NGO Monitor attacks Heinrich Boell funding for +972 and Zochrot
For a previous report on NGO Monitor, see Jerusalem NGO attacks other NGOs for ‘demonization’ of Jews
Shoah Foundation ends work with Israeli NGO that supports ‘Nakba.’
By Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post
BERLIN – The Jerusalem-based watchdog organization NGO Monitor sharply criticized a large German foundation on Wednesday for funding left-leaning online magazine +972 .
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a German think-tank affiliated with the Green Party, provided 6,000 euros to the magazine, which uses Israel’s international calling code number as its title.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post that “Heinrich Böll’s decision to support +972 fulfills no humanitarian purpose and does not foster peace and mutual understanding.”
He continued that Böll “cannot justify funding an online magazine that targets English speakers and routinely presents biased, one-sided perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This funding helps provide a platform used to demonize Israel. +972 reporters and bloggers, for example, invoke the hateful ‘apartheid’ analogy. Why is German taxpayer funding going to this counterproductive activity?”
+972 is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of Israeli journalists and bloggers, whose goal, they say is to “to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine.”
One contributor, Haggai Matar, wrote in +972 blog in January, “Dozens of Popular Committee activists gathered in Jericho for a ‘freedom ride’: an attempt to drive their cars to Ramallah on the fast lanes of the apartheid roads meant for Israelis only.”
Critics, including NGO Monitor, have argued that applying the term apartheid to Israel meets the criteria of modern anti-Semitism because it seeks to strip the Jewish state of its legitimacy.
When asked whether the Böll Foundation considers the comparison anti-Semitic, its spokeswoman Karoline Richter told the Post that Böll sees the apartheid application as part of “critical solidarity with Israel,” and the think tank does not want to censor +972.
Ralf Fücks, head of the Böll Foundation, wrote in a statement to the Post, “While the Heinrich Böll Foundation does not agree with each opinion expressed in individual contributions to the site, it has not and will not interfere in the content for its conviction for freedom of the press.”
“In this context, our grant to 972mag.com is part of a differentiated and pluralistic agenda we are following in Israel,” he added.
+972 did not immediately answer a Post query.
Steinberg said, “Contrary to Böll’s claims, +972 presents a one-sided, highly distorted view of the complex Arab- Israeli conflict. Such interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state is a blatant violation of democratic norms.”
Meanwhile, the German Shoah Foundation EVZ cut its financial support for Zochrot, an Israeli NGO that supports nakba. The Palestinians use the word nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) to reject Israel’s existence and to commemorate an estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled during the 1948 War of Independence.
Steinberg said, “This is a significant victory in the battle to hold funders accountable for their support of NGOs involved in demonization. Zochrot, a radical Israeli NGO, supports the Palestinian claim to a ‘Right of Return’ – which has no legal basis and would end the existence of Israel as the Jewish nation-state – endorsed the violent ‘Free Gaza Flotilla,’ and falsely accused Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.’”
In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Eugen Esau, a spokesman for EVZ, wrote that “the support for the projects from Zochrot contractually ended on December 31, 2011.”
Zochrot: Who We Are
Learning the Nakba as a condition for peace and reconciliation
By Norma Musih
Zochrot is an NGO whose goal is to introduce the Palestinian Nakba to the Israeli-Jewish public, to express the Nakba in Hebrew, to enable a place for the Nakba in the language and in the environment. This is in order to promote an alternative memory to the hegemonic Zionist memory. The Nakba is the disaster of the Palestinian people: the destruction of the villages and cities, the killing, the expulsion, the erasure of Palestinian culture. But the Nakba, I believe, is also our story, the story of the Jews who live in Israel, who enjoy the privileges of being the ‘winners.’
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
We are a political non-profit organization striving to promote democracy, civil society, equality and a healthy environment internationally. Headquarted in Berlin/Germany, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung has 28 offices worldwide and cooperates with more than 200 partners in more than 60 countries.
NGO Monitor tries to silence us by going after our donors. Supporting +972 is the best response!
By Noam Sheizaf, +972blog
+972 Magazine is at the center of a negative piece published today in the Jerusalem Post. According to the piece, a right-wing watchdog group called NGO Monitor has launched a public attack on the German Heinrich Böll Foundation for supporting the site with a grant of 6,000 euros, received last year.
In recent years, NGO Monitor has systematically targeted human right organizations, academics and progressive groups in Israel. A recent piece in Haaretz reported that right-wing groups have created a blacklist of some 1,000 academics, politicians and commentators who are targeted for being too “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist.” NGO Monitor works in the same way, but against non-profit organizations; their blacklist of Israeli organizations can be found here.
The Post article cites Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor:
“Heinrich Böll’s decision to support +972 fulfills no humanitarian purpose and does not foster peace and mutual understanding… [Böll] cannot justify funding an online magazine that targets English speakers and routinely presents biased, one-sided perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This funding helps provide a platform used to demonize Israel. +972 reporters and bloggers, for example, invoke the hateful ‘apartheid’ analogy. Why is German taxpayer funding going to this counterproductive activity?”
