Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

NGOs- THE NEW ISRAEL FUND AND THE PROPAGANDA WAR AGAINST ISRAEL

Gerald M. Steinberg

The primary threats to Israel's survival do not come from Iran's weapons of mass destruction, or from Palestinian terrorists. Rather, the deeper danger comes from the continuing propaganda campaign that rejects Israel's legitimacy and seeks to rollback the UN partition decision of November 1947. This campaign produced the infamous UN resolution equating Zionism with racism in 1975, which was revived in the 2002 Durban conference. The Israel-bashers have shifted the focus away from the Palestinian responsibility for terrorism and the failure of the Oslo process, while promoting the great lies of massive human rights violations by Israel.

While Arab and Islamic organizations lead the way, such Israel-bashing is promoted by journalists, diplomats (including the UN), academics, and self-proclaimed human rights groups. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) enjoy a halo effect, and their claims to promote noble causes without a political axe to grind exempt them from scrutiny. In reality, however, these NGOs are at the very core of this other axis of evil. By promoting the campaign of hatred and delegitimization directed against Israel, these human rightsNGOs are themselves contributing to the justification of terrorism.

Charges of Israeli war crimes, violations of international law, systematic human rights abusesare commonplace in the reports and press-releases of NGOs such as Amnesty International, OXFAM, Christian Aid and Human Rights Watch. These reports generally rely on information supplied by Palestinians and their political or ideological supporters (often employed by the NGOs or UN agencies with whom they are in close contact), and the claims are rarely subject to independent confirmation. In addition, dozens of Israeli-based and Palestinian groups receive massive funding from abroad to produce a steady stream of anti-Israel political propaganda which has nothing to do with human rights. As documented in the analyses of the NGO Monitor, the lies and distortions are reported by journalists, repeated by diplomats and in UN publications, cited in academic journals, and then reappear as in the NGO websites.

In this propaganda war, it is surprising that some of the NGOs and their ignoble activities are funded by Jewish and Israel-oriented organizations such as the New Israel Fund. The most notorious example -- Physicians for Human Rights Israel, emphasizes illegal Israeli occupation, and uses the medical dimension as a thin cover to promote its ideological agenda. PHR-I's crude propaganda is seen by many as anti-Semitic, and has prompted the Israeli Medical Association to end all cooperation with this group. The cartoons published by PHR-I use stereotypes of Palestinian victims and Israeli oppressors, with no mention of brutal suicide attacks. Similarly, a group calling itself "The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions" uses terms such as "apartheid" to describe Israel efforts to prevent suicide bombings, and encourages Israeli Arab citizens to remember the Nakba (disaster) on May 15. Supports are urged to send donations through the NIF.

The NIF also funds the Nazareth-based Arab Association of Human Rights (HRA) and Adalah. Rather than working primarily to encourage values such as equality and tolerance among Israeli citizens, both Jewish and Arab, and delegitimize terrorism, these groups are at the forefront of the externally directed campaign to distort the Israeli reality. Instead, under the cover of human and civil rights, both groups promote blatant ideological and political agendas anchored in the delegitimation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In its press review, HRA consistently condemns Israeli actions to prevent terrorist attacks. Vital security measures are misleadingly labeled as evidence of discrimination, while facts that do not support this false charge are ignored. Similarly, Adalah has played a leading role in the promoting the myth that Israel is not a democracy.

Propaganda attacks on Israel are not included in NIF's stated goals, but the results undermine the claim to provide an alternative approach in support of Israeli democracy and Zionism. Many Israelis associate this organization primarily with the propaganda campaigns and funding for extremist fringe groups, while NIF's more positive activities are lost in the noise. A number of NIF supporters and officials have resigned following these revelations, and others are demanding a thorough accounting and change in policy. Given the important contributions that NIF makes in other areas, an immediate end to involvement in Israel-bashing disguised as support for human and civil rights would not come to early.