NGOs - The new Israel Fund and the Propaganda War Against Israel

Canadian Jewish News
May 8, 2003
By 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 roll back the UN partition plan of November 1947.

This is the same campaign that produced the infamous UN resolution of 1975, which equated Zionism with racism and which was revived at the 2002 United Nations anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa. 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 that other axis of evil – journalists, diplomats (including the United Nations), academics and self-proclaimed universal human rights groups. These non-governmental organizations (NGOs) enjoy a halo effect, and an image of promoting noble causes without political bias exempts them from scrutiny. They are also extremely influential, and their reports are quoted extensively. In reality, however, these NGOs are at the very core of the anti-Israel axis of evil. By promoting the campaign of hatred and delegitimization, such groups are morally guilty of justifying terrorism.

Charges of Israeli war crimes, violations of international law and systematic human rights abuses are 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 that has nothing to do with human rights. As documented in the analyses of the B’nai Brith’s NGO Monitor, lies and distortions are reported by journalists, repeated by diplomats and in UN publications, cited in academic journals and then appear on NGO Web sites.

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 (PHR-I), 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 co-operation with this group. The cartoons published by PHR-I, including an eight-page pamphlet circulated in English and Hebrew last fall in Ha’aretz, use stereotypes of Palestinian victims and Israeli oppressors, with no mention of brutal suicide attacks.

The NIF also funds the Nazareth-based Arab Association of Human Rights (known as 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.

Under the cover of human and civil rights, both groups promote blatant ideological and political agendas anchored in the delegitimization 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 labelled 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.

Such objectives are not part of the NIF’s stated goals, but the results undermine its 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 could not come too quickly.