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May 22, 2006:

NGO Funding Update: The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation's goals are "to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement.[1] It gives priority to work in the Palestinian territories, acknowledging that "a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is of central importance to the region as a whole, as well as to the peoples directly affected.[2] However, contrary to the pledge made by the Ford Foundation following the 2001 Durban Conference not to support "groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel,"significant funding is still channeled through NGOs such as Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, International Committee of Jurists (ICJ), Miftah, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, SHAML and EMHRN. Their activities are primarily political, and they exploit human rights rhetoric to delegitimize Israel, while undermining efforts towards a peaceful end to the conflict.

Following the 2001 Durban conference that demonized Israel, and the 2003 congressional investigation into the Ford Foundation's funding of many participating Palestinian NGOs, seventeen members of Congress signed a letter sent to Ford Foundation President, Susan Berresford, asking her to "cease funding subversive groups."Following hearings and a review, Ms Berresford wrote to Representative Jerrold Nadler, dated November 17 2003, stating: "We will never support groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel."[3] The Ford Foundation also published new funding guidelines,[4] and ceased funding for a small number of NGOs, including the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) and Habitat International Coalition (HIC).[5] However, as noted in previous NGO Monitor reports, the Ford Foundation has continued to fund several NGOs that take part in anti-Israel political campaigns, warranting a close review of the extent of the implementation of its pledge to monitor "misuse of philanthropic money" for "violence, terrorism, and bigotry."[6]

The Ford Foundation's website states, "The priority given by the Foundation to work in the Palestinian territories acknowledges that a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is of central importance ...Support has focused on building peace in the Middle East and developing the elements needed for a strong civil society and for democratic governance of a future Palestinian state."[7] In contrast, the Ford Foundation continues to support highly political NGOs that focus their activities on external attacks against Israel, rather than on good governance and development. Moreover, the Ford Foundation's funding of groups that participated in the 2001 Durban conference, such as al-Haq and Miftah, challenges its commitment to closely examine groups for misuse of funding.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

The PCHR received a grant of $370,000 in 2005 from the Ford Foundation for "A program of legal advocacy and defense of human rights and the rule of law and promotion of democratic processes in Gaza.[8] As has been extensively documented by NGO Monitor, PCHR selectively exploits human rights terminology for partisan political objectives.[9]

PCHR regularly uses the language of demonization and incitement in its allegations of Israeli human rights abuses. For example, in a memorandum submitted to the Consul Generals of the European Union in April 2004, PCHR claimed that "the Israeli military has continued to commit grave breaches of the Convention, namely war crimes, which include but are not restricted to: willful killings; torture or inhuman treatment."[10] PCHR continually fails to condemn or even mention terror and describes Israeli actions out of context, as purely aggressive.

In 2005, the PCHR joined other Palestinian NGOs in supporting the short-lived British Association of University Teachers (AUT) decision to impose a boycott on Israeli universities. The statement refers to the decision as "an historic moment in the global movement to isolate Apartheid Israel." It continues, "On a daily basis this occupation steals our land and ghettoizes us behind Walls in a project aimed at the expulsion of Palestinians from their land."[11] The Ford Foundation's support of PCHR and thus, of the academic boycott of Israel, is inconsistent with its principle of promoting "understanding and respect for human rights in accordance with internationally recognized principles".[12]

International Committee of Jurists (ICJ)

In 2005, ICJ received $325,000 from the Ford Foundation for "General support to promote worldwide observance of human rights through the rule of law".[13] ICJ largely operates via a network of affiliated legal organizations. These affiliates work with the ICJ Secretariat based in Geneva "to promote and protect human rights through the rule of law internationally."[14] However its Palestinian "affiliates" consistently take a highly political and subjective approach to human rights. These include Al-Haq (see below for details of the Ford Foundation's direct funding of this NGO) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.[15] (ICJ has no Israeli affiliates). ICJ has worked together with Al-Haq for over twenty five years and the Al Haq website describes the benefits it has obtained through the relationship with ICJ, including "an essential facilitating role ... in the UN system."[16] Both Al-Haq and PCHR list ICJ-Sweden among their funders.[17]

