NEW YORK – Writers for MIFTAH – a nonprofit founded in 1998 by Hanan Ashrawi, a
vocal advocate for the Palestinian cause who is well regarded by Western
officials – resurfaced a centuries-old smear over the Passover holiday on their
Arabic website that accuses Jews of using Christian blood in the preparation of
Invocation of the blood libel shocked Jewish groups after
it was picked up in English by a blog called the Elder of Ziyon.
collective pressure from these groups over several days was apparently enough to
force a retraction from MIFTAH – only after the nonprofit initially refused to
But the true shock has come from MIFTAH’s benefactors, who
have struggled to distance their financial support over several years from the
organization’s more extremist activities.
The governments of Italy,
Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, and Norway, among other EU members, have provided
funding for MIFTAH at least through 2011, according to NGO Monitor, which tracks
the financing of major nongovernmental organizations.
And the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded through an act of US Congress,
has provided MIFTAH with nearly $180,000 between 2007 and 2012.
whole funding process is very cloudy – it’s not very transparent at all,” said
Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “The NED didn’t do their due
Hanan Ashrawi was able to sell [MIFTAH’s] activities as
pro-peace and pro-civil society, and they didn’t look to see what kind of
organization they’re running. It was probably based more than anything on
personal connections, which is obviously a problem.”
Made aware of these
concerns, the NED told The Jerusalem Post that its financial support for MIFTAH
was directed toward its young leaders program, and was never directed toward its
NED’s spokesman noted that additional funding for
MIFTAH was not granted this year by the NED board of directors.
asked how the NED tracked its funding as earmarked for youth programs, as
opposed to its website operations, they had no additional
“Funders need to be vigilant about the groups they fund, and
require accountability,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-
Defamation League, calling the entire episode “outrageous.”
Steinberg believes that Ashrawi’s clout brings in easy money, he says that
unfortunately that’s how the nonprofit world often works, and that MIFTAH is
Yet MIFTAH, an organization with the explicit mission
of furthering the narrative of the Palestinian cause, has succeeded in gaining
repeated partnerships with UNESCO, which could not be reached for comment for
“European organizations are in the news every day discussing
settlements, and they refuse to repudiate things like this,” said Marvin Hier,
founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“UNESCO should never have
accepted the false Palestinian narrative.”
In the past, MIFTAH has
published on its website accusations of Israeli genocide, mass murder, and
apartheid against the Palestinians.
“MIFTAH addresses the grievances
caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and all of the illegal
practices that come with it,” Joharah Baker, a writer for MIFTAH, said to the
Post in an email.
“Our goal is a two-state solution that provides justice
to the Palestinians; anti- Semitism does not fit into our philosophy or
rhetoric, and never will.”
Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.