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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘NGO Monitor’

Finland’s Anti-Israel Disgrace Spawns New Activist Group

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Sometimes horrendous actions spawn unintended positive results. Like when a grossly anti-Israel, baseless singling out of Israel for humiliating exclusion from an ostensibly open international festival inspires a new pro-Israel organization that is eager to stand up for Israel.

Take Finland. Please.

Every year for the past 15 years Finland hosts an event they call a “World Village Festival.” Think World’s Fair on a smaller scale. There is always a theme for the year’s event. In 2015, the focus was on development in Africa and the Middle East. The festival took place the third weekend in May.

KEPA, which is the acronym for the Finnish word that translates to Service Centre for Development Cooperation, is the organizer of the event. KEPA services Finland’s NGOs, and while politically and ideologically independent, it operates with funding from Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

KEPA describes its World Village Festival as being “open to all and a meeting place offering tastes of different cultures and surprises from all over the world.”

The Jewish National Fund (the Keren Kajemet LeIsraeli’in, or KKL in Hebrew) which has an active presence in Finland, signed up to participate in this year’s World Village Festival, just as it has done for the past two years.

But this year a virulently anti-Israel organization, ICAHD, noticed JNF’s requested presence at the WVF and complained that such an organization which engages in “ethnic cleansing,” is an Apartheid supporter and engages in “greenwashing.”

ICAHD stands for Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions. Just a few points about ICAHD: one, it apparently does not even have a presence in Israel any longer, according to NGO-Monitor, and its primary activity appears to be championing the BDS movement.

ICAHD, according to the pro-Israel Finnish website Tundra Tabloids, pressured KEPA into disinviting the JNF. The WVF organizers then informed JNF it could not participate “due to questions about the legality of its activities,” which included the various outrageously false claims promoted by ICAHD, which were given the imprimatur of the academy, by Hannu Juusola, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Helsinki.

The head of the Finnish branch of ICAHD, Skysy Räsänen, crowed that banning the JNF was “a victory for the BDS movement.”

KEPA also pointed to testimonies by, amongst others, Rabbis for Human Rights, as justification for banning the JNF.

While the JNF was mild in its response, there were some who were less so.

One organization, a brand new pro-Israel group that calls itself VOIS – Voice of Israel in Scandinavia, is a spin-off from a larger pro-Israel organization.

VOIS at WVF

VOIS was galvanized by the rejection of JNF from the Festival. It set up a presence outside the gates to the Festival, and handed out pro-Israel literature, engaged with those entering the Village, and directly challenged the organizers of the event on the JNF ban.

One member of the group marched into the Village and spoke directly to Jonas Bistrom, KEPA’s development policy specialist. This VOIS member, Kenneth Sikorski, sought to engage Bistrom about the exclusion of the JNF from the Festival. Specifically, as Sikorski told the JewishPress.com, Bistrom was asked whether the WVF asked the JNF for a response to the allegations leveled against it, before the decision was made to exclude the pro-Israel organization. Sikorski also pressed Bistrom on whom KEPA had relied in making the exclusion determination.

Although Bistrom would not answer Sikorski’s queries, by the time the VOIS member returned to his encampment outside of the Village, KEPA’s executive director Timo Lappalainen had already been there and confirmed to the folks staffing their booth that Juusola, the professor from Helsinki University, a “respected academic” encouraged JNF’s banning because it “supports Israeli Apartheid “and “engages in ethnic cleansing.”

French NGOs and Palestinian Authority behind BDS Pressure on Orange

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

A coalition of French NGOs, some of them partly funded by the government, last month published a 51-page document named “Orange’s Dangerous Liaisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” to spearhead the campaign to pressure Orange to boycott Israel’s Partner Communications, which markets the Orange mobile phone service brand.

The Palestinian Authority joined the French NGOS to lobby the government and Orange to boycott Israel, the Israel-based NGO Monitor reported.

The NGOs reportedly met with Orphanage officials on May 26 and told them that its business link with Partner endangered its reputation. Orange told the BDS promoters that the agreement for Partner’s marketing the Orange brand expires in 10 years.

NGO Monitor reported:

The authors of the report asked Orange to publicly and explicitly state its decision to disengage and to denounce the human rights violations that Partner is involved in  Israeli settlements in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories-sic]. In other words, the statements made by the France-based company are a wholesale adoption of the NGOs’ BDS agenda (which is illegal in France).

Following the publication of the report, Saeb Erekat, lead negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), wrote to France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to denounce the link between Orange and Partner.

Organizations participating in the move to pressure Orange to boycott Israel include the European-based Who Profits, Al Haq, Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development-Terre Solidaire (CCFD), FIDH, and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS).

