On July 23, 2019, Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s spokesperson confirmed to The Detroit News that the Forum for Cultural Engagement (FCE) would be sponsoring Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s August 2019 trip to Israel and the West Bank. The trip was initially sponsored by the Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI), however the group pulled out due to “scheduling conflicts.” There are a number of connections between FCE and HDI, as detailed below, including the fact that FCE’s co-director Joe Merante is also HDI’s chief operating officer. A May New York Daily News article cited the Palestinian NGO MIFTAH as a second sponsor.

Forum for Cultural Engagement (FCE)

FCE describes its activities as developing and managing “public diplomacy programs in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and private partners,” with an emphasis on “sports diplomacy programs” but does not disclose information about specific programs.

According to FCE, its programs are supported by the US Department of State, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer, and Yale University, among others.

FCE lists several “partner” organizations on its website, including US embassies around the world, but does not detail the nature of these links. A number of groups located in Israel and the West Bank are also listed as partners.1 Many of these groups have little to no English, Arabic, or Hebrew web presence.

FCE Staff and Affiliates

Two staff members are listed on the FCE website: co-directors Joe Merante and Mary McBride. Merante, a former US diplomat, is also HDI’s chief operating officer. FCE’s 2015-2017 I-990 forms list Boris Shapoval as the organization’s treasurer. Shapoval also serves as the “Program Manager, US-UN Relations” at HDI.

FCE oversees the management of co-founder Mary McBride’s “Home Tour,” which “brings live musical concerts and community celebrations to the homes of people who otherwise would not have regular access to live music.”2 In addition to being a professional musician, McBride is also an HDI “celebrity spokesperson.” HDI appears to have organized tours for McBride in 2010-2014, with some taking place at US embassies.3


The Palestinian NGO MIFTAH promotes an intense anti-Israel agenda, with accusations of “massacres,” “apartheid,” “summary executions” and of “Judaizing” Jerusalem. The group also publishes articles that advocate for BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions). The organization is headed by veteran PLO politician and spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi.4

According to its 2018 financial report, MIFTAH’s donors include Switzerland, Norway, EU, Germany, Ireland, the UN, OXFAM, and the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC).

Switzerland (Swiss Cooperation Office)$144,000
Norway (Representative Office of Norway in Ramallah)$210,136
EU $110,355
Ireland (Representative Office of Ireland in Ramallah)$79,709
UN (UN Population Fund)$71,246
Germany (GIZ)$62,892

MIFTAH and HDI’s 2016 Congressional Delegation to the West Bank

In 2016, MIFTAH, HDI, and the American Global Institute (AGI) sponsored a Congressional delegation to the West Bank, attended by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).5

Participants met with Shawan Jabarin, head of the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq. In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court noted that Jabarin is “among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization.”6  (The PFLP is a US-designated terror organization.)