Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gerald Steinberg

Amnesty International Campaigns for Convicted Hezbollah Spy

Amnesty International has come under heavy criticism for supporting Ameer Makhoul, a former anti-Israel activist convicted by Israel of spying for Hezbollah. Makhoul received a nine-year prison sentence for transferring messages to and otherwise aiding Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.

But Amnesty’s Philip Luther alleges that Makhoul was imprisoned for “his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel,” as opposed to his involvement in a terrorist organization. Luther further argues that Makhoul’s admission of the crime was invalid, allegedly obtained by Israel through torture.

According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty is intentionally ignoring the overwhelming evidence against Makhoul, in order to further its demonization campaign against Israel.

“Amnesty has completely lost its moral compass regarding human rights in the Middle East, as well as on other issues,” NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg told the Jewish Chronicle. “Even after Makhoul’s admission of spying for Hezbollah, and the evidence presented in court, [it] refuses to denounce Makhoul’s connections to terror, his poisonous Nazi rhetoric, his calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and his demonisation of Israel.”

Amnesty’s work has become so skewed against Israel that it’s impossible to take it seriously anymore. Recently, the organization disputed the Turkel Commission report’s claim that the activists aboard the Gaza flotilla had used firearms against Israeli soldiers, despite photographic evidence. When you can’t even admit what your own eyes are telling you, then it’s time to hang up the claim that you’re an objective observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Amnesty International has come under heavy criticism for supporting Ameer Makhoul, a former anti-Israel activist convicted by Israel of spying for Hezbollah. Makhoul received a nine-year prison sentence for transferring messages to and otherwise aiding Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.

But Amnesty’s Philip Luther alleges that Makhoul was imprisoned for “his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel,” as opposed to his involvement in a terrorist organization. Luther further argues that Makhoul’s admission of the crime was invalid, allegedly obtained by Israel through torture.

According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty is intentionally ignoring the overwhelming evidence against Makhoul, in order to further its demonization campaign against Israel.

“Amnesty has completely lost its moral compass regarding human rights in the Middle East, as well as on other issues,” NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg told the Jewish Chronicle. “Even after Makhoul’s admission of spying for Hezbollah, and the evidence presented in court, [it] refuses to denounce Makhoul’s connections to terror, his poisonous Nazi rhetoric, his calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and his demonisation of Israel.”

Amnesty’s work has become so skewed against Israel that it’s impossible to take it seriously anymore. Recently, the organization disputed the Turkel Commission report’s claim that the activists aboard the Gaza flotilla had used firearms against Israeli soldiers, despite photographic evidence. When you can’t even admit what your own eyes are telling you, then it’s time to hang up the claim that you’re an objective observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read Less

Some Thoughts on Israel’s Problematic New NGO Law

When a group like NGO Monitor — which has spent years fighting for more transparency and less bias from human rights groups — comes out against a law that will supposedly make NGOs more transparent, you know there’s a problem.

I spoke with NGO Monitor’s director, Gerald Steinberg, this morning, who elaborated more on his Jerusalem Post column from last week. The column — worth reading in full here — outlined his concerns about the Knesset’s recent creation of a committee that will investigate the funding of NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement.

One of Steinberg’s main issues with the law is that it politicized the very important matter of foreign NGO funding.

“What happened in the Knesset was that one party [Israel Beiteinu] chose to make this part of their partisan political agenda,” said Steinberg. “And instead of building the coalition for dealing with this issue, they basically alienated potential partners by attacking them.”

Steinberg is also concerned that the proponents of the bill used inaccurate information in an effort to push the law through. One of the bill’s supporters at the Knesset “talked about Arab government and terrorist-funded organizations. And [Avigdor] Lieberman talked about the claim that these organizations were active in supporting terror, and that claim has not been substantiated,” said Steinberg.

While it’s certainly possible that some of these groups are funded by Arab governments or terror groups, NGO Monitor hasn’t yet found evidence of this. But the group has found substantial evidence of European governments funding anti-Israel NGOs.

