WASHINGTON – A group of 12 Republican senators led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter this week to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on them to “rescind the $1-million grants that the State Department gives to anti-Israel NGOs.”
Earlier this year, The US State Department has offered a grant of up to $987,654 for projects that include reporting human rights violations by Israel, raising concern about the potential for abuse by organizations seeking boycotts, sanctions and international law tribunals against Israel.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announced “an open competition for projects that strengthen accountability and human rights in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza” last month, thought to be the first of its kind from Washington.
The proposals are meant to “collect, archive and maintain human rights documentation to support justice and accountability and civil society-led advocacy efforts, which may include documentation of legal or security sector violations and housing, land and property rights.”
Letter to Blinken
The Senators wrote in their letter that Blinken voiced commitment to “fighting efforts to delegitimize Israel” and to “tirelessly [working] to counter attempts to isolate Israel in the international community.”
The Senators went on to write that “on February 11, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for ‘Strengthening Human Rights and Accountability in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.’”
“The notice solicits projects for up to $987,654 in which grantee NGOs would boost the capacity of other NGOs to ‘collect, archive, and maintain human rights documentation to support justice and accountability... which may include documentation of legal or security sector violations and housing, land, and property rights,’” they added.
“The notice is explicit that proposals may include investigations into activities in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza or 'activities specific to each area,' e.g. Israel," the letter continued. "The similarities in rhetoric, logic, and implication between the State Department notice and the NGO Forum Declaration are striking and disturbing."
As a policy matter, it is wholly unacceptable for the State Department to fund NGOs to delegitimize and isolate Israel. None of these can be reconciled with your February 23, 2021 letter.Republican Senators to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
They finished their letter by calling on Blinken to rescind the funding.
Never before seen funding announcement
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, director of NGO Monitor, which tracks funding for NGOs dealing with Israel-related issues, told The Jerusalem Post last March that he has never seen a US funding announcement of this kind.
US funding “generally was not for these more political NGOs under the headings of human rights,” he said.
Steinberg wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that NGO projects of the kind described “are exploited for campaigns targeting Israel. These grantees lobby the International Criminal Court and UN frameworks – such as biased Commissions of Inquiry – to sanction Israel, promote BDS and use the ‘apartheid’ label.”