strengthen and empower the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel by promoting the development of Palestinian civil society and advocating for political, economic and social change."
In its 2002 Annual Report Ittijah readily admits that its funding has declined, claiming that the Israeli government has pressured funders by accusing Ittijah of supporting terrorism. Ittijah states that "Accusations such as this have had a noticeable chilling effect on our donors."
A prominent role at Durban
An examination of Ittijah’s activities reveals reasons for greater scrutiny by its funders. According to its website, "Ittijah’s international profile was brought under the spotlight at the Durban World Conference against Racism in 2001, where Ittijah gathered, facilitated and directed the vision and position of the Palestinian NGOs inside Israel on racism, particularly Israeli-state racism towards Palestinian citizens, and the apartheid the State practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
In addition to Ittijah’s prominent role at Durban,further evidence of the organization’s politicized and anti-Israel agenda appears in a May 19, 2004 press release "Rafah Appeal, Ittijah and PNGO Call for Support to the Population of Rafah" which claims that the Israeli government has carried out "massacres, ethnic cleansing and war crimes" in Gaza.
Ittijah has extended its political campaigning beyond its primary remit, becoming involved in the Iraq situation with a May 10, 2004 "Petition of the Arab Associations: Who will put an end to the American-British occupation’s crimes?"
Ittijah has received funding and support from sources, including the Ford Foundation, the EU, and NGOs such as the New Israel Fund and Christian Aid, whose own politicized activities have been analyzed by NGO Monitor.
Refusal to renounce terror
In addition, Ittijah has joined a number of Palestinian NGOs in rejecting anti-terror clauses in funding agreements, specifically USAID and the Ford Foundation.). In its January 16, 2004 newsletter, Ittijah backed the campaign of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), against USAID’s anti-terrorism clause that states that funds will not be used to "provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity".
In similar fashion, Ittijah met on February 10, 2004 to discuss a response to the Ford Foundation’s new regulations for grant contracts, which states that all NGOs will "agree that your organization will not promote or engage in violence, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor will it make sub-grants to any entity that engages in these activities." According to its February 13 newsletter, "Ittijah’s members agreed that they should insist on the maintenance of their independence, and on the fact that they are the owners of their own agenda. They would not be able to agree on political conditionality on financial support." In other words, Ittijah is keeping open the option of supporting activities involving "violence, bigotry or the destruction of any state".
Working with other politicized NGOs
While Ittijah numbers amongst its membership and cooperates with a variety of NGOs, prominent amongst these is Adalah, a leading proponent of the pro-Palestinian political agenda and prominent at the Durban conference. As noted, Ittijah is also part of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) , which, along with Adalah, has been part of the Ford Foundation’s investigations into its funding and has refused to sign anti-terror clauses in USAID and Ford Foundation funding contracts.
Indeed, some of Ittijah’s most vitriolic language stems from its partnership with the PNGO, and this group’s overt anti-Israel agenda. For example, a March 22, 2004 joint press release with the PNGO condemned Israel’s targeted assassination of Hamas terror leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, terming it "just one more example of the many war crimes that the Israeli government continues to commit against the Palestinian people." Such blatant rhetoric is evident in many other statements such as a November 7, 2003 petition in response to an anonymous attack on an Israeli Arab MK, which is described as "another major step in the escalation of racism and fascism in Israel". Ittijah’s view of Israel is also represented in its "Fact Sheet about Palestinians in Israel" , which claims that "Discrimination and racism are endemic in Israeli society".
Ittijah is an example of a highly politicized NGO that has come to the attention of a number of prominent funders examining where their contributions are going, particularly in the wake of the Durban conference and similar activities. While Ittijah has been subject to examinations of the Ford Foundation and USAID, the EU, NIF and others have yet to change their policies and continue to fund this organization.