“If this ends up letting the European governments off the hook, then it will have been counterproductive,” said Steinberg. “What I’m concerned about is, through the focus on the investigation and the claims of McCarthyism, that these organizations that don’t want to have the transparency extended to their European funding will succeed in diverting the focus.”

And besides that, there is some reason to believe that the committee won’t even have the subpoena powers necessary to carry on any practical type of investigation. “I don’t think that a Knesset committee or investigation is the best vehicle to deal with this issue either,” said Steinberg, who believes the issue might be best left to government offices that can produce reports on NGO funding.

Steinberg is also concerned that the NGO law will make it more difficult to get more practical legislation through the Knesset. “There are a couple of other legislative processes going on in the Knesset. And the law that would require full transparency, like the FARA law — that’s a bipartisan bill that has been working its way through the Knesset,” he said. “And in many ways, this new initiative by [Danny] Ayalon potentially undermines the very narrow FARA-type legislation that does have much broader support.”

The NGO law has been extremely controversial since it passed, with critics alleging that it targets groups based on political ideology. But based on NGO Monitor’s assessment, there are even more serious reasons to oppose the plan. It would create a powerless investigative body that serves only to undermine support for useful legislation, make martyrs out of anti-Israel NGOs, and obscure the troubling reality of Europe’s financial contributions to the Israel delegitimization movement. For anyone who cares about NGO accountability, this is a lose-lose situation.

When a group like NGO Monitor — which has spent years fighting for more transparency and less bias from human rights groups — comes out against a law that will supposedly make NGOs more transparent, you know there’s a problem.

I spoke with NGO Monitor’s director, Gerald Steinberg, this morning, who elaborated more on his Jerusalem Post column from last week. The column — worth reading in full here — outlined his concerns about the Knesset’s recent creation of a committee that will investigate the funding of NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement.

One of Steinberg’s main issues with the law is that it politicized the very important matter of foreign NGO funding.

“What happened in the Knesset was that one party [Israel Beiteinu] chose to make this part of their partisan political agenda,” said Steinberg. “And instead of building the coalition for dealing with this issue, they basically alienated potential partners by attacking them.”

Steinberg is also concerned that the proponents of the bill used inaccurate information in an effort to push the law through. One of the bill’s supporters at the Knesset “talked about Arab government and terrorist-funded organizations. And [Avigdor] Lieberman talked about the claim that these organizations were active in supporting terror, and that claim has not been substantiated,” said Steinberg.

While it’s certainly possible that some of these groups are funded by Arab governments or terror groups, NGO Monitor hasn’t yet found evidence of this. But the group has found substantial evidence of European governments funding anti-Israel NGOs.

“If this ends up letting the European governments off the hook, then it will have been counterproductive,” said Steinberg. “What I’m concerned about is, through the focus on the investigation and the claims of McCarthyism, that these organizations that don’t want to have the transparency extended to their European funding will succeed in diverting the focus.”

And besides that, there is some reason to believe that the committee won’t even have the subpoena powers necessary to carry on any practical type of investigation. “I don’t think that a Knesset committee or investigation is the best vehicle to deal with this issue either,” said Steinberg, who believes the issue might be best left to government offices that can produce reports on NGO funding.

Steinberg is also concerned that the NGO law will make it more difficult to get more practical legislation through the Knesset. “There are a couple of other legislative processes going on in the Knesset. And the law that would require full transparency, like the FARA law — that’s a bipartisan bill that has been working its way through the Knesset,” he said. “And in many ways, this new initiative by [Danny] Ayalon potentially undermines the very narrow FARA-type legislation that does have much broader support.”

The NGO law has been extremely controversial since it passed, with critics alleging that it targets groups based on political ideology. But based on NGO Monitor’s assessment, there are even more serious reasons to oppose the plan. It would create a powerless investigative body that serves only to undermine support for useful legislation, make martyrs out of anti-Israel NGOs, and obscure the troubling reality of Europe’s financial contributions to the Israel delegitimization movement. For anyone who cares about NGO accountability, this is a lose-lose situation.

