Verbal Vegetarianism and the Israeli Foreign Ministry

In a July 8 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, and a July 10 update on the NGO Monitor website, Prof. Gerald Steinberg makes the case for a more aggressive approach to anti-Israel NGOs by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Prof. Steinberg, the chairman of Bar-Ilan University’s Political Science Department, also heads NGO Monitor. In the article, Prof. Steinberg argues that the Israeli Foreign Ministry continues to ignore the damage that NGOs inflict on Israel’s reputation, and Israeli refusal to allocate manpower and resources to combat their smear campaigns harms Israel by circulating their agenda into mainstream media and even the U.S. government.

Prof. Steinberg points out, disturbingly, that many of these NGOs are funded by Zionist Jewish donors who give money to left-wing non-profits such as the New Israel Fund and the Ford Foundation. These well-intentioned donors expect their money to be used to promote civil rights and build civil society in Israel, and not funneled to anti-Israel NGOs. The NIF ran into trouble with many of its donors when it decided to continue to fund Adalah, the Israeli-Arab NGO that came out with a position paper last year against the notion of Israel as a Jewish state, proposing a “democratic constitution” that supported the “right of return”.

An NGO black hole in the Foreign Ministry

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
July 08, 2008
Jerusalem Post
For many years, the rhetoric of human rights has been one of the most effective weapons used against Israel. The strategy is simple – Israel is attacked, responds, and is instantly condemned for “war crimes,” “apartheid” and “collective punishment.” As a result, one would have thought that the Israeli government would have long ago launched a counter-offensive to expose and defeat such campaigns, led by powerful non-governmental organizations and amplified in the UN and the press.

But despite repeated defeats on this propaganda battlefield, the government, and the Foreign Ministry in particular, have failed to understand the danger or invest significantly in effective responses. For many years, the Foreign Ministry declared: “We only deal with governments, and not with non-government organizations (NGOs).” This may have been logical, but in practice, it meant that the intense bombardment from powerful organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and local NGOs such as B’Tselem, Adalah, Machsom Watch, and many more went unanswered. The officials of these groups used their resources to set the media agenda, invent (or distort) the terms of international law, falsify facts, and violate the universality of human rights.

Israeli silence changed briefly following the notorious NGO Forum of the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference on Racism. Four thousand officials from 2,000 NGOs declared Zionism to be apartheid, and adopted an anti-Israel strategy of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), propelled by human rights rhetoric, and in parallel to the Palestinian campaign of mass terror. The racist goal of this ostensibly anti-racist gathering was to delegitimize Israel as the home of the Jewish people. In response, the Foreign Ministry finally set up a desk to monitor and respond to the NGO attack. This was a small and grossly inadequate step, but at least it was moving in the right direction.

Now, as the UN and the anti-Israel NGO network prepare for the Durban Review Conference to be held in Geneva in April 2009, the Foreign Ministry has left the minimalist NGO desk empty. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has denounced the anti-Semitism of the UN’s Durban process, and announced that Israel will not participate if this continues. But the Israeli diplomatic corps was surprised when the Preparatory Committee for this review conference accredited the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. European members of the committee simply waved them through, and no Israeli official was aware of the process.

The damage from this black hole in the Israeli diplomatic universe goes far beyond the Durban process. Some of the NGOs promoting the demonization campaigns get more then half their annual budgets from European governments, under the misleading headlines of “partnerships for peace” or projects claiming to promote democracy and Palestinian development. Additional funds come from the Ford Foundation and from often well-intentioned Jewish donors to the New Israeli Fund based in the US, Britain and Canada. In every discussion with the ambassadors, heads of state and foreign ministers, as well as NIF members, Israeli officials should make the case for a halt in this funding of demonization.

Officials from the United States government, while generally less prone to repeat the mantras of human rights rhetoric and the false factual claims directed against Israel, are not immune. As NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis show, the State Department’s annual human rights reports often copy NGO claims without bothering to check their accuracy or the underlying bias. And recently, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice condemned Israel for barring candidates for a Fulbright fellowship from traveling from Gaza to Jerusalem for interviews. (Rice failed to mention the attack on the Fulbright convoy that killed three Americans 2003, after which video interviews were initiated.)

