Comment at end
3rd December, 2009
“Our primary goal in this Knesset conference is to provide the democratically elected representatives of Israel and the general public with information on the nature and scale of foreign government funding for political NGOs. […] European governments do not publish all of the information on funding for Israeli political organizations. We expect this practice to end immediately“
IS THE EU ANTI-ISRAEL?
Europe, and particularly Sweden, is coming under the questioning eye of the Israeli Knesset. Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised.
And, as an aside, it may explain a little as to why Tony Blair, the ONLY candidate with ANY international political clout for the “presidency” job was blackballed by France, Germany and others. It may have had little to do with his being denounced as “Mr Flash” by Ms Unflash, Angela Merkel. It may have had more to do with the political sympathies of the EU for one particular side in the Israel/Palestine situation. Mr Blair, in his Quartet position has been notably even-handed in his dealings with both Israelis and Palestinians. Not good enough, Mr Blair!
Odd to have to conclude that a German leader, considering Germany’s holocaust experience, might see Israelis as today’s fascists. Some of us beg to differ.
The same, you might conclude after you read the below, cannot so assuredly be said for ALL his fellow-Europeans.
It is probably co-incidental that the then president of the EU was the Swedish PM, Fredrik Reinfeldt, until the other day when Rompuy took over this excuse for an important job. Of course it’s co-incidental. (See here)
Israeli deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom said he had mixed feelings about the possibility of Mr Blair leaving his job as envoy and going to Europe. “We don’t want to lose him here, but we need him there,” he said. “I don’t want to intervene in European politics. I just would like to wish him all the best.” (See here)
Is the EU, and are some countries in particular blind to Israel’s political case by their ‘human’ (or even political response) to the plight of Palestinians?
Looks worryingly like it to me.
From NGO Monitor
Hat tip to here at Fresno Zionism
Professor Gerald Steinberg’s Knesset Speech
Gerald M. Steinberg
December 01, 2009
European governments provide large amounts of money to a number of Israeli political non-governmental organizations (NGOs) every year. As Israeli citizens, we do not know how much money is involved – it is at least tens of millions of euros – or the names of all the organizations that receive these funds. In most cases, we are also not informed of European government funding behind rallies in support of one policy or in protest to another. The same is true for academic conferences on human rights, occupation, or international law; large advertisements on the front page of a Friday newspaper (at the cost of tens of thousands of shekels); when the High Court pronounces on a case regarding the location of the separation barrier or security checks at the airport; submissions to the United Nations committees condemning Israeli responses to terror; and in many other crucial issues that affect our lives and the policies of our democratically elected government.
The nature and scale of this manipulation is unprecedented in relations between democratic countries – in no other case does one government (or groups of governments) use taxpayer money to support opposition groups in another democratic country. And there is no precedent for allowing these groups to use foreign government money to influence and manipulate the civil societies, political discourse, legal process and foreign policies. Imagine the French response of an American government program that secretly gave one billion dollars to anti-abortion campaigners in Paris, or to promote human rights in Corsica. Or the Spanish response to funds from foreign governments that promote Basque issues.
Although these funds are provided under the heading of support for “civil society,” this definition makes no sense when the process is controlled by entirely external governments. Organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, B’Tselem, Mossawa, the Alternative Information Center, and HaMoked – to name five– cannot claim to be rooted in Israeli civil society when they are funded by the Swedish government, both directly and indirectly through a church organization called Diakonia. And this process is repeated by another 20 governments (including Norway and Switzerland), as well as the EU.
For Israelis, the impact is both internal and external. Internally, the large sums of money provided by foreign governments to a very small group, in order give these unelected individuals a major advantage in selling their views, is inconsistent with Zionism and Jewish sovereignty. Indeed, this foreign manipulation of politics and civil society is inherently colonial and imperial – its message is that foreign officials know what is best for Israelis.
Externally, officials who run these ostensible “civil society” organizations speak in United Nations sessions on human rights, as well as in churches and university campuses around the world, condemning Israel for racism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, discrimination, war crimes, and other such accusations. Many lead the BDS campaigns – boycotts, divestment and sanctions – based on the Durban NGO Forum strategy of isolating Israel. The Alternative Information Center, which is funded by Sweden, among others, denounces cooperation between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority as “normalization.” In a June 2008 conference, co-founder Michael Warschawski asserted that “one has to unequivocally reject the very idea (and existence) of a Jewish state, whatever will be its borders.” What possible excuse is there for the use of European taxpayer funds for this political warfare being waged against Israel? A very small group of Israelis are seen to give them legitimacy, but fail to add a warning – these views have almost no support within the Israeli civil society, and paid for by European governments.
