NGO Monitor slams joint NGO, Breaking the Silence activity
LAST UPDATED: 05/19/2011 02:41
German NGO Medico International funded Breaking the Silence book presentation in Ramallah where Israeli audiences cannot attend.
Ramallah sign Photo: Tovah Lazaroff
BERLIN – Controversy is swirling around the German NGO Medico International for
its financial support of the Israel-based NGO Breaking the Silence, including
its support for a planned – but subsequently canceled – book presentation on
Tuesday in Ramallah.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of the
Jerusalem-based human rights watchdog organization, NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem
Post before the cancellation that, “This specific event in Ramallah – funded by
a German NGO – highlights Breaking the Silence’s facade. The organization
presents itself as a grassroots NGO, directed towards Israeli audiences, but
many of its events take place outside of Israel, using funding from European
governments and the New Israel Fund.
New provocative photos of IDF soldiers on Facebook
Israel targets foreign gov't NGO funds
Even the name itself is misleading –
there is rigorous debate in Israel about IDF actions, and there certainly is no
‘silence’ about Israel to break in Ramallah.”
Medico International, a
health-services provider, was listed as a sponsor of Breaking the Silence’s book
presentation, according to a posting on the website of the Association of
International Development Agencies (AIDA).
The AIDA website notice read:
“Medico International has been a partner of Breaking the Silence since 2009, and
we would be honored if you can come to the book presentation.”
the Silence is an organization run by former IDF soldiers, which collects
testimonies of soldiers who served in the West Bank that involve cases of
mistreatment toward Palestinians. The organization states its goal as to
“portray a different and grim picture of questionable orders in many areas
regarding Palestinian civilians.”
Steinberg added that “The group’s
statements and activities show its activist nature – Breaking the Silence
members Yonatan and Itamar Shapira were on the ‘Jews for Justice for
Palestinians’ boat ‘Irene’ that tried to sail to Gaza in September 2009. During
a March exhibit in Sweden, a Breaking the Silence representative said that
Israel is the oppressor, and that Israel ‘creates the terror’ that it
In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Dana Golan, executive
director of Breaking the Silence, wrote “the information regarding an event in
Ramallah was based on a misunderstanding on the part of Medico International,
and that in actuality, no such event took place in.
“To be clear,
Breaking the Silence will hold no events in Ramallah as this is illegal under
Israeli law, and any such claim causes damage to our reputation and is grounds
for a lawsuit for libel.” Golan declined to answer Post questions about Medico
International funds for Breaking the Silence activities.
International receives funding from the German Foreign Ministry for specific
projects in Israel and the Mideast region.
In an e-mail to the Post on
Wednesday, Tsafrir Cohen, the coordinator for Palestine and Israel in Frankfurt,
wrote “Medico International is a highly transparent organization, and most of
the information requested can therefore be found on our website. Medico
international’s support for its Israeli partner organization Breaking the
Silence is funded by Medico International’s own donations, i.e. there are no
state or EU moneys involved.”
When asked about the Breaking the Silence
event, Luke McBain, the head of Medico’s offices in Israel, told the Post on
Tuesday that there has been a “cancellation of the event,” but Medico “supported
projects of Breaking the Silence in 2009 [and] 2010.”
A spokeswoman for
the German Foreign Ministry wrote the Post by e-mail on Tuesday, saying “the
Foreign Ministry does not contribute to Medico International. The Foreign
Ministry supports a project carried out with Medico International and local
partners for the reestablishment of the livelihood of marginalized community’s
in the Jordan Valley and the southern Hebron Hills through wind and solar
According to the German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, “412,000
euros were earmarked for the Medico International wind and solar energy
Steinberg, from NGO Monitor, responded, “The German Foreign
Ministry – as with other European foreign ministries – should more closely
monitor and evaluate how its funding to various NGOs is actually utilized.
Groups that receive Foreign Ministry funding should not utilize it in a manner
that contradicts the official policies of the government or contradicts the
NGOs’ own stated mission and principles.
“Certainly, events that are
purely anti- Israel – and represent only one narrative – do not help foster
peace and mutual understanding. Also, which bodies or committees or individuals
in the German government are involved in deciding to fund this or other
political advocacy NGOs, and what exactly is the decision-making process?”
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!