Who Profits, which now is a separate organization, began to campaign against all of Israel’s cell phone companies in 2009 for allegedly being “commercially involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights” and “exploit[ing] the Palestinian frequencies and to impose their services on the Palestinian captive market.”

The Who Profits webpage also attacks Partner for sponsoring IDF units in the Golan, Judea and Samaria in the “Adopt a Soldier” project.

The 51-page document stated:

During the attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014, Partner was on the front lines providing material support, cellular services and entertainment to the Israeli soldiers. The company also waived service fees for soldiers carrying [sic] the assault during July-August 2014.

The French government, which owns 25 percent of Orange, granted the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development-Terre Solidaire received nearly $400,000 from France in 2012. The same organization is a member of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine,

FIDH last year libeled Israel with allegations that it deliberately targeted civilians in the war against Hamas rockets and missiles on Israeli civilians. The NGO is funded in part by the European Union and the governments of Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

NGO Monitor added, “Al Haq is funded directly by the governments of Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Ireland, and indirectly by UK, Sweden, Germany, and the UN.”

Its report continued:

Al Haq is a leader of lawfare and BDS against Israel. A main actor in the NGO campaign to file war crimes charges against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC)….

Al Haq proposed sabotaging the Israeli court system by ‘flooding the [Israeli Supreme] Court with petitions in the hope of obstructing its functioning and resources.’

The Israeli Supreme Court has identified Al Haq’s general director Shawan Jabarin as ‘among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization.’

The Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) was funded by the French government in 2012, refers to the “Gaza extermination camp” and states, “It is inconceivable and unacceptable that the ‘Jewish-executioner’ would hide behind the ‘Jewish victim!’” Other AFPS rhetoric includes ethnic cleansing, apartheid state, and “Stop hunting Palestinian children!”

A French court in 2014 ruled in favor of the French distributor of Israel-based SodaStream in a lawsuit charging the pro-BDS group with stating that SodaStream products were being illegally sold in France.

Behind Breaking the Silence: Foreign Funding, Bounty Hunting, and Hypocrisy

Monday, May 11th, 2015

On May 4 the organization which has given itself the courageous moniker of “Breaking the Silence” issued a harshly critical report about the IDF’s performance in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. It claimed indiscriminate shooting by Israeli soldiers caused the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian Arab civilians.

In the days following, that report has itself been criticized, debunked, dismantled and discredited. It’s worth understanding why.

The name of the organization issuing the scathing report, “Breaking the Silence,” suggests no one else has been willing to criticize the IDF. In reality, of course, that is the primary global discourse about the IDF.

And it is not as if IDF soldiers are uncritical of their experiences. But most of that criticism is internally directed, with the goal of actually improving conditions and procedures. BtS’s effort, in contrast, is a public relations exercise in demonizing Israel and its military apparatus.

The international media pounced on what was promoted by BtS as scorching criticism based on more than 60 interviews with unnamed active duty and reserve IDF personnel who participated in last summer’s OPE. (Anonymity of critics is a hallmark of Breaking the Silence’s many reports.)

A report based on testimony from Israeli soldiers who directly participated in the conflict would appear to be unimpeachable.

Except this one is and has been impressively impeached in a series of reports and public comments by a wide range of critics. Those reports have not received the extensive publicity the Israel-bashing original report has.

And why should anyone doubt the veracity of this report?

Well, for one thing, Breaking the Silence has been subject to intense criticism for years, including from such venerable bastions of Israel criticism as Haaretz, Israel’s flagship far leftist media outlet. In 2009, a Haaretz writer said of Breaking the Silence, it “has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classified as a human rights organization.”

Other critics include former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman, the well-respected non-governmental watchdog group NGO Monitor and Im Tirzu, a staunchly Zionist Israeli organization.

The various critics offered substantive and persuasive reasoning for rejecting the claims contained in BtS’s latest report.

FOREIGN FUNDING AND BOUNTY HUNTING

First, the funding of Breaking the Silence suggests it has a clear political bias. Despite its claims, including one during a BBC interview, that its organization “are not subcontractors to anybody,” BtS is highly subsidized by foreign entities and governments. That in itself may not be problematic. But bounty hunting, where funding will only be provided if a set level of “scalps” are supplied, reaps malevolently skewed results.

And contrary to BtS’s claim that “the contents and opinions in this booklet do not express the position of the funders,” NGO Monitor research revealed that a number of funders made their grants conditional on the NGO obtaining a minimum number of negative “testimonies.”

Got that? We call that bounty hunting.

“This contradicts BtS’ declarations and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interest, severely damaging the NGO’s reliability and its ability to analyze complicated combat situations,” observed NGO Monitor’s analysts.

Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of NGO Monitor, told the JewishPress.com that while “the leaders of Breaking the Silence claim to promote Jewish values, they are impostors.”