The attack on +972 is being carried out in the standard way NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu and similar organizations work these days: Not by debating the content of our reports and commentary pieces, but by trying to delegitimize and silence us.
It is worth noting that all the writing on our site is done on a voluntary basis, and the limited funding +972 received – in addition to the the writers’ personal investments – is used for editing and maintenance work on the site. Unable to prevent us from speaking or writing, NGO Monitor is instead trying to hurt our ability to operate. Since +972 is completely transparent about its financial resources; all the organization had to do is go to our “About” page to find the target of their censorship campaign.
The work of NGO Monitor and similar groups is not possible without the help of sympathetic reporters – in this case, the Jerusalem Post’s correspondent in Europe, Benjamin Weinthal. This isn’t the first time Weinthal carries out a hit job on behalf of NGO Monitor (see here, here, here, here, here and here). It should thus come as no surprise that while his article states that “+972 did not immediately answer a Post query,” we didn’t actually receive a request for comment – not by phone, not to the site e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) clearly presented on the “Contact Us” page, and not to my own e-mail, also available on the site. After the publication of the piece, we finally found a short request for comment, sent just a few hours before the Post ran its smear article, to the address set up to receive op-ed contributions to +972 (!). We can only assume that it was hoped we would miss the message.
Had we gotten a chance to comment, this is what we would have said to NGO Monitor, the Jerusalem Post and anyone else trying to censor, threaten and silence voices that make them uncomfortable:
+972 Magazine was launched a year and a half ago with a clear intention to bring fresh, on-the ground reporting and commentary not usually found in the mainstream media. While we don’t hide our support for human rights, freedom of information or our opposition to the occupation, the 15 bloggers, two editors and dozens of guest writers and photographers who have contributed to the site in the last 18 months represent a variety of voices, which are often at odds with one another. For us, giving voice to their opinions and reports represents a true commitment to democracy and freedom of expression. We see +972 as a unique platform for new ideas, fresh reports and vigorous debates.
Since the site was launched, we have posted texts by Palestinians, Egyptians, Americans, Europeans and Israelis. Of the 2,000 posts published on the site so far, anyone should be able to find some – or many – to disagree with. It is our belief that this offers opportunity for debate, not censorship.
Obviously, NGO Monitor and some of our journalist colleagues think differently.
These are difficult days for democracy and freedom of speech here. This is why we thank the Heinrich Böll fund for standing by +972, and for not interfering with the content on the site. We hope that others who have considered supporting us will also not surrender to smear campaigns or threats.
We urge our readers who wish to support us in the face of this attack to donate to the daily maintenance of the site, and to sign up for our weekly newsletter here.
Expanding the reach of +972 is, we believe, the best and most effective response to those who wish to silence us.
Statement of Ralf Fücks, President of Heinrich Böll Foundation
“As a political foundation that aims at strengthening vibrant civil society, open political discourse and liberal democracy in Germany and abroad, the Heinrich Böll Foundation also supports new and alternative media projects. Thus we have given a grant to “972 – Advancement of Citizen Journalism”, a registered Israeli non-profit organization dedicated at creating a platform (972mag.com) for independent journalism, debates and reports on current events for the Israeli and international public.
With our grant, we help maintain the platform. 972mag.com presents critical debates with a diversity of opinions. 972mag.com is committed to human rights, freedom of information and ending the occupation. Many topics are discussed with competing perspectives. In 2011, it was selected by the internet site of Israeli TV Channel 2 as one of five leading online news sources in Israel, and is thus a constructive and valuable element of the Israeli media landscape. Like the Jerusalem Post, it publishes in English to reach both an Israeli and an international readership. All articles present opinions of Israelis and Palestinians and are …the sole responsibility of the authors. They are open for public online comments. The site also invites frequent guest contributions to engage a wide range of Israeli society.
While the Heinrich Böll Foundation does not agree with each opinion expressed in individual contributions to the site, it has not and will not interfere in the content for its conviction for freedom of the press. Both the site and the non-profit organization follow Israeli laws and regulations and have never been accused of any wrongdoing.
This project is one of 17 current grants by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Israel ranging from green economy, energy efficiency, women’s participation in politics and economy, to the future of Israel’s pluralistic society and Israel’s peace and security in the region. In this effort, the Heinrich Böll Foundation also co-hosts a roundtable at this year’s Herzliya Conference on „A new EU Strategy for the Changing Middle East“ and frequently cooperates with institutions, such as the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), on questions of Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli-Turkish relationship and international security guarantees. We foster dialogue across the political spectrum with the Israeli government, Members of the Knesset, NGOs, the academia and a variety of journalists. In this context, our grant to 972mag.com is part of a differentiated and pluralistic agenda we are following in Israel.”