ICJ representatives are very active in promoting anti-Israel activities in the UN. At the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva from 14 March to 22 April 2005, the ICJ condemned "excessive use of force, indiscriminate killing of civilians" and the security barrier. However, ICJ also condemned Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, marking a change for this NGO.[18] Nevertheless, the primary political emphasis of ICJ with respect to Israel[19] and its support for Al Haq and PCHR, are inconsistent with the Ford Foundation's post-Durban guidelines.

Al Haq: "Law in the Service of Man"

The Ford Foundation provided $240,000 in 2005 directly to al-Haq for "a program of documentation, reporting and advocacy to protect human rights and the rule of law."[20] Al-Haq, an active participant at Durban, frequently distorts international law in its publications and regularly submits politically motivated reports to UNCHR.[21] In a press release, dated 10 December 2005, Al Haq abuses human rights terminology to pursue its political agenda. The NGO condemned Israel for violation of "employment, education and health" rights, "flagrant violations of economic, social and cultural rights and "extrajudicial executions; mass arbitrary arrests; and humiliation, harassment and violence at checkpoints."[22] These broad claims were based on anecdotal evidence, and where more detail was provided, key information was omitted; for example, it was evident that the closing of the Qalandia crossing was due to military necessity following a terrorist attack at the checkpoint. The background of terror against Israel is systematically erased from the context of Al Haq's reports, and the anti-Israel agenda is not consistent with the stated goal of "documentation, reporting and advocacy to protect human rights and the rule of law."

Miftah: The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Miftah was one of the major NGOs involved in the Durban conference, and its head, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, gave one of the keynote speeches, referring to Israeli policy as "wholesale brutalization and persecution," terrorists as "activists and leaders" and the "ongoing Nakba [catastrophe], as the most intricate and pervasive expression of persistent colonialism, apartheid, racism, and victimization." Nevertheless, and in violation of the pledge, the Ford Foundation continues to fund Miftah, including a $250,000 grant in 2005.[23]

In contradiction to its commitment to be guided by "the principles of democracy, human rights, gender equity [sic], and participatory governance,"[24] Miftah actively promotes the Durban agenda. On January 18, 2006, the NGO posted on its website an article by Norman G. Finkelstein, titled, "Why an Economic Boycott of Israel is Justified".[25] The article referred to Israeli actions as "rising to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity" and stated that the Israeli occupation "uniquely resembles the [South African] apartheid regime". Similarly, Miftah regularly misuses the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe Israeli security operations, as in a 29 January 2005 article titled "Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem."

Al-Mezan

The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights is one of the more visible Palestinian NGOs active in promoting the anti-Israel demonization campaign. In 2005, the Ford Foundation provided $150,000 for "Community-based advocacy work on economic, social and cultural rights in Gaza".[26] In July 2005, al-Mezan joined other NGOs in calling for "international civil society organizations...to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era."[27]

Al-Mezan's publications often contain extremist rhetoric, referring to Israeli counter-terrorism operations and policies as "ethnic cleansing"[28] In a 19 March 2005 press release, al-Mezan condemned "the IOF [Israel Occupation Force] war of starvation against Palestinians," referring to the closure of the Karni Crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel, without mentioning the terrorist threat from the Palestinian controlled Strip. It continued by calling on the international community to intervene to halt "war crimes committed by the IOF."[29]

Al-Mezan's failure to mention the wider context of Israeli counter-terrorism operations goes against its claimed mission,
"[t]o protect, respect and promote the internationally accepted standards of human rights." While its publications frequently condemn Israel for its "targeting of civilians" and its failure to properly protect Palestinian children,[30] it rarely recognizes that Palestinian terrorist groups intentionally target civilians.

Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC)

The recipient of a $140,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in 2005, [31] JMCC claims to provide "a wide range of services to journalists, researchers, international agencies, individuals and organizations interested in obtaining reliable information on the Palestinian territory."[32] While its website offers its users information such as speeches and polls, its weekly publication, "The Palestine Report", frequently uses human rights claims to support the political campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel. The Palestine Report includes articles, archived online, that compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa and call for the right of return of all refugees and the adoption of the one-state solution.[33] JMCC's publication of the Palestine Report undermines its credibility as a reliable source of information.

In July 2005, JMCC published a "Manual for Palestinian Policymakers and Media Professionals". Among its tips, JMCC states, "What Palestinians can do more of is to say that violence in Gaza by Palestinians is in self-defense, that the reason for the mortar attacks inside Israel is a response to systematic Israeli incursions and systematic destruction by Israel and a systematic policy attempt to define the new borders in Gaza. In that way, you give journalists a different way of looking at the reality: that Israel is propagating its occupation."[34] This statement further demonstrates how JMCC promotes the Durban strategy to undermine Israel's right self-defense, in clear violation of the Ford Foundation's post-Durban pledge.

Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center (SHAML)

SHAML, the recipient of a $90,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in 2005,[35] describes itself as "an independent non-governmental organization, dedicated to Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian Diaspora."[36] SHAML repeats Palestinian claims of a "right of return" for refugees, advocating the choice between remaining in their host countries, returning to their places of origin or coming to a future Palestinian state.

This focus is emphasized in SHAML's Cine Club, which screens films in the refugee camps aimed at motivating Palestinians to continue to press this position. The "right of return" demand is a major barrier to the realization of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and as such, its promotion at a grassroots level, undermines efforts to make peace.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

The Ford Foundation granted $45,000 to EMHRN[37] -- an organization that has been shown in previous NGO Monitor analyses to "promote a partial and inaccurate view of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and to support highly politicised NGOs that exploit universal human rights language for partisan objectives." The Ford Foundation's funding was specified for the translation of its reports, news bulletins and meeting documents into Arabic for dissemination in the Middle East and North Africa. EMHRN's weekly news bulletin includes press releases from aforementioned highly-politicized NGOs, al-Mezan, al-Haq and PCHR, who gain significant credibility from their association with EMHRN.[38] In this way, the Ford Foundation funding is used to promote uncompromising anti-Israel positions throughout the Middle East.

Pro-boycott conference (via the American Association of University Professors)

The extent to which the Ford Foundation is performing internal checks on its compliance with post Durban guidelines was called into question by the planned funding for a conference to have been organized by the AAUP on academic boycotts and academic freedom[39]. NGO-Monitor wrote to Ms. Berresford noting that many of the academics invited to participate publicly supported boycotts of Israeli universities and systematically engaged in demonization of Israel. After much public pressure, the Ford Foundation and the other funding agencies expressed opposition to the conference, and it was eventually cancelled. Ford's initial agreement to fund this activity, which would have been in violation of its commitments, and the continued plan to publish papers to be edited by individuals who engage in demonization, are further evidence of the absence of a commitment to implement the guidelines.[40] Funding for a planned AAUP publication on the boycott debate, with chapters by many of the most vocal campaigners denying the legitimacy of Israel, continues to promote this hostile agenda.

Other Ford grantees in 2005

Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS), Lebanon

IPS received $70,000 "To undertake a comprehensive strategic planning process and formulate a long-term plan for increasing institutional effectiveness and sustainability."[41] IPS is "devoted to documentation, research, analysis, and publication on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict".[42] Its quarterly journal, the Journal of Palestine Studies, is published by the University of California Press, Berkeley.

This organization is characterized by a political position that strongly reflects the Palestinian narrative, on occasion relying upon extremely politically motivated terminology. In one such example, the IPS website promotes a book, which it jointly published, titled, "Palestinian History in Postage Stamps", in which is describes "Zionist crimes against the Palestinian people, including...massacres of ethnic cleansing."[43] Despite this, the IPS generally fulfills its aims of offering a "major source of accurate information and analysis on Palestinian affairs,"[44] concentrating predominantly on analyzing Palestinian historical, cultural, political experience. IPS does not promote boycotts or divestment campaigns.