Read Less

Did the Media Get Played by New ‘Pallywood’ Hoax?

The reports of a Palestinian activist who allegedly died from inhaling IDF tear gas at a pro-Palestinian demonstration have sparked an outpouring of condemnation from the international community. But it looks like the story — or at least the version told by Palestinian activists — may have been a total fabrication. An IDF investigation revealed multiple inconsistencies in the woman’s medical report, and some officials now believe she may have been terminally ill long before the rally began:

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday’s demonstration against the security barrier in Bil’in — nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel’s defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahmah’s death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family’s version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah’s death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the “skunk bombs” used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah’s death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces’ use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Rahmah’s brother also confirmed that she had been suffering health problems in the weeks leading up to the rally:

Abu Rahmah’s brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

Whatever the cause of Rahmah’s death, it’s extremely premature to blame the IDF’s use of tear gas, to say the least. This case holds a striking resemblance to the 2000 Al Dura case, where the shooting of a young Palestinian boy was falsely blamed on the IDF. In light of that incident — and other similar “Pallywood” (Palestinian + Hollywood) hoaxes — the media should treat reports like this with proper scrutiny. Read More

The reports of a Palestinian activist who allegedly died from inhaling IDF tear gas at a pro-Palestinian demonstration have sparked an outpouring of condemnation from the international community. But it looks like the story — or at least the version told by Palestinian activists — may have been a total fabrication. An IDF investigation revealed multiple inconsistencies in the woman’s medical report, and some officials now believe she may have been terminally ill long before the rally began:

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday’s demonstration against the security barrier in Bil’in — nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel’s defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahmah’s death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family’s version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah’s death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the “skunk bombs” used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah’s death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces’ use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Rahmah’s brother also confirmed that she had been suffering health problems in the weeks leading up to the rally:

Abu Rahmah’s brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

Whatever the cause of Rahmah’s death, it’s extremely premature to blame the IDF’s use of tear gas, to say the least. This case holds a striking resemblance to the 2000 Al Dura case, where the shooting of a young Palestinian boy was falsely blamed on the IDF. In light of that incident — and other similar “Pallywood” (Palestinian + Hollywood) hoaxes — the media should treat reports like this with proper scrutiny.

Of course, it’s far too much to ask for some news outlets to behave responsibly, especially when it comes to demonizing Israel. One of the worst offenders on the Rahmah story was the NYT’s Isabel Kershner, who unquestioningly regurgitated the claims of Palestinian activists in an article headlined “Tear Gas Kills Palestinian Protester”:

A Palestinian woman died Saturday after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces a day earlier at a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in a West Bank village.

A hospital director, Dr. Muhammad Aideh, said the woman had arrived on Friday suffering from tear-gas asphyxiation and died despite hours of treatment.

The article didn’t question why one protester would die from non-toxic tear gas in an open, outdoor space while the hundreds of people around her remained unharmed. There was also apparently no attempt to get a comment on the death from any official Israeli sources.

Other outlets that blindly swallowed the original story were the Washington Post and the JTA.

But it wasn’t just the media that hyped the original allegations. Multiple NGOs were also quick to issue premature condemnations of Israel, according to NGO Monitor.

“NGO officials and media outlets made serious allegations about Jawaher Abu-Rahmah’s death, without verifying claims or checking the many inconsistencies in the reports,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, in an e-mailed press release. “We again see that NGOs issue statements and condemnations consistent with their own political agendas, but lack the ability to verify any of the details.” Some of these groups included B’Tselem, Yesh Din, and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.

The fact that so many organizations and media outlets jumped the gun on this issue is revealing. They’re obviously eager, for whatever reason, to attack Israel whenever possible, no matter how shoddy the allegations. An immediate correction should be demanded from the New York Times and any other publication that picked up the original story.