“From Biblical texts through modern times, Judaism has emphasized political realism and not pacifist myths. Abraham had to show that he had the power to defend his interests, and the same is true for Jacob, and so on. In addition to this distortion, [the authors of the report] are self-promoting messianists who immorally promote themselves through money given by church groups and foreign governments which seek to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign equality.”

NGO Monitor: Negative Testimony from ‘Breaking the Silence’ Meets Quota for Grant Makers

Monday, May 4th, 2015

IDF veterans who provided negative testimony for the leftist NGO “Breaking the Silence” may not realize they are also participating in an effort by the group to fulfill a funding quota for bad stuff against Israel.

According to a report by the NGO Monitor, a number of grant-making agencies who provide funding to leftist organizations in Israel have made their patronage contingent upon the groups’ abilities to obtain a minimum number of negative “testimonies.”

“This contradicts Breaking the Silence” declarations and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interest, severely damaging the NGO’s reliability and its ability to analyze complicated combat situations,” said the report.

One example is the foreign leftist Oxfam group, which signed an agreement with Breaking the Silence, according to the NGO Monitor watchdog organization.

According to that agreement, the Monitor reported, BTS was to conduct interviews with “as many” soldiers as possible who would testify regarding [Israeli] “immoral actions] that violate human rights.

The entire report can be read by clicking here.

‘Devastated’ by Slain Jew, yet Denmark Huge Funder of Anti-Israel Activity

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The prime minister of Denmark laid flowers on Sunday, Feb. 15, at the site where the day before a Jewish man was shot in the head and killed while volunteering as a security guard outside of a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Was the murder of Dan Uzan, the son of an Israeli father, an act in which the Danish government was indirectly complicit?

When Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt laid the wreath outside of the synagogue, she offered her condolences to the slain man’s family and to the whole Jewish community. She said she and her entire country were devastated by Uzan’s murder, and by all that happened in Copenhagen on Feb. 14.

“A man has lost his life in a service of that synagogue and we are devastated,” Thorning-Schmidt said, speaking to Jewish Danes.

“Our thoughts go to the whole of the Jewish community today. They belong in Denmark, they are a lasting part of our community. And we will do everything we can to protect the Jewish community,” the Prime Minister concluded, before turning towards the makeshift shrine to Uzan, and then briefly embracing two members of the Jewish community.

On Sunday evening, Thorning-Schmidt spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. She provided him with the details of the weekend’s terrorist attacks. During the conversation, Netanyahu told his Danish counterpart that Israel and Denmark must together fight the current terrorism, one that knows no borders.

Netanyahu also told Thoring-Schmidt that “countries which do not fight terrorism today will deal with much worse terrorism tomorrow.”

But other than when a Jew is killed – in a spectacular way – on its soil, does Denmark show support for its Jewish community or the Jewish people? Or does its action actually contribute to the demonization of the Jewish State and of Jews?

This past September, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard threatened Israel. He said that if the then ongoing ‘peace’ negotiations between Israel and the PA did not resolve according to his lights, punitive action would have to be considered.

Lidegaard warned that if Israel failed to commit to serious concessions, such as ending the blockade of Gaza or stopping “illegal settlements,” then Denmark and the European Union would need to consider taking punitive steps. The threats he mentioned included changing trade relations with the Jewish state, Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post reported at the time.

But it isn’t only Lidegaard and it isn’t only recently that Denmark has put the screws to Israel.

Denmark has been financially supporting anti-Israel organizations to the tune of many millions of dollars a year, for many years running.

According to the exhaustive data collection and analysis provided by organizational watchdog NGO-Monitor, in recent years the Danes have contributed tens of million of dollars for Israeli and Palestinian Arab organizations. Many of those organizations engage in economic and legal warfare against Israel known as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. The BDS movement, along with demonizing Israel, also engages in acts of blatant, hostile anti-Semitism.

Lidegaard’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs directly funds anti-Israel organizations. In 2011 alone, the Danes contributed over $1.1 million directly to Israeli organizations which actively demonize and seek to harm the Jewish State.

Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO-Monitor, told The Jewish Press, the “Danish government is among the leaders in funding for anti-Israel NGO demonization in Europe, irresponsibly providing large sums via a number of mechanisms.”

Steinberg explained that the Danes support the so-called Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, which is managed by Birzeit University. That entity in turn funds groups such as Adalah, Breaking the Silence, and Al Haq. These and a number of other recipient NGOs promote false “war crimes” allegations and blood libels against the Jewish state. Another recipient of Danish largesse – Badil – uses the money to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee demands and anti-Semitic themes.

AP Disses ‘Whistleblower’ But a New Whistle Blows

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

It began with a “tell-something” tale by a former reporter. But as with so many small tempests, the shrill response of the alleged victim has fanned the winds to tornado strength.

