- NIF-funded groups and their publications were featured centrally in the Goldstone report, which focused on alleged Israeli “war crimes” in the 2009 Gaza war. The report referenced B’Tselem more than 56 times; Adalah, 38; and Breaking the Silence, 27.
- Many of these citations referred to speculative issues unrelated to the conflict in Gaza, seeking to brand Israeli democracy as “repressive” and to widen the scope of the condemnations.
- Since the initial publication of the Goldstone report on September 15, 2009, these NIF-supported NGOs – including B’Tselem, ACRI, Gisha, PHR-I, and Yesh Din – have continued supporting Goldstone and lobbying the governments of the United States, the European Union, and others to legitimize the report’s extreme biases and endorse its recommendations.
- In response to the controversy over their support for Goldstone, these organizations and the NIF launched an offensive against critics. NIF supporters accused NGO Monitor of “silenc[ing] expression,” and being “extremist,” “incendiary,” the “rotten fruit of Israeli democracy,” and “McCarthyite.”
- In addition to involvement with Goldstone, several organizations funded by NIF, including Adalah, campaign against the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Others such as Mossawa and Coalition of Women for Peace are active in worldwide boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns targeting Israel.
- The political impact of NIF-supported NGOs, based on NIF’s annual budget of $32 million, is bolstered by additional funds from European governments and church groups that allocate funds to the same recipient organizations.
The New Israel Fund (NIF) supports more than 100 organizations involved in a wide range of areas in Israel, including political activism related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As highlighted recently, NIF-funded groups and their publications were featured centrally in the Goldstone report, which focused on alleged Israeli “war crimes” in the 2009 Gaza war. During the fighting, as shown in NGO Monitor analyses, these NGOs issued daily reports claiming to document Israeli “human rights” violations. NGO officials, widely quoted in the media, lobbied intensively for an international inquiry.
After the Goldstone commission was established, three major and long-time NIF grantees (Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and Adalah) participated in a May 2009 NGO “town hall meeting” in Geneva that helped shape the course of Goldstone’s ”investigation”. In addition, seven NIF-funded NGOs (including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Gisha, HaMoked, and Yesh Din) submitted a joint statement to Goldstone, and a representative from PCATI “testified” at the July 2009 Goldstone hearings, referring to “collective punishment” and “[Palestinian] martyrs.”
The resulting Goldstone report referenced B’Tselem more than 56 times; Adalah, 38; and Breaking the Silence, 27. Significantly, many of these citations referred to speculative issues unrelated to the conflict in Gaza, seeking to brand Israeli democracy as “repressive,” and to widen the scope of the condemnations and the resulting political campaigns.
In turn, B’Tselem, Adalah, and PHR-I, among others, have lobbied Israeli and foreign governments to support Goldstone’s report and its recommendations. Adalah, for example, joined the Palestinian NGOs Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a press release urging countries to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel.”
In response to the controversy over their support for Goldstone, these organizations and the NIF launched an offensive against critics, including NGO Monitor, that brought the relationship to light. Through coarse smears, NIF supporters accuse NGO Monitor of “silenc[ing] expression,” and being “extremist,” “incendiary,” and the “rotten fruit of Israeli democracy,” and “McCarthyite.”
NGO Monitor’s many calls for debates with NIF officials and grantees have been rebuffed. In July 2009, an NIF employee posted a vulgar cartoon on his blog directed at NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg in July 2009, and in 2008 another NIF grantee frivolously sued NGO Monitor for libel – apparently, to quash reporting and public debate on its activities.
In addition to involvement with Goldstone, several organizations funded by NIF campaign against the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish democratic state, and are active in worldwide boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and similar campaigns targeting Israel.
NIF has justified its funding decisions, claiming to promote pluralism and dialogue, and to support free expression of differing views in Israel. In contrast, NGO Monitor’s research demonstrates the damage to democracy resulting from these NIF-supported NGO activities, and the lack of effective guidelines in NIF’s funding processes. From correspondence, it is clear that many NIF donors, both individuals and via Jewish federations, are unaware of these political campaigns.
The political impact of NIF-supported NGOs, based on an annual budget of $32 million, is increased via additional funds from European governments and church groups that allocate funds to the same recipient organizations. Through the media, via legal processes, and elsewhere, NIF grantees are therefore in a position to manipulate the marketplace of ideas to a degree that is entirely disproportionate to the general level of support for their agendas.