Read Less

Human Rights Watch Now Openly Endorsing BDS

Human Rights Watch doesn’t like Israel. No surprise there. But since the advocacy group still does important work on human rights issues in other countries, it continues to get taken seriously by the media and government officials. This legitimacy should end immediately in light of HRW’s latest report, which tacitly endorses the beyond-fringe Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. From the text of the study:

The report is based on case studies comparing Israel’s starkly different treatment of settlements and next-door Palestinian communities in these areas. It calls on the US and EU member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law.

The report also asks the U.S. to avoid “offsetting the costs of Israeli expenditures on settlements by withholding U.S. funding from the Israeli government in an amount equivalent to its expenditures on settlements and related infrastructure in the West Bank.”

That’s bad enough. But there was one recommendation that really caught my eye:

Congress should request a report from the General Accounting Office on the subject of tax-exempt organizations that support settlements and settlement-related activities. Such a study should include specific assessments of the amounts and types of donations involved and the actual end-uses of such donations in the settlements. The report should also address whether current laws and regulations regarding charitable organizations ensure that tax-exempt status is not granted to organizations that facilitate human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law, are adequately enforced, and whether they are adequate or require revision.

Hmm. As we know from the Z Street case, the IRS has already been giving some pro-Israel groups a hard time on their tax-exemption applications — ostensibly because Israel has a “higher risk of terrorism.” But could the IRS also be concerned about tax-exempt groups giving support to Israeli settlements? And if not, will this be the next rallying cry picked up by the BDS movement?

In addition to those suggestions, HRW also recommended the following quasi-BDS tactics:

• The international community should tack on extra tariffs to products imported from Israeli settlements: “Ensure that policies do not promote settlement activity, such as the discriminatory violations of Palestinian human rights documented in this report, by enforcing tariff agreements in accordance with international law, such that Israeli settlement goods are not given preferential treatment, including by requiring and enforcing clear origin labeling.”

• Businesses operating from the settlements should cease involvement in any activity that HRW deems to be a violation of international law, “including where necessary ending such [business] operations altogether.”

The NGO Monitor has also denounced the report. In an e-mail, it called it evidence that HRW “endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), disguised as opposition to settlements, but in reality seeking the destruction of Israel.”

“This is further proof of HRW founder Robert Bernstein’s conclusion that the organization has turned Israel into a pariah state,” NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg added, in a statement on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch doesn’t like Israel. No surprise there. But since the advocacy group still does important work on human rights issues in other countries, it continues to get taken seriously by the media and government officials. This legitimacy should end immediately in light of HRW’s latest report, which tacitly endorses the beyond-fringe Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. From the text of the study:

The report is based on case studies comparing Israel’s starkly different treatment of settlements and next-door Palestinian communities in these areas. It calls on the US and EU member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law.

The report also asks the U.S. to avoid “offsetting the costs of Israeli expenditures on settlements by withholding U.S. funding from the Israeli government in an amount equivalent to its expenditures on settlements and related infrastructure in the West Bank.”

That’s bad enough. But there was one recommendation that really caught my eye:

Congress should request a report from the General Accounting Office on the subject of tax-exempt organizations that support settlements and settlement-related activities. Such a study should include specific assessments of the amounts and types of donations involved and the actual end-uses of such donations in the settlements. The report should also address whether current laws and regulations regarding charitable organizations ensure that tax-exempt status is not granted to organizations that facilitate human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law, are adequately enforced, and whether they are adequate or require revision.

Hmm. As we know from the Z Street case, the IRS has already been giving some pro-Israel groups a hard time on their tax-exemption applications — ostensibly because Israel has a “higher risk of terrorism.” But could the IRS also be concerned about tax-exempt groups giving support to Israeli settlements? And if not, will this be the next rallying cry picked up by the BDS movement?

In addition to those suggestions, HRW also recommended the following quasi-BDS tactics:

• The international community should tack on extra tariffs to products imported from Israeli settlements: “Ensure that policies do not promote settlement activity, such as the discriminatory violations of Palestinian human rights documented in this report, by enforcing tariff agreements in accordance with international law, such that Israeli settlement goods are not given preferential treatment, including by requiring and enforcing clear origin labeling.”

