Anti-Zionism by stealth

The recent decision of the European Court of Justice is not an isolated incident. It is just the most recent example of the continuing global pattern of anti-Zionism by stealth.

EU building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
EU building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
Anti-Zionism corrupts democratic institutions because it works in secrecy. Canada lived through the experience with Rights and Democracy, a now defunct government-created NGO.
A recent judgment of the European Court of Justice reminds us that the Canadian experience was part of a global pattern of non-disclosure of information about taxpayer funded grants to anti-Zionist NGOs.
NGO Monitor attempted to get from the European Union disclosure of the evaluation of the grants the EU lavished on anti-Zionist NGOs. The European Commission refused to provide the information. NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg took the European Commission to court.
The European Court of Justice in late November 2012 upheld the non-disclosure decision. The commission reasoned that, with public disclosure of the evaluations of the grants to the beneficiary NGOs, “there is a high risk that information would be used by opposing groups or persons to damage the reputation of those NGOs.” The court limited itself to determining whether procedures were respected, holding that the decision on the merits fell within the discretion of the commission.
The notion that information about evaluation of public funding should be withheld because its release might damage the reputation of the beneficiary is antithetical to democratic principles. The public has a right to know how their money is spent and whether the money is well spent or not.
THOUGH THE form of non-disclosure was different, the effort in Canada to hide from accountability was the same. When Israel began Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza, the staff of Rights and Democracy, a government-funded agency, attempted to get approval of a one-sided press release condemning Israel from its board of directors. Then-acting board chairman Jacques Gauthier, on behalf of the board, in early January 2009, refused.
The staff then did an end run around the board refusal, deciding at a management committee meeting in late January 2009 to use discretionary funding, without disclosure to the board, to pay Al Mezan, Al Haq and B’Tselem for confabulated, decontextualized “research” on the Gaza conflict. This “research” claimed that Israel had committed a wide range of human rights violations for what in reality was nothing more than self-defense efforts against Hamas attacks.
This “research,” at least in the short term, bamboozled Richard Goldstone and became the backbone of the one-sided Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, chaired by Goldstone. Goldstone, when he got hold of the real facts, eventually repudiated the report under his name.
The Rights and Democracy board finance committee innocently attempted, at its meeting in March 2009, to find out how discretionary funding was being spent. The staff flatly refused to give the committee that information, taking the bizarre position that only the full board was entitled to disclosure and not the finance committee.
The reason for the stonewalling became evident when the information was eventually released to the board (but only after the staff had lined up their friends on the board to support the staff position). In January 2010, after the board composition changed, taking away the staff’s supporting majority, the board voted, belatedly, to repudiate the grants.
Like Goldstone, Rights and Democracy president Rémy Beauregard had an about-face. He voted with the new majority in favor of the motion repudiating the grants which he had earlier approved. He acknowledged at the board meeting that “we could have done our homework better.” Tragically, he died of a heart attack that night, leading to a sustained public controversy.
The grant beneficiaries were themselves not open. Al Haq well over a year later disclosed the grant in its financial statement as a contribution to core funding.
B’Tselem, on its website, does not disclose the funding.
Information about the grant, in Hebrew only, dated a year and a half after the payment, is found on the website of GuideStar, an organization which gathers and publishes information about Israeli non-profits.
Al Mezan, on the cover of a report published in Arabic in June 2009 and in English in August 2009, “expresses appreciation” to Rights and Democracy for its “major contribution to the success of this documentation project.” The report does not indicate how much money was given or when.
The government of Canada through its 2012 budget abolished Rights and Democracy. At some point, an institution needs to be established to replace it. All government agencies, including the European Commission and the eventual successor to Rights and Democracy, though, need to lay in their defenses to prevent their seizure by staff running their own agenda without disclosure.
The recent decision of the European Court of Justice is not an isolated incident. It is just the most recent example of the continuing global pattern of anti-Zionism by stealth.
The writer is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the longest serving board member of Rights and Democracy.