The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA)

PASSIA, the recipient of a $70,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in 2005,[45] signed a letter backing the academic boycott of Israeli universities.[46] Continued funding of organizations that campaign for an academic boycott, seriously questions the Ford Foundation's commitment to "strongly support academic freedom".[47] PASSIA's work also includes lectures to international study groups presenting a revisionist history of Jerusalem, and reports on "Israeli Occupation Policies" devoid of any reference to Palestinian terror.[48]

Ir Amim

Israeli NGOs also received Ford funding in 2005. Ir Amim which "aspires to a stable Jerusalem, equitably shared by both Israeli and Palestinian peoples" received $100,000 "To develop collaborations with Palestinian civil society organizations in East Jerusalem and build their capacity to work for positive social change."[49] While acknowledging Israel's short-term benefit in building a security barrier, Ir Amim condemns "every politically motivated policy regarding the route of the Barrier and its accompanying border regime, which seeks unilaterally to influence future political arrangements in the area." (Ir Amim officials do not use demonization terms with reference to Israel, and are not considered to be active in promoting the Durban strategy.)

In the course of 2005, the Ford Foundation also funded several other organizations whose political activities have been documented by NGO Monitor. Although these grants were designated for specific programs, unconnected to Israel and the Palestinians, money is fungible, and NGO budgets are at times diverted to other activities.

  1. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an NGO that has a particularly hostile agenda towards Israel (and whose representatives also participated in the Durban conference),[50] received $90,000 for research and publications on human rights in Mexico and Colombia.[51] HRW continues to use current events to pursue a political agenda, including calls to cut U.S. aid to Israel.[52]
  2. Oxfam UK,received $200,000 in 2005 to advocate for the African Union Protocol on the rights of women in Africa[53]. NGO Monitor's analyses have highlighted Oxfam's political condemnations of Israel, the tendency towards silence on human rights abuses committed by Palestinians, including the use of children for acts of terror,[54] and the failure to condemn Palestinian suicide bombings.[55] In addition Oxfam UK actively campaigned against Israel's Gaza disengagement plan and condemned the EU's withholding of funds from the Hamas-led PA.[56]
  3. In addition, The Ford Foundation provided $20 million to the New Israel Fund for a five period, beginning in 2005.[57] Some of this funding may be used to promote highly political NGOs and individuals engaged in radical causes, as selected by the NIF[58].

In summary, while the Ford Foundation has declared its intention to closely monitor its funding recipients, it has continued to support certain NGOs in breach of the post-Durban commitment to avoid supporting "groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel." The cumulative effect of continued association with supporters of the academic boycott of Israel and the one-state solution is a serious challenge to the Ford Foundation's credibility.

Recommendations

Based on the findings of this report, NGO Monitor suggests the following recommendations to ensure that funding by the Ford Foundation is used in accordance with its own aims and commitments:

  1. The appointment of an independent ombudsman to oversee and report on the implementation of the Ford Foundation funding guidelines. This ombudsmen would be a point of contact and accountability between the public and the Ford Foundation, a much needed role due to Ford's continual failure to respond to enquiries and requests for information.[59]
  2. The Ford Foundation should consider the full range of activities of an NGO that it funds (not just its specific project). Money is fungible and the Ford Foundation has a responsibility to ensure that its funds are not covering overheads while an NGO pursues unacceptable campaigns. Participation in boycotts and divestment campaigns should immediately disqualify an NGO from funding.

Contributing research by Jonathan Steel

References:

59. The Ford Foundation has failed to respond to NGO Monitor's enquires repeatedly over an extended period of time, including requests for information in compiling this report. (28 April 2005: Ford Foundation NGO Funding Update - Implementation of Post-Durban Guidelines is Slow and Lacks Transparency)



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