• Businesses operating from the settlements should cease involvement in any activity that HRW deems to be a violation of international law, “including where necessary ending such [business] operations altogether.”

The NGO Monitor has also denounced the report. In an e-mail, it called it evidence that HRW “endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), disguised as opposition to settlements, but in reality seeking the destruction of Israel.”

“This is further proof of HRW founder Robert Bernstein’s conclusion that the organization has turned Israel into a pariah state,” NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg added, in a statement on Sunday.

Read Less

NIF Cuts Off Funding for BDS Groups

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

Read Less

Time to Jump Off the J Street Bandwagon

JTA has an exceptionally odd report up on the J Street–Soros connection. On one hand, the generally liberal publication argues that it was not a big deal to be funded by Soros, so the gaffe was in hiding the connection:

A senior staffer for a Democratic congressman who has accepted J Street’s endorsement agreed, saying that Soros’ support for J Street would not have been “a major factor” in deciding whether to accept the organization’s endorsement.

“People have to know first who George Soros is and, second, why it would be bad for a pro-Israel group — in some circles — to be associated with him,” the staffer said. “There are a lot of people like that in the Jewish macherocracy — but not in our district.”

But then again, maybe it really is a big deal:

It didn’t help that MoveOn was erroneously associated with a Web advertisement that likened Bush to Hitler, and that Soros himself said the times reminded him of aspects of his Nazi-era childhood in Hungary.

But, several observers said, the fraught politics of just a few years ago — when Soros was seen as an unhinged provocateur baiting the Bush administration and Republicans — were a thing of the past, with Democrats now controlling the White House and the U.S. Congress.

And then there is the whole Human Rights Watch thing:

In recent weeks, conservatives and other critics of Soros have noted the recent $100 million donation to Human Rights Watch, a group that is seen by Israel and many of the country’s supporters as biased in its treatment of abuses in the Middle East.

The donation “makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well established,” Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s director, wrote in a New York Post op-ed before the J Street controversy broke. “In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.”

So maybe there was a reason Jeremy Ben-Ami repeatedly lied about the Soros connection. Nevertheless, the JTA folks keep up their habit of sourcing (obsessively so) to Soros Street and its supporters, concluding that Soros Street will be just fine.

At a time when virtually all the mainstream Jewish media and leadership have shown some mettle in condemning the Soros Street charade, it remains a mystery why JTA is still carrying water for it. I suppose they have invested a lot in J Street’s credibility as a legitimate organization, but the jig is up. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the obvious: J Street was a front for a hard-core leftist whose views and rhetoric are unacceptable to the majority of Americans. And Soros’s creation, which allied itself with Richard Goldstone (drafting his defense) and a raft of Israel-haters, was never the “pro-Israel” grassroots organization it made itself out to be. Surely JTA’s readers could accept that?

A final note: JTA quotes Abe Foxman at length saying all sorts of sweet things about J Street and Soros. Well, no one is ever going to confuse him with Nathan Perlmutter.

JTA has an exceptionally odd report up on the J Street–Soros connection. On one hand, the generally liberal publication argues that it was not a big deal to be funded by Soros, so the gaffe was in hiding the connection:

A senior staffer for a Democratic congressman who has accepted J Street’s endorsement agreed, saying that Soros’ support for J Street would not have been “a major factor” in deciding whether to accept the organization’s endorsement.

“People have to know first who George Soros is and, second, why it would be bad for a pro-Israel group — in some circles — to be associated with him,” the staffer said. “There are a lot of people like that in the Jewish macherocracy — but not in our district.”

But then again, maybe it really is a big deal:

It didn’t help that MoveOn was erroneously associated with a Web advertisement that likened Bush to Hitler, and that Soros himself said the times reminded him of aspects of his Nazi-era childhood in Hungary.

But, several observers said, the fraught politics of just a few years ago — when Soros was seen as an unhinged provocateur baiting the Bush administration and Republicans — were a thing of the past, with Democrats now controlling the White House and the U.S. Congress.