The false charge was linked to press reports of the activities of a political NGO known as Gisha, which receives funds from the Dutch and Norwegian governments. Gisha published a typically one-sided report condemning Israeli responses to rocket attacks in Gaza, including the closure to prevent movement in and out, as “collective punishment.” (Gisha’s concern for students does not extend to Israelis in Ashkelon and Sapir Colleges.)

MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, who heads the Knesset Education Committee and is a member of the governing coalition, gave Gisha a public platform, and he repeated the false claim of “collective punishment.” Gisha translated his words in a press release, and they were quoted in The New York Times and other major newspapers. Then, without consulting Israel, the State Department announced that as a result, it was canceling the scholarships for Gazans. By the time the facts were checked and corrections were published, the considerable damage based on Gisha’s human rights warfare was done. Had the Foreign Ministry been prepared to refute and repel this NGO attack, the harm could have been avoided.

If Israel is to defeat this kind of attack, the government must first find the battlefield.

6 Responses to Verbal Vegetarianism and the Israeli Foreign Ministry

  1. [...] theaugeanstables.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt In a July 8 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, and a July 10 update on the NGO Monitor website, Prof. Gerald Steinberg makes the case for a more aggressive approach to anti-Israel NGOs by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Prof. Steinberg, the chairman of Bar-Ilan University’s Political Science Department, also heads NGO Monitor. In the article, Prof. Steinberg argues that the Israeli Foreign Ministry continues to ignore the damage that NGOs inflict on Israel’s reputation, and Israeli refusal to allocate [...]

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Gerald Steinberg is right of course.

    But first of all, let’s note that –as he says– “some NGOs” get more than half their funding from European govts. That’s why John Rosenthal was right when, a few weeks ago, he recommended calling these spurious NGOs ["non-governmental organizations"] paragovernmental rather than “non-governmental.” That is, these outfits operate with governmental funding but without the usual governmental and/or parliamentary supervision, etc., although their political purposes may indeed be set by govts. We may also note that new Israel Fund and Ford Foundation operate in the same domains as do certain Euro govts. Indeed, the Ford Foundation, as a private body, seems to be allowed a considerable leeway in operating in foreign affairs, sometimes in contradiction to official US govt policy.

    The Ford’s activism in the Durban phantasmagoria is notorious. This use of “NGOs” or paragovernmental outfits by Ford and Euro govts can best be explained by Judeophobia, in my view, although this is a very subtle Judeophobia which pretends to act not against Jews but in favor of the “human rights” of others, in this case, of the recently invented “palestinian people” which never existed before in history. They also act in favor of “peace.”

    It often seems that the “human rights” of Arabs includes the right to murder Jews who live in the wrong place, just as ultra-nationalists in certain European countries might have killed a Jew one hundred years ago, and especially in the aftermath of WW One, for living in the wrong place. The “new” anti-Zionism does not seem to fundamentally differ from the old of the early 20th century. At best, anti-Zionism is the anti-imperialism of fools [to paraphrase August Bebel].

    Secondly, this contemptible policy by our foreign ministry seems to be part of the destructive legacy of Shimon Peres. He was foreign minister from 1986 to 1988 in the cohabitation govt with rotating prime ministers. He was pm from 1984 to 1986, and fm from 1986 to 1988, switching places with Yits’haq Shamir. One of Peres’ destructive acts was to dismantle the Israel Information Service, part of the foreign ministry up to then. Of course, this left some talented people, experienced in the field, without jobs and little influence. Peres argued in justification that what mattered was “good policy, not good hasbarah.” Of course, this is ridiculous in an age when representations of reality received by billions of people in their homes via TV, radio, “newspapers,” Internet, etc., are so often distorted and otherwise falsified, if not made up out of whole cloth like the Al-Durah hoax.

