The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy


Established in January 1999, MIFTAH has been very active, with a continuous stream of press releases, programs and a sophisticated website,, with close to 400,000 hits.

Its founders and board members include some of the most well known personalities of the Palestinian community. Hanan Ashrawi, (a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a frequent spokesperson for the Palestinian cause), is Secretary General. MIFTAH’s board of trustees includes Khalil Jahshan, President of the National Association of the Arab Americans (NAAA), Washington DC; Rashid Khalidi, a prominent professor of history and best-selling author at the University of Chicago; Edward Said, another prominent (and highly controversial academic) and professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Other members include; Mustafa Bargouthi, President of Union Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and Director of Health Development Information and Policy Institute; Azmi Bishara, a professor at the university of Haifa, Israel and a former Prime Ministerial candidate in Israel. Bishara, who describes himself as a human rights campaigner, and who came to prominence when he eulogized President Bashar al-Assad, whose human rights record is parlous even by the standards of Middle Eastern dictatorships. (Bishara also used the opportunity to call for the intensification of violence against Israel.) Another board member is Ziad Abu-Amr, President of the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Someone not familiar with the history of the personalities listed above and the context of the reports which the organization produces, would certainly be impressed by the content of its professionally constructed and easy to use website at. The aims and objectives of the organization sound noble and important, as included in the mission statement found on MIFTAH’s website:

MIFTAH is a Palestinian, Jerusalem-based, independent institution committed to fostering the principles of democracy and effective dialogue based on the free and candid exchange of information and ideas….MIFTAH’s underlying premise is the integration of several processes: Palestinian nation-building and empowerment on the basis of the principles of democracy, human rights, rule of law, and participatory governance; international reconciliation and cooperation; the gathering and dissemination of information and the active participation in the global dialogue as an equal partner.

Increasing awareness and knowledge of the Palestinian reality by providing reliable, accurate and comprehensive information and policy analysis… while providing updated, accurate and reliable information and analyses on all aspects of Palestinian reality.

Reinforcing the Palestinian nation-building process and the evolution of statehood to ensure democratic practice, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The international prominence of its leaders has meant that MIFTAH’s name and reports have spread far and wide, despite the youth of the organization. MIFTAH engages in heavy networking with diplomats, international agencies and institutions of civil society as well as the media. Its website points out that "currently, an international Advisory Board is being established to include global personalities whose lives and work embody these shared goals."

NGO Monitor has tracked the organization in detail over the past few months. We will examine in the course of this article three major inconsistencies with its declared mission statement:

  1. The "fact and figures" section of the website

  2. The "Did you know?" quotes located strategically on its webpages

  3. The Press releases and perspectives sections which promise "analytical, pragmatic, and academic contexts …which…underline MIFTAH’s credibility and reaffirm its standing as a reputable and effective Palestinian platform for discourse and dialogue."

Section 1 – Facts and Figures

MIFTAH’S website has a special section,, which can be accessed by a prominently displayed link, entitled "Facts and Figures", available on every page of the website. This section lists what it describes as "Palestinian Human and Material Losses Inflicted by Israel during the Intifada (Uprising) September 28th, 2000 – January 09, 2003."

In this section, we will analyze four objectionable categories.

The first category is "Palestinian activists and political figures assassinated by Israeli ‘death squads’." This is a subsection of "Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces and Jewish settlers", cf. the MIFTAH table quoted below.



Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces and Jewish settlers:
Total number of Palestinians killed: 2046
Palestinian activists and political figures assassinated by Israeli ‘death squads’: 123
Bystanders killed during Israeli assassination operations: 51
Men: 19
Women: 7
Children: 25



From a human rights perspective, this section and the picture it presents, is highly misleading and reflects the predominance of political goals. The Israeli government argues that these targeted attacks against terrorists are legitimate and the most effective way of reducing civilian casualties and fulfilling the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens, both Jewish and Arab. The right to self-defense is a recognized primary and inalienable human right. The overwhelming majority of the 123 "activists and political figures" listed in MIFTAH list can be described, if one were to be generous, as military combatants, but more precisely, terrorists. This is to say that they are known personalities in what they themselves described as "military units", engaged in warfare and attacks on Israelis.

From the perspectives of international law and the Israeli government, "activists and political figures" are defined terrorists because they do not bear their arms openly as combatants, and they engage in indiscriminate and random attacks on civilians. In hearings before the Israeli Supreme Court challenging this policy, the Israeli government has produced clear evidence of the target’s involvement in terror attacks against its civilians, including direct responsibility for the murder of dozens of people.