And then there is the whole Human Rights Watch thing:

In recent weeks, conservatives and other critics of Soros have noted the recent $100 million donation to Human Rights Watch, a group that is seen by Israel and many of the country’s supporters as biased in its treatment of abuses in the Middle East.

The donation “makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well established,” Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s director, wrote in a New York Post op-ed before the J Street controversy broke. “In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.”

So maybe there was a reason Jeremy Ben-Ami repeatedly lied about the Soros connection. Nevertheless, the JTA folks keep up their habit of sourcing (obsessively so) to Soros Street and its supporters, concluding that Soros Street will be just fine.

At a time when virtually all the mainstream Jewish media and leadership have shown some mettle in condemning the Soros Street charade, it remains a mystery why JTA is still carrying water for it. I suppose they have invested a lot in J Street’s credibility as a legitimate organization, but the jig is up. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the obvious: J Street was a front for a hard-core leftist whose views and rhetoric are unacceptable to the majority of Americans. And Soros’s creation, which allied itself with Richard Goldstone (drafting his defense) and a raft of Israel-haters, was never the “pro-Israel” grassroots organization it made itself out to be. Surely JTA’s readers could accept that?

A final note: JTA quotes Abe Foxman at length saying all sorts of sweet things about J Street and Soros. Well, no one is ever going to confuse him with Nathan Perlmutter.

Read Less

Shining Light on the Israel-Haters

The Jew-haters among the European elite (yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap there) are pitching a fit. Why? Israel is moving ahead with a measure to force NGOs to be more transparent. Nervous that anti-Zionist groups will be unmasked as pawns of anti-Israel figures in European governments, the European Parliament “devoted [a session] to attacking a Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.” There is reason for the members of Parliament to freak out:

Gerald Steinberg, the head of Jerusalembased NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the session “was led by a small group of MEPs who work closely with the NGOs involved in the demonization of Israel.”

German Alexandra Thein, one of the European Parliament members who submitted the motion to debate the Knesset bill represents the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Thein, who is married to an Israeli- Arab, visited the Gaza Strip last January and met with Hamas legislators along with 49 other MEPs.

At one point her party’s Web site contained a link to the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza group. On her own Web site, Thein has a section called “Focus Palestine,” and posts notices about Israeli acts of “land discrimination.”

Steinberg also took time out to blast Human Rights Watch and its founder George Soros (who also provided the seed money for J Street) :

Steinberg said that “HRW claims to be ‘even-handed’ and to publish ‘credible reports,’ but this is contradicted by highly biased activities in the Middle East, particularly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Time and again, HRW reports on Israel are based on false or unverifiable claims, and the analysis strips away the context of the conflict, denying Israelis the right to self-defense. George Soros has supported this travesty,” he said.

Well, the Knesset certainly hit a nerve, revealing once again that the political and social ostracism which kept anti-Semitism under wraps in the post-Holocaust years has vanished. It’s about time some light was shed on those who fund the demonization of Israel from the cafes and salons of European capitals.

The Jew-haters among the European elite (yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap there) are pitching a fit. Why? Israel is moving ahead with a measure to force NGOs to be more transparent. Nervous that anti-Zionist groups will be unmasked as pawns of anti-Israel figures in European governments, the European Parliament “devoted [a session] to attacking a Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.” There is reason for the members of Parliament to freak out:

Gerald Steinberg, the head of Jerusalembased NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the session “was led by a small group of MEPs who work closely with the NGOs involved in the demonization of Israel.”

German Alexandra Thein, one of the European Parliament members who submitted the motion to debate the Knesset bill represents the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Thein, who is married to an Israeli- Arab, visited the Gaza Strip last January and met with Hamas legislators along with 49 other MEPs.

At one point her party’s Web site contained a link to the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza group. On her own Web site, Thein has a section called “Focus Palestine,” and posts notices about Israeli acts of “land discrimination.”