A former AP reporter, Matti Friedman, publicly detailed allegations of biased coverage of the Israel-Arab conflict and claimed that Gerald Steinberg, a non anti-Israel expert, was banned by the AP. Friedman was immediately and with great force contradicted by Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations.

Colford claimed Friedman’s articles were filled with “distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies.” And he wrote, point blank, there was “no ban on AP’s use of Prof. Gerald Steinberg.”

So, it’s “he said – he said,” right? But as it turns out, we have a tie-breaker. A second former AP reporter explicitly confirmed to The Jewish Press that, despite Colford’s denial, there was indeed a ban in place in AP’s Jerusalem bureau on quoting Steinberg, and that he could state this with confidence. How? Because that ban was explained to him by the AP’s then Jerusalem bureau chief.

BACKGROUND

The original stories were written by a former Associated Press reporter, Matti Friedman. The first was in the online Tablet magazine, followed by another in The Atlantic.

Friedman provided substantial detail on what close followers of Middle East reporting already understand: the mainstream media has bought the Palestinian Arab story line about the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Palestinian Arabs are the Davids, the Israelis are the Goliath.

While this story is often hard to square with the facts, that only matters when the truth matters. And as Professor Richard Landes eloquently puts it: “you pay a high price for telling the truth about the Palestinian Arabs and no price for telling lies about Israel.”

Friedman’s pieces in the Tablet and The Atlantic offered numerous examples of what he described as AP staff looking the other way when Arabs violated laws of war or when Israel made peace offerings, including submitting to intimidation by Hamas.

In our last pass at this story, readers will recall that The Jewish Press zeroed in on a startling new fact Friedman had in his Atlantic article: that the AP had “banned” interviews with Bar Ilan Professor Gerald Steinberg and the use of materials by the non-governmental organization watchdog which Steinberg founded and heads, NGO-Monitor.

Friedman made this claim on the basis of his experience as a new reporter in AP’s Jerusalem bureau during Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 to January 2009) between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In particular, Friedman was struck by the pedestal upon which self-proclaimed human rights organizations were placed by AP, and their claims, particularly condemnations of Israel, accepted without reservation. It was in this context that Friedman learned about the ban on Steinberg.

Friedman stated, without any qualifications, that in a region “with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.”

The Jewish Press story was published in the early hours of Monday, Dec. 1, Israel time.

Paul Colford, the AP’s media relations director, began contacting The Jewish Press during the early hours of the business day on Monday, U.S. time. The subject line was: “Email address needed by AP.”

Colford informed the New York-based Jewish Press print editor that there were “inaccuracies” in our story and sought contact information for the reporter who wrote it.

It took some time for the New York editor to convey the request to the Jerusalem editor of the JewishPress.com, and then a little longer for the reporter to get the message. In the interim, the New York editor explained to Colford the relationship between the print and online versions of The Jewish Press (the online version is autonomous, although each has permission to run the other’s stories), and asked to know what inaccuracies were in the story.

NGO Monitor Responds to AP Ban on NGO Monitor and Professor Steinberg

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The following statement was released by NGO Monitor in response to the report by Matti Friedman that AP censored and banned NGO Monitor:

In a November 30 article published in The Atlantic (What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel), former AP journalist Matti Friedman states that, during his time at the AP Jerusalem bureau, reporters had explicit orders “to never quote [NGO Monitor] or its director… Gerald Steinberg. In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.”

“Matti Friedman’s revelations regarding the efforts to censor NGO Monitor and me as its president are not entirely surprising,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, president and founder of NGO Monitor. “Based on our experience in publishing detailed research on over 150 NGOs claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian objectives, we are aware of the intense efforts to maintain the NGO ‘halo effect’ and prevent critical debate. While the AP censorship was explicit, we have experienced similar silencing from other media platforms.”

Friedman also highlights the “ethical gray zone of ties between reporters and NGOs” in Israel, where journalists socializing in the same circles as NGO officials, seek employment with NGOs, and adapt to a journalistic culture in which NGOs “are to be quoted, not covered.”

This absence of critical analysis of political NGOs reinforces their biases and the lack of professional methodology. Friedman rightly criticizes, “one of the strangest aspects of coverage…namely, that while international organizations are among the most powerful actors in the Israel story, they are almost never reported on.”

Professor Steinberg continued: “When NGO Monitor was founded following the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN Durban conference, our primary objective was to open debate and provide accountability where none existed, develop systematic checks and balances, and ‘speak truth to NGO power.’ The importance of this mission has grown since then, as has the political influence of NGOs, as well as their funding and media impact, particularly in the Israeli context.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ngo-monitor-responds-to-ap-ban-on-ngo-monitor-and-professor-steinberg/2014/12/01/

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