Daily Israel Report

Ethical Guidelines May Make Demonizers’ Job Harder

Watchdog group NGO Monitor formulates guidelines for NGOs and their funders, to make it harder for the New Israel Fund to endanger Israel.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/5/2011, 3:59 PM / Last Update: 7/5/2011, 4:06 PM

Flash 90

Watchdog group NGO Monitor has formulated a set of guidelines for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the bodies that fund them, in the hope of making it harder for foreign governments and bodies like the New Israel Fund to damage Israel.

The release of the guidelines coincides with the New Israel Fund Board of Governors meeting, held in Jerusalem this week. The NIF markets itself as a Zionist fund, but its critics accuse it of disguising a neo-Marxist bent and of outright hostility to Israel.
 
In a press release, NGO Monitor notes three recent funding scandals that demonstrate a need for clear guidelines:
The Dutch government is in the process of reviewing and reducing funds to the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), after it learned that ICCO funds the anti-Semitic NGO Electronic Intifada, as well as other abuses. 
 
Switzerland froze funds to an Arab NGO named BADIL, after it learned that BADIL promotes boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and that it awarded a prize to an anti-Semitic cartoon that was posted on its website. 
 
The NIF on May 23 belatedly cut ties with the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), months after it claimed to have ended its funding of that group, which is a leader of the BDS movement. The group includes Women in Black, Machsom Watch, the pro-draft evasion New Profile and other radical organizations.
 
"Clear and public guidelines will allow NGOs to better monitor their own activities and rhetoric, and will allow funders to better track how their money is utilized," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. "Some NGOs that claim to promote human rights actually do the opposite, including demonization of Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel, as well as assaults on Israel's legitimacy.”
 
“NGO funders - both governments and foundations - are not always aware of this reality,” he noted. “The proposed Ethical Guidelines should contribute to an informed and civil public conversation about how to solve this problem".
 
However, NGO Monitor also notes that "these guidelines can only be guaranteed through independent assessments and analyses,” because “NGO and funder self-reporting are subject to conflicts of interest, as well as potential distortions.”
 
"As has been shown, some NGOs adopt a façade of 'human rights' to receive funding from governments and foundations," Steinberg adds. "By providing clear red lines, ensuring transparency, and introducing mechanisms for monitoring NGO activity, these guidelines will demonstrate which groups actually follow the missions that they proclaim, and which simply provide lip service to these principles. NGO Monitor will continue to work with and assist the NGO and funders that are interested in adopting guidelines."