Steinberg also took time out to blast Human Rights Watch and its founder George Soros (who also provided the seed money for J Street) :

Steinberg said that “HRW claims to be ‘even-handed’ and to publish ‘credible reports,’ but this is contradicted by highly biased activities in the Middle East, particularly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Time and again, HRW reports on Israel are based on false or unverifiable claims, and the analysis strips away the context of the conflict, denying Israelis the right to self-defense. George Soros has supported this travesty,” he said.

Well, the Knesset certainly hit a nerve, revealing once again that the political and social ostracism which kept anti-Semitism under wraps in the post-Holocaust years has vanished. It’s about time some light was shed on those who fund the demonization of Israel from the cafes and salons of European capitals.

Read Less

RE: Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam

A spokesman for NGO Monitor e-mails me today with news that the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee “approved a draft bill requiring transparency in foreign government funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The legislation next will move to a series of three readings and votes. NGO Monitor further explains in a press release:

At today’s hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, provided background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“Government funding using taxpayer revenues for political NGOs, and allocated in secret, cannot be compared to donations made by private individuals and charitable funds,” Steinberg said to the Committee. “Governments are supposed to operate with greater transparency and democracies are supposed to respect other democracies.  They should not provide secret funds in order to manipulate the policy making processes. But for Europe, Israel is an exception and is seen as a political playground in which the norms are irrelevant. European Union funding for highly political NGOs, for which there is no accountability, has a very damaging influence. Many recipients are among the leaders of the demonization campaigns targeting Israel in the UN, the media, and elsewhere.  When Israeli officials are threatened with war crimes trials, the European funded NGOs are usually involved.”

In his testimony before the Knesset, Steinberg also related his experience in providing testimony on NGOs before the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in June:

“This session was part of the campaign led by Israeli NGOs to maintain the secrecy of their foreign funding by claiming that transparency is somehow anti-democratic. Similarly, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, leader of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Jafar Farah, head of Mossawa – both EU funded groups – attempted to prevent me from speaking, claiming I was part of the Israeli government. In reality, I represented the only NGO present at the session that was not funded by a government.”

With all this fuss, you can imagine that it must be very important for the front groups … er, NGOs … to protect their patrons’ identities. If the bill becomes law, Israel-bashing in the name of “humanitarian” relief might become harder to pull off and the true aims of these groups might be revealed. It’s not sufficient, but it would be a positive development in counteracting the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

A spokesman for NGO Monitor e-mails me today with news that the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee “approved a draft bill requiring transparency in foreign government funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The legislation next will move to a series of three readings and votes. NGO Monitor further explains in a press release:

At today’s hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, provided background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“Government funding using taxpayer revenues for political NGOs, and allocated in secret, cannot be compared to donations made by private individuals and charitable funds,” Steinberg said to the Committee. “Governments are supposed to operate with greater transparency and democracies are supposed to respect other democracies.  They should not provide secret funds in order to manipulate the policy making processes. But for Europe, Israel is an exception and is seen as a political playground in which the norms are irrelevant. European Union funding for highly political NGOs, for which there is no accountability, has a very damaging influence. Many recipients are among the leaders of the demonization campaigns targeting Israel in the UN, the media, and elsewhere.  When Israeli officials are threatened with war crimes trials, the European funded NGOs are usually involved.”

In his testimony before the Knesset, Steinberg also related his experience in providing testimony on NGOs before the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in June:

“This session was part of the campaign led by Israeli NGOs to maintain the secrecy of their foreign funding by claiming that transparency is somehow anti-democratic. Similarly, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, leader of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Jafar Farah, head of Mossawa – both EU funded groups – attempted to prevent me from speaking, claiming I was part of the Israeli government. In reality, I represented the only NGO present at the session that was not funded by a government.”

With all this fuss, you can imagine that it must be very important for the front groups … er, NGOs … to protect their patrons’ identities. If the bill becomes law, Israel-bashing in the name of “humanitarian” relief might become harder to pull off and the true aims of these groups might be revealed. It’s not sufficient, but it would be a positive development in counteracting the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

Read Less

Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state'”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state'”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.