NGO watchdog flags ‘inconsistencies’ to Congress

NGO Monitor report meant to inform US lawmakers of recent grants bestowed to Palestinian organizations by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
May 21, 2013 03:23
2 minute read.
US Congress

US Congress 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK – Members of Congress received a report on Monday from NGO Monitor – a watchdog group for nongovernmental organizations based in Jerusalem – that highlights federal funding for some NGOs whose political activities may be inconsistent with US foreign policy goals.

The report is meant to bring the attention of congressional leaders to recent grants bestowed to Palestinian organizations by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, despite what NGO Monitor believes are operations by these groups that undermine democratic ideals and the peace process in the Middle East.

The report has been well received as constructive criticism by members of Congress, and has prompted a flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill.

NED officials say they plan on meeting with NGO Monitor representatives later this week to discuss their findings.

Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, says that US government officials “have been very forthcoming, very willing to meet and very eager to explain”– a contrast, he finds, to their European counterparts.

“But major differences remain,” Steinberg says.

“When you fund projects, you fund salaries and websites and infrastructure that aren’t in your control. And they rely on organizations for what they call self-reporting.

They’re all political organizations – they’re not going to tell you what they don’t want you to hear.”

The NED, which is funded through an act of US Congress, has provided one such organization with nearly $180,000 between 2007 and 2012. The Palestinian nonprofit, called MIFTAH, took heat this year for resurfacing a centuries-old smear on its website that accuses Jews of using Christian blood to make Passover matza.

Questioned on the report by the The Jerusalem Post, the NED sent a statement strongly defending its actions and questioning the quality of research in the new report.

“The main thrust of the NGO Monitor report is that some of the groups NED has supported to carry out democracy building activities in the West Bank and Gaza have engaged in anti-Israel advocacy, and that the Endowment has not properly monitored and evaluated the grants or reported on them with sufficient transparency,” the statement reads. “The facts are otherwise. Not a single project that NED has supported has included activity that can reasonably be characterized as anti-Israel advocacy or incitement of hatred against Israel.

“The report demonstrates a poor understanding of NED’s rigorous grant making and monitoring practices,” it adds.

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