A credible human rights organization would make a distinction between people killed bearing arms and innocent civilians, but this is not the case for MIFTAH. Instead, the language and claims constitute political propaganda that ignores the context and environment of Palestinian terrorism, and the lack of alternatives to prevent such attacks.  To create a category "Palestinian activists and political figures assassinated by Israeli ‘death squads’" under the section "Palestinian Human and Material Losses Inflicted by Israel during the Intifada" is a gross distortion of context and a direct contradiction of MIFTAH’s mission statement.

The second very problematic issue stressed by MIFTAH is "Israeli assaults on journalists." The implication of this term is clear; Israel targets and assassinates journalists. However, in reality, Israel is known to have an impressive free press, and the leading national newspaper, Haaretz is well known among Israelis for publishing regular editorials bitterly critical of government policy. The country also has three Arabic newspapers, not including those published in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which take a consistent pro-Palestinian position. Israel has more journalists per square inch than any other country in the world precisely because of the free access journalists enjoy most of the time. (Rare exceptions include Operation Defensive Shield, when the Israeli army entered the Jenin refugee camp with the declared aim of dismantling suicide bomb factories). Yet, in MIFTAH’s activities and public relations campaigns, this reality is ignored.



Israeli assaults on journalists:
Palestinians journalists killed by Israeli forces: 8
Palestinian and foreign journalists injured by Israeli forces: 254
Foreign journalists killed by Israeli forces: 1



The category, "foreign journalists killed by Israeli forces" is a crude manipulation. The one death of a foreign journalist refers to an Italian citizen was killed when he was caught in cross fire between armed Palestinians and Israeli forces, and certainly not the result of deliberate attack. Similarly, the implication that 254 "Palestinian and foreign journalists" were injured by Israeli forces deliberately is a distortion of reality. While the accidental death of anyone is regrettable, these casualties do not in anyway demonstrate an Israeli policy directed at journalists.

The "facts and figures" section does not stop there. Further down the list there is a third politicized claim, "Israeli assaults on medical staff and facilities."



Israeli assaults on medical staff and facilities:
Total Personnel Killed: 3
Total Personnel Injured: 185
Total attacks on ambulances to-date: 216
Total ambulances damaged: 107
Denial of Access to ambulances logged: 614
Number of ambulances damaged beyond repair: 28



Here again, Israel clearly has no policy of attacking medical staff or medical facilities, and this claim is a grotesque and unacceptable distortion. Indeed, one of the most disturbing human rights abuses of the conflict has been the expropriation of ambulances and medical vehicles by Palestinian militants with the express aim of transporting weapons and even suicide bombers. Israel has documentary evidence of ambulances being used for this purpose. The Palestinian terror campaign is coordinated and well armed, and Israel is facing a dangerous foe. Many of the confrontations take place in an urban setting, and while regrettable, under these conditions, ambulances are inevitably damaged. Moreover, the Israeli army provides medical care to Palestinians who are under its jurisdiction. The first edition of NGO Monitor (17.01.03) detailed how the Israeli army medical corps has provided its soldiers at checkpoints with new equipment to deal with premature births and generally to improve health care at checkpoints. None of this is reflected in MIFTAH’s propaganda.

The list of distortions also extends to economic issues, as seen below:



Impact of Israeli-imposed multiple siege on Palestinian economic life:
Unemployment rate in the West Bank: 63.3%
Unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip: 50%
Palestinians living below poverty line in the West Bank: 55%
Palestinians living below poverty line in the Gaza Strip: 70%
Overall losses to Palestinian economy: $8.269 billion
Overall losses in the agricultural sector: $800 million
Overall losses in the industrial sector: $25 million
Numbers of trees uprooted: 720031
Land confiscated in east Jerusalem: 596 acres
Land confiscated in West Bank: 39756.5 acres



The political and ideological objectives of this table of misleading statistics (without any criteria or references to studies) are obvious. Clearly, the past 28 months of violence and Palestinian terror have had a very adverse impact on economic life in both Israeli and Palestinian Authority areas. For the first time since the early 1950s, Israel’s GDP has contracted in two consecutive years, and the standard of living of both its Jewish and Arab citizens is declining by the month. Likewise, the Palestinian have also suffered for the same reasons, and the checkpoints and closures designed to prevent terror have make the economic situation of the Palestinians even more difficult.

However to lay the blame fair and square at the foot of the "Israeli imposed siege" is an absurd fiction. Closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is necessary only to combat the regular, in fact, daily incursions of terrorists into Israel with the express aim of wrecking maximum death and destruction. The situation before the waves of terrorist bombings began in the early 1990s makes far more economic and political sense for Israel. Then hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers were employed in Israel, but this became impossible under the reign of terror.