This preliminary report presents an overview of how NIF-funded NGOs contributed to the Goldstone Report and promoted it after publication. Also included are brief summaries of the activities of 20 NGOs funded by NIF.
|NGO||NIF Grants 2006-2008||Estimated European government funding 2006-2009|
|Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)||$2,371,443||$642,923|
|Women Against Violence||$794,500||Unknown|
|Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I)||$503,537||$869,245|
|Mada al-Carmel: The Arab Center for Applied Social Research||$450,000||$89,089|
|Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP)||$285,509||Unknown|
|Breaking the Silence (BtS)||$200,855||$409,139|
|Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education, and Health||$72,408||Unknown|
|Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)||$48,888||$928,335|
NIF-funded NGOs and the Goldstone indictment
A group of Israeli NGOs –ACRI, Adalah, Bimkom, Gisha, HaMoked, PHR-I, PCATI, and Yesh Din – submitted a one-sided written statement to the Goldstone Commission (June 30, 2009) that does not address alleged Hamas war crimes, “but rather offers our own distinct perspective – human rights violations for which Israel must be held accountable.”1 This NGO document makes entirely speculative assertions about the motivation for the IDF operation against Hamas, claiming that “[t]o the extent that this was planned as a punitive operation which main purpose was not the achievement of actual military objectives, but the inflicting of deliberate damage as a deterrent and punitive measure” – despite their lacking requisite information to make such an assertion.2
The submission accuses the IDF of having “deliberately and knowingly shelled civilian institutions,” supporting the coalition’s incorrect legal claim that “Israel deviated from the principle that allows harm only to military objectives, and carried out strikes against civilian sites in an effort to achieve political ends.”3 References and evidence are missing for many accusations, such as the allegation that “[m]any prisoners … were held in pits in the ground … apparently dug by the army”4; details are sourced to “information in our possession.”5
NGO support for Goldstone
Since April 2009, when Judge Richard Goldstone was appointed to lead the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission into the Gaza war, NIF-funded NGOs were among those that led the campaign demanding that the Israeli government cooperate with the investigation, supporting misleading claims that the mandate was “balanced” and the panel was fair.
In turn, Goldstone bolstered the credibility of these groups by relying heavily on their publications, uncritically repeating claims, calling NGO activists to “testify,” praising their “high professional standard” while working in “extremely difficult circumstances,” and defending them against alleged “repression” from the Israeli government.
Since the initial publication of the Goldstone report on September 15, 2009, and throughout the proceedings at the UN, these NIF-supported NGOs have continued supporting Goldstone and lobbying the governments of the United States, the European Union, and others to legitimize the report’s extreme biases and endorse its recommendations.
B’Tselem, which receives a substantial percentage of its budget from NIF, the EU, and European governments, has been campaigning against the IDF and demanding an “independent and credible investigation” of the Gaza war since January 2009, urged Israel to cooperate with Goldstone, and “provided assistance to the investigative staff of the Goldstone mission from the beginning to the end of its research.”
Disingenuously, and erasing her own role in the process, B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell claimed that “Israel has only itself to blame” for the report’s conclusions and recommendations. She also stated that Israel was “shoot[ing] the messenger and bury[ing] its head in the sand.”
When the report was released, B’Tselem mildly criticized Goldstone for “framing of Israel’s military operation as part of ‘an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience’” and “the very careful phrasing regarding Hamas abuses.” However, this NIF-funded political NGO continues to “advocate for … its principal recommendation: that Israel investigate suspicions that its forces breached international humanitarian law.”
Other NIF grantees – Adalah , ACRI, B’Tselem, Gisha , HaMoked , PHR-I , PCATI, and Yesh Din – issued a joint statement calling on Israel to “take the report seriously” and “cooperate with an international monitoring mechanism that would guarantee both the independence of that investigation and the implementation of its conclusions.”
• Adalah (NIF grants authorized in 2006-2008: $1,045,292) advances “war crimes” charges against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, in reports cited in the media, in Israeli courts, and in campaigns conducted with other political NGOs. Adalah officials promote the false claim that “the Israeli legal and judicial systems have consistently failed in providing any legal remedies to the Palestinian people.” Adalah, itself, has prevailed several times in cases filed in Israeli courts.
In 2007, Adalah proposed a constitution for Israel that calls for replacing the Jewish framework of the state with a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” framework. This “Democratic Constitution” – based on the concept of “a one-state solution” – would permit Jewish immigration for “humanitarian reasons” only.
Adalah officials, in conjunction with radical Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, wrote and edited large portions of a May 2009 publication, initiated by anti-Israel ideologue John Dugard, entitled “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel´s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.” The document refers to Israeli occupation as a “colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid.”
Goldstone excerpt: “Not allowing prisoners to use the telephone “violates detainees’ right to dignity and their right to family life, and ‘transforms their imprisonment to a humiliating and degrading experience that contradicts international norms and conventions.” (para. 1458)
• Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $285,509) is a highly politicized umbrella organization that systematically condemns Israeli policies. CWP projects include Machsom Watch (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $165,198) and others that use “apartheid” and “Naqba” rhetoric to delegitimize Israel.
CWP is responsible for the “Who Profits?” divestment project tracking Israeli and international corporations that allegedly “are directly involved in the occupation.” Who Profits? influenced the anti-Israel divestment campaign in Norway and a similar project in the UK.
In 2009, CWP published an article asking: “How is it that our consolation is that we hurt, we demolished, we killed? … . The truth is that we really do like wars, that’s our language, that’s our culture … we will find all the explanations in the world to justify any war. Even this one, the spare one, in Gaza.” During the war, CWP joined the “Remove the Siege-Stop the War” coalition, and organized protests against Israeli policy. It also participated in public commemorations of the “59th anniversary of the Naqba” on Israel’s Independence Day in 2007.
Goldstone excerpt (Machsom Watch): “The restriction on the ability to move freely, without obstacle or delay, or without another person’s authorization, is often perceived as a humiliating experience.” (para. 1509)
• Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $503,537) supports often violent protests at the security barrier near Bil’in as an “act of solidarity with the people who fight against the occupation and the building of the wall.” PHR-I campaigned in international forums against Israel’s actions during the Gaza War, appearing before the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and lobbying the European Union to support condemnations of Israel. This NGO was a major source of accusations contained in the Goldstone report.
Goldstone excerpt: “The Mission also investigated and confirmed allegations about the use of weapons whose potential long-term impact on individual victims’ health raises concern. They include allegations of the use of weapons containing chemical pollutants such as tungsten and white phosphorus.” (para. 1258)6
• Breaking the Silence (BtS) (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $200,855) says it “voices the experiences” of Israeli soldiers “in order to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created.” Although claiming to target “Israeli society,” this NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences. Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz: “Breaking the Silence … has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’”
In addition to collecting anonymous testimony from soldiers some of it based on hearsay and widely cited as evidence of “war crimes” in Gaza by publications including the Goldstone report BtS conducts tours to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills to support its claim that in Hebron there is “a reality of Apartheid and a kind of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”
Goldstone excerpt: “Breaking the Silence issued a statement in which it accused the Foreign Ministry of a ‘witch-hunt’, saying that it testified to the erosion of the ‘democratic culture’ in Israel.” (para. 1731)
• B’Tselem (grants authorized in 2006-1008: $785,285) “acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories,” a political objective bolstered by B’Tselem’s office in Washington, DC, which brings its agenda directly to U.S. officials. While widely considered Israel’s premier human-rights organization, B’Tselem has faced serious criticism for its misrepresentations of international law, inaccurate research, skewed statistics (including casualty lists), and selective coverage of violations against Israelis. These problematic methodologies reinforce the Palestinian narrative of victimization and portray Israel as the sole impediment to peace.
Goldstone excerpt: “In the face of the recently increase in violence by the Israeli security forces in the West Bank, B’Tselem stated that condemnations by Ministers and other officials “remain solely declarative. Security forces, meanwhile, misusing their power, continue to abuse and beat Palestinians, among them, minors … . If a message is sent to security forces, it is that even if the establishment does not accept acts of violence, it will not take measures against those who commit them. The effect of such a message is that the lives and dignity of Palestinians are meaningless and that security forces can continue, pursuant to the function they serve, to abuse, humiliate, and beat Palestinians with whom they come into contact.” (para. 1405)
• Bimkom (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $923,221) aims “to achieve the right to equality and social justice in matters of planning, development, and the allocation of land resources” and to “[assist] communities and minorities affected by social and economic disadvantage.” In reality, Bimkom promotes the Palestinian narrative. Activities include a campaign against the security barrier; petitions against “collective punishment” in Gaza; and input to press releases, reports, and a website detailing allegations of Israeli “violations” during the fighting in Gaza – most of which involved issues outside Bimkom’s remit and stated mandate.
Goldstone excerpt: “In a recent report reviewed by the Mission, Bimkom concluded that the Israeli Civil Administration applied ‘a deliberate and consistent policy in Area C with the goal of restricting Palestinian construction and development and limiting its spatial dispersion.’” (para. 1539)
• Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $48,888) claims to campaign against torture and for prisoner rights. PCATI’s reports condemn alleged Israeli abuses, and its officials appear before international frameworks to promote anti-Israel agendas. In 2009, a PCATI official testified in Geneva before the UN’s Goldstone inquiry on the Gaza war, referring to Israel’s “unacceptable collective punishment” and to Palestinian “martyrs.” In a 2009 report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture, PCATI accused Israel of attacks on “civilians and civilian objects” during the Gaza fighting. The group appears to have participated in only one statement in support of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006 and consistently denied his rights under the Geneva Conventions.
Goldstone excerpt: “A PCATI lawyer representing detainees, Mr. Bader, who spoke at the Mission’s public hearings in Geneva, interviewed a number of the detainees in Israeli prisons and relayed their testimonies. These include stories from prisoners who said they were used as human shields or held in sandpits.” (para. 1110)
• Gisha (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $35,625) promotes the false claim that Gaza remains “occupied” under international law, and that Israel has a legal obligation to grant unfettered “freedom of movement” to Gaza residents. Gisha’s claims were quoted in the Goldstone report in order to accuse Israel of enacting policies “in the pursuance by Israel of political goals at the expense of the civilian population, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.”
Gisha’s highly publicized 2008 campaign condemning Israel for barring Palestinian students’ travel from Gaza to Israel and to the United States under the Fulbright program erased Israel’s legitimated security concerns. Indeed, most of these “students” were refused entry by the American government on security grounds. In addition, in frequent condemnations of Israeli policy on Gaza, Gisha has largely ignored the tons of humanitarian aid provided by Israel despite massive rocket barrages from Gaza.
Goldstone excerpt: “Gisha call[s] this regulation an additional measure in a deliberate Israeli policy to deepen the separation between the West Bank and Gaza ‘in the pursuance by Israel of political goals at the expense of the civilian population, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.’” (para. 1527)
• HaMoked (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $499,765) accuses Israel of “war crimes,” with only a token reference to Hamas’ “sporadic” rocket fire against Israeli civilians. HaMoked called the Gaza war a “punitive operation,” and promoted the unverified claim that “[m]any prisoners … were held in pits in the ground … apparently dug by the army.” During the Gaza war, HaMoked distorted international law to criminalize Israeli actions, falsely claiming that “phosphorous and cluster bombs” are “illegal weapons prohibited by International Humanitarian Law.”
• Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $2,671,443) has a wide agenda in Israel, but frequently employs rhetoric that contributes to demonization and delegitimization. For example, its 2008 annual report labeled Israel’s policies in the West Bank “Apartheid,” and ACRI representatives have referred to “institutional racism” in Palestinian forums. Many legal claims in its reports are distortions or selective interpretations of international humanitarian law.
Goldstone excerpt: “In a report reviewed by the Mission, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel stated that, in Jerusalem “discrimination in planning and building, expropriation of lands, and minimal investment in physical infrastructure and government and municipal services – these are concrete expressions of an Israeli policy designed to secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and push Palestinian residents outside the city’s borders.” (para. 1536)
• Ir Amim (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $958,237) focuses on “legal advocacy aimed at halting or mitigating unilateral actions that harm the fabric of life in Jerusalem, and create obstacles to reaching an agreed-upon future for the city and the region.” In reality, Ir Amim advocates and campaigns exclusively for the Palestinian narrative on Jerusalem, adopting the offensive PLO rhetoric of “Judaization”, and directing these efforts at influencing foreign journalists, diplomats, and opinion-makers.