Our primary goal in this Knesset conference is to provide the democratically elected representatives of Israel and the general public with information on the nature and scale of foreign government funding for political NGOs. This comprehensive report is the first detailed and fully documented research on this topic, but it is by no means complete. Often ignoring their own transparency norms, European governments do not publish all of the information on funding for Israeli political organizations. We expect this practice to end immediately, so that Israelis will at least know who and what is being funded, and how these decisions are made, in a comprehensive manner. How does the European Union decide to fund 20 out of the tens of applications it receives under Partnerships for Peace, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and similar frameworks? If European officials are embarrassed by such revelations, they should certainly not be engaged in these policies, and if they have nothing to hide, why are our requests for this information denied time after time, forcing us to turn to the European Union court process?
In recent years, NGO Monitor’s research has traced European funding for the politicized activities of many Israeli NGOs. Ir Amim, which receives 67% of its budget from foreign governments, advocates and campaigns for the Palestinian narrative on Jerusalem, and directs these campaigns at influencing non-Israeli journalists, diplomats and opinion makers. It produced a film series, Jerusalem Moments, that has been described as “an exercise in the bludgeoning documentation of Palestinian victimhood and of allegedly mindless Israeli cruelty and aggression,” and a “skewed misportrayal.”
Other NGOs have used European support to oppose the Jewish character of the State: Adalah’s 2007 “Democratic Constitution” – based on the vision of “a one-state solution” – attempts to limit immigration of Jews for “humanitarian reasons” only; Mada al-Carmel’s “Haifa Declaration,” which has the European Union logo on it, 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.” And, the Coalition of Women for Peace operates the “Who Profits?” divestment website, a project that tracks Israeli and international corporations that allegedly “are directly involved in the occupation.” Who Profits? led the anti-Israel divestment campaign in Norway, and is involved with a similar project in the UK.
Based on these central impacts, as reflected in the Goldstone indictment of Israel, our recommendation is that procedures be created that require full transparency for all foreign government funding provided to Israeli non-state actors and NGOs. Such funding information should be made readily available on the internet by both the donor and recipient at the time of the transfer of funds, and not one or two years later, in an obscure report that, in some, (but not) all cases, can be found in the files of the Rasham Amutot [Registry of Non-profits].
On this basis, Israeli leaders and officials, and perhaps our European counterparts, will be able to consider how best to respond to these issues and questions. We also believe that through such transparency, the European government officials responsible for the attempt to manipulate Israeli policies through civil society facades will realize that this is not appropriate or wise.
In some of the response in the Israeli media, I expect that we will read strong denunciations from NGO officials of this conference, of NGO Monitor’s research, and of the demands for transparency. Like Judge Richard Goldstone in his comments on Breaking the Silence, they will make false allegations of efforts to block free speech. Others will complain of a “right wing agenda”, as all of the political organizations that receive European government funding are on the Left (in most cases, far Left) of the spectrum.
This is a false claim, as free speech is not the issue. Officials of opposition groups like Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, and so many other examples, are and will be continue to present their views, both in Israel and outside. Our concern is the artificial amplification based on European government money that greatly amplifies the voices of these fringe groups. Israeli citizens have the right to know that European government funds allow groups like B’tselem to operate an office in Washington to lobby against the policies of the elected government, and pay for the speaking tours of Breaking the Silence around the world to promote the allegations of war crimes. Israelis also have the right to know about the dozens of cases brought by European government funded NGOs before the Israeli courts, turning them into “repeat players” that greatly distort the legal process. Making this funding information widely available will not inhibit free speech, but rather the opposite.
Others ask “Why stop at funding provided by foreign governments – why not legislate transparency for all foreign sources of support for political groups, including philanthropies, like the Ford Foundation, and Jewish donors, such as the New Israel Fund, Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz?” Perhaps this should also be considered in a separate discussion, but with the realization that Diaspora involvement in Israeli affairs extends across the political spectrum, in contrast to the European government funding. The loss of sovereignty and manipulation is unique when foreign government funding is involved.
All of these issues are important, and the Knesset, as the main embodiment of Israeli sovereignty and democracy, is the appropriate venue for this public discussion of efforts to manipulate this democracy. If the NGO Monitor report on foreign government funding of political NGOs and this conference starts this vital national debate, we will have done our job.
Tags: Adalah’s 2007 “Democratic Constitution”, Alternative Information Center, and HaMoked, “Who Profits?”, ”, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, co-founder Michael Warschawski, Coalition of Women for Peace, Diakonia, EU, Gerald M. Steinberg, Israel, Jerusalem Moments, Knesset Speech, Mada al-Carmel’s “Haifa Declaration, Mossawa, NGO Monitor, Norway, Palestinians, Partnerships for Peace, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Rasham Amutot, Sweden, Switzerland, the Alternative Information Center, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, Yesh Din