Grumpy Old Man: Foreign intrigues, domestic intrigues

Transparency for NGOs funded by foreign governments? Terrific! In fact, why not for all NGOs, no matter who funds them?

February 11, 2016 16:47

The Knesset plenum . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

NGO Monitor does important work. According to its website, it “provides information and analysis, promotes accountability, and supports discussion on the reports and activities of NGOs… claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.... We intend to publicize distortions of human rights issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict and provide information and context for the benefit of NGOs working in the Middle East.”

The Jerusalem-based watchdog group was established in 2002. This was shortly after many hundreds of NGOs voted to adopt a notoriously anti-Israel, anti- Zionist and, in the eyes of quite a few, anti-Semitic declaration at the close of the UN’s World Conference against Racism held in late 2001 in South Africa.

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It monitors organizations abroad as well as here at home. They are too numerous to mention, so these are just some of the NGOs listed under the letter “I”: Ibdaa Cultural Center, Independent Diplomat, Interfaith International, International Commission of Jurists, International Human Rights Network, International Orthodox Christian Charities, International Solidarity Movement, Ir Amim, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Israeli Social TV and Ittijah.

But at least one “I” is missing.

According to its website, Im Tirtzu “works to strengthen and advance the values of Zionism in Israel” and focuses on “working toward a renewal of the Zionist discourse, Zionist thinking and Zionist ideology, to ensure the future of the Jewish nation and of the State of Israel and to advance Israeli society in coping with the challenges it faces.”

That works for me, and this kind of endeavor certainly comes under the rubric of human rights. After all, Zionists are human. Jews are human. Israelis are human. And they certainly have their rights. However, Im Tirtzu’s methodology can be seen as denying human rights to people who disagree with its particular view of Zionism, which at times is so muscular it seems to have gorged on steroids.

Most recently, it began branding people whose views of Zionism are at variance with its own as “moles,” a term that readily connotes treasonous activity. In so doing, it has whipped up delight and fervor among others who, to put it delicately, might see nothing wrong with putting a violent and permanent end to these people’s human rights. (And being bright, educated individuals who understand the zeitgeist of a country that’s going to have to confront a viciously divisive issue sooner or later, the group’s leadership cannot be unaware of this.) But when Im Tirtzu extended its scarlet-letter campaign to include some of the country’s greatest cultural icons, Israeli leaders and notables who previously supported the group, whether in the form of concrete endorsements or silent acquiescence, turned around and slammed it. Only when this happened did it back down, saying it had made a “mistake.”

Sure. A mistake. If Im Tirtzu’s leaders think they made a mistake, it’s only in that they allowed themselves to get caught at a dirty and dangerous game.

IM TIRTZU describes itself as an “extra-parliamentary movement.” That’s a fancy term for an NGO. Why doesn’t it appear on NGO Monitor’s list? After all, it’s denying people their human rights right here in Israel, and according to some who know what they’re talking about, its modus operandi at the very least flirts with fascism – if the two haven’t already exchanged vows.

In a recent op-ed piece, NGO Monitor media coordinator Aaron Kalman did call the Im Tirtzu mole campaign “despicable,” but beyond that, the watchdog group’s comments on the matter have been tepid, and as this went to press, it had yet to make any official statement.

And what about that anti-miscegenation group Lehava? Its lunatics get plenty physical any time they catch a whiff of an Arab man ogling a good, decent Jewess. I fear it’s just a matter of time before someone ends up six feet under owing to the ugliness and viciousness of the cult that has grown around Lehava ringleader Bentzi Gopstein, who recently called Christians “bloodsucking vampires” and urged that they be deported from our shores.

As NGO Monitor’s latest efforts are aimed at ferreting out the funders of left-wing Israeli groups, including foreign governments, the question needs to be asked: Who is financing right-wing groups, especially the extremists? Often, it’s our own government – and very often, it’s with funds that are cleverly disguised within more visible aspects of pork barrel handouts to coalition partners (and we all know that the people who sit around the cabinet table on Sunday mornings represent what is probably the most right-wing, agenda-driven amalgamation Israel has ever had).

Where Israeli taxpayer largesse leaves off, others pick up the tab. What about the Adelsons? The Moskowitzes? The Evangelicals? They might not be foreign governments (although the way Adelson is going, you never can tell). But you can’t call them domestic sources of funding, and their gifts are not always in our best interests.

So how about looking at Im Tirtzu, Lehava and many others on the Right, including, as just a short example, the Temple Mount Faithful and the Ir David Foundation (Elad)? All are NGOs that insist on exercising Jewish rights, even if the result is mayhem and bloodshed. Some of them stand a good chance of doing Israel great harm, whether it’s in hurrying along the apocalypse, scaring away allies or potential allies, or leaving us vulnerable to a situation in which we become a minority in our own land, thus endangering our democracy or our ability to be a much-needed haven for Jews. Or both.

Where Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s “transparency legislation” takes aim only at funding for left-wing groups, lawmakers from the Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and Meretz want to level the playing field and make funding for right-wing groups just as transparent. It’s only fair, isn’t it? THERE IS no shortage of NGOs that would like Israel to disappear, believing that by merely existing, the Jewish state runs counter to their goals, no matter how far removed from the Middle East they might be. Some of these organizations aren’t shy about it and say so on their websites and in their annual reports.

Others are more coy. These include the movement known as BDS (which, besides Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, might as well stand for base, demonic shitheads).

But not all those under NGO Monitor’s scrutiny are doppelgangers of such groups. Many are merely against the settlement enterprise or favor the twostate solution or promote policies at odds with those espoused by the Israeli government and its more ardent supporters. In the eyes of many, this makes them “anti-Israel” – although “pro-Israel” groups such as Im Tirtzu and Lehava are capable of doing as much harm to us, and even more.

NGO Monitor sets a fine example with transparency regarding its own funding sources. Yet even a cursory glance at its website shows that it, too, relies on the generosity of foreign governments through tax deductions for foreign donors. This means the donors’ governments are forgoing income, allowing the funds to go instead to NGO Monitor. Call it the tax man’s roundabout, but it’s similar enough to direct government funding.

Never mind. The real issue is that NGO Monitor is not so much a monitor of NGOs as it is a monitor of NGOs it perceives as working against Israel’s best interests.

That’s okay. Unfortunately, though, these are organizations on the Left, as if those are the only groups that can bring Israel down.

It’s time to add Im Tirtzu and a few others to the NGOs the watchdog group keeps in its sights. Either that or it should change its name to something a little less generic, say, “Lefty NGO Monitor,” just so it’s clear – for the sake of transparency – that it, too, has an agenda.

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