    This unreasonable attitude on Peres’ part –about hasbarah/communications and many other things– makes up reasons why he was never elected prime minister. Indeed, he was never elected president of Israel either. When the Knesset voted for a president a year ago, there were three candidates: Reuben Rivlin, Dalia Itzik, and Peres. None of the three got a majority, although Peres got the most votes. The other two candidates dropped out, leaving Peres as the only candidate and he simply became president without receiving the votes of most Knesset members.

  3. oao says:

    This unreasonable attitude on Peres’ part –about hasbarah/communications and many other things– makes up reasons why he was never elected prime minister.

    That and the fact that he is is self-centered, has no character and no class and antagonized most of the israeli and arab elite.

    consider the fact that despite his being the architect of oslo and walked hand in hand on the beach with arafat, the palestinians made sure he would not be PM by initiating a wave of terror just before his turn came.

  4. oao says:

    The “new” anti-Zionism does not seem to fundamentally differ from the old of the early 20th century. At best, anti-Zionism is the anti-imperialism of fools [to paraphrase August Bebel].

    why would it be different? the root is always the same:ignorance, envy and the unwilligness to accept responsibility for social crises.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    * * * * * * * * *
    I meant to say that the “new” anti-Zionism is not fundamentally different from the “old” antisemitism/Judeophobia. This is particularly true in the themes and claims made by today’s and yesteryear’s Judeophobes. Then the Jews were held as not being true Europeans, which meant true French, German, Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Polish, Russian, Rumanian, etc. Now –presto changeo– Jews are held as not being true Middle Easterners, not being “authentic” inhabitants of “palestine” [a geographic notion alien to the Arabs, by the way]. The Euro-Judeophobe of 100 years ago, perhaps someone like George DuMaurier, author of the Judeophobic novel Trilby [the villain is a swarthy Polish Jew], at least had his history right. The Jews in Europe [albeit not a pure race] did not originate in Europe but were on the whole descended from migrants, refugees, slaves captured in the Roman-Jewish wars, etc., although they had been in Europe since the Middle Ages as migration to Europe from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East continued [Cecil Roth, Simon Schwarzfuchs]. Another Judeophobic novelist was the immensely popular John Buchan and his 39 Steps concealing a Jewish conspiracy. Buchan was later rewarded by nomination as governor-general of Canada.

    Today’s Judeophobes in their “anti-Zionist” guise get even their history wrong, sometimes claiming –in so many words– that the Israelis are really true Europeans, the truest of Europeans –the whitest of the white, the most Nordic of the Nordics, as it were– and the most guilty, therefore, of colonialism, imperialism, racism, apartheid, etc. Here, the geographically alien nature of the Jew has been transposed from Europe to the Middle East, while –in addition– specifically Euro sins have been unloaded from Euros and laden onto the Jews. These claims are probably made more often by insinuation than by direct assertion. Yet, they are commonly expressed in the most politically correct Euro company. Today, as then, highly prestigious spirits in the UK, Germany, Portugal, Norway, etc., Nobel-prize winning novelists and the like, suspect a Jewish conspiracy behind whatever displeases them throughout the world, and they compulsively identify Israel with the Nazis. This is in order to recover their sense of moral superiority to the Jews. Before and during the Vichy regime in France, pacifists and socialists, as well as Rightists of the Maurras stripe, wanted peace with Hitler, with the Nazis, and then collaborated in the Vichy regime and persecution of Jews. On this see, inter alia, a recent book by Simon Epstein, Un Paradoxe francais.
    * * * * * * * *

  6. oao says:

    I meant to say that the “new” anti-Zionism is not fundamentally different from the “old” antisemitism/Judeophobia.

    That was exactly my point. Once you understand the root of antisemitism as scapegoating in crisis, it becomes crystal clear that anti-zionism is exactly the same thing.

    this is exactly what is happening to the likes of buchanan, the US left, W&M, judt etc. the west is collapsing, they are unwilling to admit and accept it, so they are using the jews as a scapegoat. so much easier psychologically.

    oao
    http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

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