Ethical Guidelines Introduced for NGOs and Funders
Emphasis on Clear Red Lines and Transparency Would Help Avoid Demonization
Following revelations on funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Coalition of Women for Peace, BADIL, and Electronic Intifada, NGO Monitor today released “Ethical Guidelines for Political Advocacy NGOs,” to assist both NGOs and their funders in implementing transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility.
“Clear and public guidelines will allow NGOs to better monitor their own activities and rhetoric, and will allow funders to better track how their money is utilized,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “Some NGOs that claim to promote human rights actually do the opposite, including demonization of Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel, as well as assaults on Israel’s legitimacy. NGO funders – both governments and foundations – are not always aware of this reality. The proposed Ethical Guidelines should contribute to an informed and civil public conversation about how to solve this problem.”
The guidelines call on organizations to “adopt binding guidelines, specifying advocacy activities related to demonization, political warfare and political antisemitism that they will not participate in or support in any manner.” Based on existing guidelines and definitions, including the 2010 Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, NGO Monitor’s guidelines would prohibit “Use of language or accusations of ‘apartheid,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’…and ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, based on gross distortions of international law.”
NGO Monitor notes that “these guidelines can only be guaranteed through independent assessments and analyses. NGO and funder self-reporting are subject to conflicts of interest, as well as potential distortions.”
Recent funding scandals demonstrate a need for clear guidelines:
The Dutch government is in the process of reviewing and reducing funds to the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), after it learned that ICCO funds the antisemitic NGO Electronic Intifada, as well as other abuses. Similarly, Switzerland froze funds to the Palestinian NGO BADIL, after it learned that BADIL promotes boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and awarded a prize to an antisemitic cartoon (posted on its website). And the New Israel Fund (NIF) on May 23, 2011 belatedly cut ties with the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), months after it claimed to have ended its funding of that group, a leader of the BDS movement.
“As has been shown, some NGOs adopt a façade of ‘human rights’ to receive funding from governments and foundations,” Steinberg adds. “By providing clear red lines, ensuring transparency, and introducing mechanisms for monitoring NGO activity, these guidelines will demonstrate which groups actually follow the missions that they proclaim, and which simply provide lip service to these principles. NGO Monitor will continue to work with and assist the NGO and funders that are interested in adopting guidelines.”
The release of the guidelines coincides with the NIF Board of Governors meeting, held in Jerusalem this week.
Ethical Guidelines for Political Advocacy NGOs
Organizations that pursue moral agendas have a particular obligation to operate according to ethical principles, including transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility. In the context of Israel, this includes abstaining from demonizing attacks against Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel, as well as assaults on Israel’s legitimacy.
In contrast, the activities of some “political advocacy” NGOs claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian aid demonstrate the absence of these principles. In many cases, their funders are either unaware of or excuse and accept such ethical violations.
Therefore, NGO Monitor is proposing the following ethical guidelines, based on existing models, to ensure that declaratory “red lines” are reflected in substantive policy of NGOs and their funders.
1. Organizations should adopt binding guidelines, specifying advocacy activities related to demonization, political warfare and political antisemitism that they will not participate in or support in any manner. These guidelines should be stated clearly and published in accordance with transparency principles. Existing guidelines and definitions include the 2005 European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism,” the 2010 San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s “Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees,” the 2010 Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, and the 2009 London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism (Appendix 1).
2. Based on these standards, the guidelines should prohibit involvement in:
a. Use of language or accusations of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and similar terms of demonization against Israel or Israelis, and “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity”, based on gross distortions of international law. These tactics are based on the 2001 Durban NGO Forum Declaration, which called for the “complete and total isolation of Israel” through sanctions, boycotts, and legal processes.
b. Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)
c. “Lawfare” − legal threats or actions against Israeli officials abroad.
d. UN-related activities that use double-standards, single-out Israel, and promote lawfare and demonization, as in the Goldstone report.
e. Opposition to Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state, including calling for the elimination of the Jewish framework; a “one-state solution”; Palestinian “right of return” claims; or the revocation of the Law of Return for Jews.
f. Antisemitic statements or activities, as defined in Part 1 above. 3. Partnerships with groups found to have violated the guidelines should end immediately.
1. The standards set out above (A2) should also apply to organizations and institutions that fund NGOs.
2. Funders should adopt binding funding guidelines at the board of directors level, specifying advocacy activities related to demonization that are not permitted for grantees.
3. Funding for NGOs found to have violated the guidelines should end immediately.
4. The same guidelines should apply to all donor-advised funding and other forms of support.
1. These guidelines can only be guaranteed through independent assessments and analyses. NGO and funder self-reporting are subject to conflicts of interest, as well as potential distortions.
2. NGO Monitor recommends the establishment of independent ombudsman offices to implement the assessment process and, where relevant, to recommend and implement appropriate remedies for problematic activities.
1. All activities and funding related to these issues must be fully transparent and reported in a timely manner. The reporting should not link to general statements by NGOs.
Appendix 1: Existing Definitions and Guidelines
1. European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism” – 2005 (excerpts): Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis. This definition was also reflected in the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups Against Antisemitism.
2. The San Francisco Jewish Community Federation “Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees” (2010) restricts eligibility for groups that “through their mission, activities or partnerships” advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.
3. The 2010 Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, which reaffirmed the 2009 London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, was adopted by the Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. The Protocol states, in part: We remain alarmed by ongoing state-sanctioned genocidal antisemitism and related extremist ideologies. If antisemitism is the most enduring of hatreds, and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of the genocidal intent embodied in antisemitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations. We are appalled by the resurgence of the classic anti-Jewish libels, including: – The Blood Libel (that Jews use the blood of children for ritual sacrifice) – The Jews as “Poisoners of the Wells” – responsible for all evils in the world – The myth of the “new Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the tsarist forgery that proclaimed an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination – and accuses the Jews of controlling government, the economy, media and public institutions. – The double entendre of denying the Holocaust – accusing the Jews of fabricating the Holocaust as a hoax – and the nazification of the Jew and the Jewish people.