The above fact sheets are self-evident indictment on an organization that purports to advocate democracy and human rights, and which claims to be active in;

Providing a Palestinian forum for public discourse and debate on relevant issues as well as a venue for accountability which would bring together both decision makers and members of civil society as participants.

MIFTAH seriously undermines its credibility by issuing fact sheets such as these. While claiming to be active in promoting democracy and civil society in Palestinian society, MIFTAH is primarily engaged in anti-Israeli propaganda. The Palestinian people, known in the Arab world for their level of education, have suffered immeasurably. Their standard of living has plummeted since Yasser Arafat’s corrupt regime took over control of the population centers of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. MIFTAH is doing a disservice to its own noble cause by distorting facts and blaming Israel when in fact many of its problems lie within its own society and leadership.

As quoted above, MIFTAH’s mission statement clearly declares one of its main purposes is;

Increasing awareness and knowledge of the Palestinian reality by providing reliable, accurate and comprehensive information and policy analysis… while providing updated, accurate and reliable information and analyses on all aspects of Palestinian reality.

Miftah has not lived up to this. On the contrary, it has proven its covert ideological and political purposes, repeatedly contradicting its mission statement. The result is misleading the public. To clarify, condemning a policy is one thing, but there is no legitimacy for activities that are based on deliberate efforts to obscure the nature, character and context of Israeli policy under the cover of concern for democracy and human rights. Instead, MIFTAH has shown that its primary objective is to disseminate hostile and misleading propaganda to policy makers, diplomats, students and public figures. Indeed, as this analysis has demonstrates, MIFTAH is essentially a public relations organ reflecting the objectives and policies of the Palestinian Authority.

Section 2 – "Did you Know?" Quotes

The MIFTAH website features a "Did you Know?" quote on every page. The quotes are taken exclusively from well-known Israel personalities and are almost invariably taken out of context with an express ideological aim.

In this section, examine four quotes. The first quote, from the Israeli president reinforces the slogans of Hanan Ashrawi and Azmi Bishara that Israel is a racist country with contempt and disregard for the Arabs.

"There is a huge gap between us [Jews] and our enemies – not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy."
Israeli president Moshe Katsav. Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001

Katzav was talking after a suicide bombing and this quote was a response to that evil act, in which the bombers detonate themselves with the express aim of causing carnage. This is done in the name of Islam, and although not all Muslims condone these attacks, many religious authorities in the Palestinian territories do so. As the context makes clear, Katzav was referring to these religious authorities.

This second quote on torture gets to the heart of NGO Monitor’s mission; exposing the ideological underpinnings of NGOs whose output contradict their mission statement.

Did you know that Israel remains the only state that has legislated the use of torture? No country other than Israel has "legally" allowed the use of torture in its "security" procedures?

In reality, Israel has an internationally respected and acclaimed legal system with a Supreme Court, which is open to appeal from any resident of Israel or the Palestinian controlled areas. Israel, just like the UK, in its struggle in Northern Ireland, has enforced the legal foundations necessary to fight terror and attacks on its civilians. Despotic and undemocratic countries do not need to take such measures, and, although MIFTAH does not touch on this issue, the Palestinian Authority use of torture and summary executions against alleged "collaborators" is infamous.

The third quote from David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister:

"Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves…politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves….The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country."
Speech by David Ben-Gurion, 1938, quoted in Zionism and the Palestinians by Simha Flapan, 1979.

This quote, like the other example of MIFTAH’s activities, is presented without any context, in the effort to delegitimize Israel, and also has no connection with human rights issues or with this organization’s mission statement. (Flapan is one of the early members of Israel radical and disaffected academic community, whose publications are rarely read by Israelis, but whose impact on Palestinian propagandists is significant.) While Ben-Gurion was attempting to present the Arab perspective, and was clearly not expressing Israeli views, MIFTAH has distorted the context beyond recognition.

Section 3 – MIFTAH’S Perspectives

This section takes a quick look at five of MIFTAH’s press releases or editorials. In these, NGO Monitor identifies an insidious anti-Western bias.

The first example is a feature placed on the home page of the website; "The Apartheid Wall: Stop Israel’s Stranglehold of Palestine" by The Apartheid Wall Campaign (PENGON), which can be found at It is a 38-page report and advertisement. It features sophisticated maps and obviously was a well-planned and coordinated effort. The campaign even has its own logo. The word "apartheid" is being used as a tool to compare Israel to South Africa and an attempt to apply the same international sanctions on the country. The slur, designed to delegitimize Israel, was presented at Durban as part of the broader effort by NGOs such as MIFTAH to paint Israel as an apartheid state. It claims the main aim of Israel’s separation policy is to "incorporate all Israeli colonies that have been built on Palestinian territories to the eastern side of the Green Line into Israel."