Jerusalem Moments, a film series produced by Ir Amim, was described Jerusalem Post Editor David Horovitz as “an exercise in the bludgeoning documentation of Palestinian victimhood and of allegedly mindless Israeli cruelty and aggression,” and a “skewed misportrayal.”
• Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $450,000) helped compose the “Haifa Declaration,” a document that calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state” and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the Holocaust “at the expense of the Palestinian people.” This NGO – in partnership with Women Against Violence (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $794,500) and the Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $72,408) – launched the “My Land, Space, Body and Sexuality: Palestinians in the Shadow of the Wall” campaign. This project was publicized with a poster portraying an Israeli soldier reaching suggestively toward a Palestinian woman, alongside the caption: “Her husband needs a permit to touch her. The occupation penetrates her life everyday!” An NIF-UK official defended the poster: “NIF will continue to support them in the interests of sustaining [Israel’s] vibrant democracy.”
In 2008, Mada al-Carmel organized a conference [link broken] entitled, “Sixty Years of Nakba – Homeland as Exile: Loss, Alienation and Forms of Resistance,” as part of its agenda to “to ensure the regaining of usurped rights for the Palestinian people.”
• Mossawa (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $517,642) claims in its mission statement to focus on changing “the social and political status of Arab/Palestinians in Israel in an attempt to gain minority recognition and rights, without sacrificing their national and cultural rights as Palestinians.” In contrast, Mossawa’s main activities utilize terminology such as “racism” and similar pejoratives to describe Israel’s policies.
In a November 2006 position paper proposing a constitution for Israel, Mossawa called for the eradication of the Israeli flag and national anthem, the right of the Arab minority to have a veto over matters of national import, and the immediate implementation of the Palestinian “Right of Return.”
Mossawa joined other NIF grantees in a May 2009 letter to the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (NGPF), calling “upon the Norwegian people to join us in our efforts and to stop investing in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.” The letter accused a number of Israeli and international corporations of “provid[ing] specifically designed equipment for the surveillance and repression of [the] Palestinian population through restrictions of movement and collective punishments.” In September 2009, the NGPF adopted a policy of divestment from Israeli firms.
• Ittijah is a highly visible coalition of Israel-Arab political organizations, including some NGOs funded by the NIF. (Ittijah does not receive direct funding.) Representing these member groups, Ittijah played a key coordinating role at the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, which adopted the BDS strategy. Similarly, in preparations for the Durban Review Conference (April 2009), Ittijah led Palestinian “civil society” in a campaign to “boycott Israel, to impose sanctions and to label it as a colonial racist state under the Motto: Zionism is Racism — Israel is an Apartheid.” During the Gaza fighting, Ittijah employed rhetoric comparing Israeli responses to terror to the Nazis, accusing the IDF of turning Gaza “into an extermination camp in the full whole meaning of the word, and in the whole full historical relation of it.”
NIF funding for Ittijah members for 2006-2008: Adalah (see above), $1,045,292; Al-Ahali Association, $104,054; Al-Yater Association, $50,000; Galilee Society (see below), $257,500; I’lam Center, $229,700; Mada al-Carmel (see above), $450,000.
• Galilee Society (grants authorized in 2006-2008: $257,500) operates a database project, “Rikaz,” which has a stated aim of “contribut[ing] accurate and compelling facts to advocacy campaigns and initiatives [in Israel and internationally] on behalf of the Palestinian community.” This NGO publicizes “statistics” claiming to indicate “systematic discrimination” against Arabs in education, employment, labor, living standards, social indicators, and health. Galilee Society is a member of Ittijah, which calls for boycotts of Israel under headlines proclaiming that “Zionism is Racism” and “Israel is an Apartheid state.”
- “Submission of Human Rights Organizations based in Israel to the Goldstone Inquiry Delegation,” June 2009, p. 3.
- Ibid., p. 6.
- Ibid., p. 8.
- Ibid., p. 9.
- Ibid., p. 10.
- In fact, the Goldstone report chapters containing the allegations regarding illegal use of these weapons did not produce independent “confirmation,” but rather relied on selective testimony and unverifiable claims by witnesses, including unnamed “Palestinian and foreign doctors” working in the Shifa hospital. (para. 49).