Established in Jerusalem in December 1998, MIFTAH seeks “to promote the principles of democracy and good governance within various components of Palestinian society,” while “engag[ing] local and international public opinion and official circles on the Palestinian cause.” The organization's founder was Palestinian Legislative Council member Hanan Ashrawi, who served as MIFTAH's secretary general through January 2006, at which time she was succeeded by Lily Feidy.
MIFTAH's activities are carried out under the auspices of two major programs:
The Media and Information program issues statements, petitions, interviews, commentary, press releases, fact sheets, reports, and special studies to offer perspectives on “particularly pressing issues”; administers a website providing “analytical examination of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as issues of Palestinian concern”; and seeks to promote professionalism in the Palestinian media while educating the public “to become more critical media consumers.”
In practice, however, MIFTAH fails to carry out many of these stated objectives. Most notably, the organization refers to the 1948 creation of Israel as "al Nakba," or "the Catastrophe," which resulted in "the dispossession, displacement, and uprooting of almost 1 million Palestinians … from their original homes." Proceeding from that premise, MIFTAH issues a continuous stream of press releases, public statements, and reports designed to undermine Israel's legitimacy while largely turning a blind eye to Arab terrorism. Indeed, MIFTAH regularly characterizes Palestinian terrorists as "activists" and “freedom fighters,” and condemns Israel's “extra-judicial killing” of such figures. When Israel carried out the targeted killing of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in 2004, MIFTAH condemned the “cold-blooded murder” not only as a “calculated measure aimed at a quadriplegic wheelchair-bound elderly man,” but as “an assault on all Palestinians.”
MIFTAH routinely misuses the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe Israeli security operations; depicts Israel as an apartheid state; refers to the anti-terrorism barrier in the West Bank as an “apartheid wall” whose real purpose is to help Israel steal Palestinian lands; perpetuates the argument, often heard in the Arab world, that Israel essentially dictates foreign policy to the United States; claims that Israeli military actions deliberately target Arab civilians; portrays suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as acts of "resistance"; lauds female suicide bombers for “sacrificing their lives for the cause"; and states that “the Israeli government is clearly bent on inflicting the maximum amount of pain on the Palestinians.”
In 2001 MIFTAH played an active role in the UN World Conference Against Racism, which devolved into an anti-Israel hatefest; Hanan Ashrawi herself addressed the Conference, denouncing Israel for its "brutal ... military occupation" and its "persistent colonialism, apartheid, racism, and victimization."
In December 2004, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) revealed that MIFTAH had fabricated numerous quotes as part of a propaganda campaign aimed at turning world opinion against Israel. For example, MIFTAH falsely reported that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had vowed to “burn every Palestinian child” and had boasted that “we, the Jewish people, control America.” On another occasion, MIFTAH falsely reported that a political aide to the mayor of Tel Aviv had vowed “to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Yet another false MIFTAH report quoted an IDF official saying that “the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel.”