This report (pages 16, 17) distorts the purpose of the security barrier by branding it as a means of maintaining Israeli control over the Palestinian economy and as part of a process of stealing Palestinian lands. In general, Israelis (though not all are in favor), view this fence as necessary to prevent more brutal terror attacks. The fence is worthy of detailed discussion, but the issues are far too important to be dismissed by using a cliche such as "apartheid" without proper analysis, particularly by an organization that claims to promote global dialogue.

A second item is an editorial of January 22, 2003 (

It states "Sharon is a masterful chess player, able with one sweeping move to checkmate the Europeans. Scratching their heads, the three ‘irrelevant’ members of the Quartet will likely concede defeat and ask for a rematch, rather than attempt a bold and defiant countermove that would diminish Sharon’s standing in the international political arena. Nestled in his American haven, Sharon’s blunt dismissal of the Quartet gives rise to a defining moment for the EU: will it remain in the shadows, acquiescing to US demands and sidelined by Israel, or step up to its potential as a superpower with undeniable influence on world affairs."

This perpetuates the argument often heard in the Arab world that Israel wields disproportionate power and essentially dictates foreign policy to the States. This is part of the Palestinian political and propaganda campaign, and like the other examples examined above, is entirely inconsistent with MIFTAH’s own mission statement.

A third article from January 21, 2003 entitled "US Citizens Against War, And Against The Occupation",, condemns the proposed war on Iraq claiming that Israel is a far greater international security threat than Iraq.

  • While there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein has been involved in any attacks against the U.S. or our interests in the region since the Gulf War, Israel is in violation of over 60 UN Resolutions and has escalated its violence in the past two years.

  • Express your outrage over 1) the billions of dollars President Bush is prepared to spend over Iraq’s alleged UN violations. And 2) spending billions more on welfare to Israel while Sharon arrogantly thumbs his nose at the United Nations and it’s workers who are systematically being killed by Israeli Occupation Forces.

  • Tell the President that the biggest obstacle to peace in the region is the continued theft of Palestinian land and the escalation of violence, torture, and collective punishment by the Occupation Forces against the Palestinian civilian population.

Campaigning against a war in Iraq is legitimate. Campaigning against Israeli policy is also legitimate. However what is not legitimate is for an organization, which presents itself with academic credentials of balance and an interest in global dialogue and human rights, to produce a one-sided and distorting range of articles and press releases. There is nothing in MIFTAH’S sophisticated website which puts any of its heavy and sustained abuse of Israel in context or attempts to provide balance.

A fourth piece published in November 2002 marks the 85th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The article effectively attributes the blame for the current state of the Middle East on this document. It can be found at

Finally, the website contains a press release of January 21, 2003 entitled "The Israeli Military Forces Close Palestine Polytechnic University",, written by the Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU). It condemns Israel’s closing of the University and talks of "this arbitrary military action, which also affected the University of Hebron, violates relevant international laws, human rights and values…This absurd provocation aims at depriving our youth from the right of education and the opportunity of self fulfillment as normal human beings."

Once again, the context is totally absent and therefore this press release lacks accuracy too. While no one can deny that Palestinian civil life is being adversely affected by the present violence, including educational institutes, one has to understand the logic behind Israeli actions. The PPU has been linked to incitement encouraging and recruiting suicide bombers. It is believed to be a haven for fundamentalists. Militants often seek refuge in what are considered safe places, such as mosques or churches, school and universities and even hospitals. Israel believes that there could be evidence there, which could help to prevent suicide attacks and therefore to save lives.



MIFTAH is a political and ideological organization, whose priorities are to undermine Israel and defend the Palestinian Authority. This comes at the cost of "democratic practice, the rule of law and respect for "global dialogue, democracy and human rights" – MIFTAH’s supposed raison d’etre." NGO Monitor believes that this is a gross violation of a mission statement.

The organization’s international profile and ambitions to expand further necessitates closer scrutiny of its mission statement and purported principles in line with its publications. MIFTAH’s board contains many influential figures in America and is therefore able to raise funds and make its influence felt internationally. This only increases the urgency for organizations such as MIFTAH to become more accountable.

In many ways, factual distortions are worse than outright lies. MIFTAH quotes out of context, blurs categories and produces loaded and hypocritical reports, wrapped in impressive analytical style and human rights terminology.

MIFTAH’s claim that its "analytical, pragmatic, and academic contexts in…underline its own credibility and reaffirm its standing as a reputable and effective Palestinian platform for discourse and dialogue" has not been borne out by the facts.