December 07, 2009
We are disappointed to see that the New Israel Fund (NIF) has joined the unprofessional and non-substantive attacks on NGO Monitor over the December 1 Knesset conference that focused on “Foreign Government Funding for NGO Political Activity in Israel.” The homepage of NIF’s website now (December 7) features a crude blog and a tendentious Jerusalem Post oped which falsely accuse NGO Monitor and me of “suppressing free speech” by calling for transparency in foreign governmental funding for Israeli NGOs. By highlighting such one-sided and ad hominem polemics, NIF’s website suggests a return to the mud-slinging that characterized earlier periods in its history.
This presentation is also highly deceptive. Readers of the NIF website have no way of knowing that the Knesset discussion, to which NIF leaders were invited, was not concerned with NIF grants. The purpose of this event was to discuss a detailed research report on the problems inherent in foreign government funding for non-governmental organizations in Israel, and related legislation.
In order to promote a serious debate, the Knesset sponsors invited Rachel Liel (CEO of NIF-Israel), along with officials from B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and others, to speak. NIF readers are not told that Rachel Liel refused to attend, and that the NGOs decided to boycott this important Knesset discussion, in the attempt to discredit it. NIF’s position paper, which was distributed at the conference, made the false charge that the “purpose [of the conference] is repression and silencing of voices.”
We urge the new leadership of NIF, both in the U.S. and Israel, to end their role in such counterproductive ideological attacks, and join with us in constructive debate on the role of political NGOs. We hope that you will agree that criticism should be accurate and substantive – not personal.
In the spirit of pluralism and constructive dialogue, we ask that you post this response on the NIF website.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor