NGO report: B'Tselem tops European funding list

Report BTselem tops Eu

Human rights organization B'Tselem heads the list of Israeli NGOs receiving funding from European governments. According to a new report published by NGO Monitor and the Institute for Zionist Strategies, 16 Israeli NGOs received a total of NIS 31.5 million in European funding between the years 2006 and 2009. B'Tselem, HaMoked and Yesh Din each received at least NIS 8.5m. in European funding, lead by B'Tselem, which received over NIS 12m. during that period, the report found. These details emerged from a conference on the impact and transparency of European governments held at the Knesset on Tuesday afternoon. "For over a decade European governments have been manipulating Israeli politics and promoting demonization by funding a narrow group of favored non-governmental organizations," said NGO Monitor's president Gerald Steinberg. Representatives from B'Tselem, HaMoked and Yesh Din were not present during the proceedings, and only Dr. Gershon Baskin of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum, an unlisted Israeli NGO, addressed the conference. Steinberg said of the 20 NGOs listed in the report, all chose to decline invitations. "I'm a supporter of Israeli democracy," Dr. Baskin told The Jerusalem Post, " and I feel that the Knesset discussion today potentially had anti-democratic motifs. I felt I needed to be there regardless of the position of the other NGOs. I do not think that leaving the stage serves a positive purpose in this particular discussion. "I'm not hiding my agenda. I have an NGO that has a political agenda, and I have nothing to hide. This transparency should be maintained because I was not elected to my position. I believe that the law in Israel is not sufficient in demanding full transparency at all NGOs… I believe that all NGOs and all sources of funding should be transparent, and Israeli law should demand that all NGOs disclose their funding," he said. "I do not know who made them [NGO Monitor] judge and jury on the matter. NGO Monitor is clearly politically motivated, and I believe that there is no element of transparency in their political agenda," said Dr. Baskin. NGO Monitor and the Institute for Zionist Strategies published their joint report Tuesday. Entitled "Trojan Horse - The Impact of European Government Funding for Israeli NGOs," the report provides a detailed analysis of the activities of more than 20 Israel-based NGOs that have received funding from European governments. The report further examines the political agendas of these groups, and the way that they influence Israeli policy-making and public debate, including their extensive use of the legal system. As the "Trojan Horse" report claims, foreign-funded local NGOs are responsible for a significant portion of the petitions brought before the Israeli High Court of Justice. "The NGOs discussed in this analysis are highly active and visible participants in both the international and national debates on issues, such as the status and future of Jerusalem, the disputed territories in the West Bank and the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces. These NGOs issue high-profile statements and reports, generate media publicity, organize demonstrations, speak to student groups and army units and use the courts to advance their political agendas," the reports states in its summary. In addition to a discussion on the impact of the report, the "Trojan Horse" conference focused on the political, diplomatic and legal issues, as well as legislation being examined in response. The roundtable discussion and question-and-answer session included a wide spectrum of the current government's political opinions, with speeches by Likud members MK Michael Eitan and MK Yuli Edelstein, MK Avraham Michaeli of Shas, former ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, Gershon Baskin, Israel Harel of Haaretz and other professors and intellectuals in the field. Improvement of Government Services Minister MK Michael Eitan (Likud) commented about continuing to shape Israeli democracy through issues such as exposing the foreign financing of Israeli NGOs. "I'm always in favor of transparency, and the main point, especially here, is the critical importance of public opinion, which is very effective in government in all democratic states... Israel is threatened and has to fight, and I think we'll fight best by maintaining and strengthening our democratic values." NGO Monitor suggested that the first step to ending the practice of foreign sponsorship in Israeli NGOs is to require full transparency. According to their recommendation, if the legislation is enacted, before any NGO could accept funding from a foreign government, the details would have to be made public. Furthermore, NGO Monitor is calling for Israeli law to require full notification when foreign government money is used by NGOs for newspaper ads, political protests and conferences. Transparency would also allow European parliamentary oversight and expose the absence of professional evaluation of various NGO funding programs.