|Founder||Gerald M. Steinberg|
|Focus||End promotion of "politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas" by certain NGOs.|
|Method||Academic research institute|
|Gerald M. Steinberg (President); Naftali Balanson, Managing Editor; Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor|
|US$ 385,000 (2008)|
|13 (November 2010)|
NGO Monitor (Non-governmental Organization Monitor) is a non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem, which analyzes and reports on the output of the international NGO community from a pro-Israel perspective. It has been characterized as being pro-Israel and as right-wing. NGO Monitor says in its mission statement that it was founded "to promote accountability, and advance a vigorous discussion on the reports and activities of humanitarian NGOs in the framework of the Arab–Israeli conflict."
The organization was founded in 2001 by Gerald M. Steinberg under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. NGO Monitor became a legally and financially independent organization in 2007.
The organization has been criticized by academic figures, diplomats, and journalists who have said that NGO Monitor's research and conclusions are driven by politics, that it does not examine right-wing NGOs, and that it puts out misleading information. Jennifer Rubin wrote in her Washington Post opinion column "Right Turn" that the organization exposes self-described human rights groups as being what they call anti-Israeli groups.
NGO Monitor states that its mission is to "end the practice used by certain self-declared 'humanitarian NGOs' of exploiting the label 'universal human rights values' to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas". A number of academics have written that NGO Monitor's aims and activities are political in nature.
The organization's leader Gerald M. Steinberg has reportedly worked for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister while heading NGO Monitor.
Structure and staff
NGO Monitor is the central project of the Organization for NGO Responsibility, an independent non-profit organization registered in Israel. Its president is Gerald M. Steinberg, professor of Political Science at Bar-Ilan University.
Its staff includes:
- Gerald M. Steinberg, president
- Naftali Balanson, managing editor
- Anne Herzberg, legal advisor
- Dov Yarden, chief executive officer
- Arnie Draiman, online communications
Its critics state that NGO Monitor is not transparent about its own funding, a claim denied by NGO Monitor. The Wechsler Family Foundation is one of the founding donors of NGO Monitor. Other acknowledged supporters are Nina Rosenwald (New York) and Newt Becker (Los Angeles). Since its separation from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) and its formation as an independent organization in 2007, NGO Monitor has drawn on a wider range of funding sources. NGO Monitor has said it receives no governmental support and is currently funded by private donors and foundations, although it did receive some funds, in 2010 and 2011, via The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), a quasi-governmental agency.
In 2010, the organization received a $500,000 grant from Research + Evaluation = Promoting Organizational Responsibility and Transparency (REPORT), formerly known as American Friends of NGO Monitor (AFNGOM). Private donors in the US were asked on the NGO Monitor's website to donate via REPORT. Other donors have been The Center for Jewish Community Studies (part of JCPA), American Friends of NGO Monitor (REPORT), Orion Foundation, Matan, Peter Simpson (Jerusalem), Nir Ben Josef, Real Property Investment, DR. Tuchmen, Jewish Federations of North America and the Wechsler Family Foundation. NGO Monitor's financial reports for 2009 to 2012, which includes donations above NIS 20,000 (approximately $5,200.00 as of 2012), are available on its website.
According to a February 2012 article written by Uri Blau in Haaretz, his examination of NGO Monitor's finances revealed that "the organization sought to block the publication of one contributor and to get hundreds of thousands of Shekels from anonymous sources". The donations in question were channeled through the Jewish Agency for Israel and Matan, and originated with undisclosed donors from outside Israel. In the same article, Jason Edelstein, NGO Monitor's communications director, is quoted as saying "all of our financial information is fully disclosed with the Registrar for Non-Profits as required by law".
A 2015 report published by the Peace Now movement discovered that NGO Monitor failed to file a legally-required disclosure regarding the source of its funding, and that much of the who funds the group is hidden from the public.
NGO Monitor maintains an online directory of NGOs worldwide, which generally includes a description of each organization, a quote from the organization itself, its funding sources, and selected quotes about the organization from publications and officials. NGO Monitor also has considerable material related to the first Durban Conference and the Durban strategy of divestment and boycott, as well as considerable discussion regarding the 2009 Durban Review Conference.
NGO Monitor staff have co-authored two books relating to NGOs: Best Practices for Human Rights and Humanitarian NGO Fact-Finding (with founder and president, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor's Legal Advisor Anne Herzberg, and NGO Monitor's Best Practices Legal Fellow, Jordan Berman) and The Goldstone Report 'Reconsidered': A Critical Analysis (with Prof. Steinberg and Anne Herzberg).
In 2009, NGO Monitor published a monograph titled "Experts or Ideologues: Systematic Analysis of Human Rights Watch", which includes analysis of key HRW staff members, five case studies of HRW campaigns, and quantitative analysis comparing HRW publications in the Middle East, covering the period from 2002 to 2009.
NGO Monitor released a document comparing Amnesty International's response to the twenty years of ethnic, religious and racial violence during the Second Sudanese Civil War to its treatment of Israel.
Rashid Khalidi describes NGO Monitor as an organisation that opposes legal means against Israel while at the same time being a proponent of the use of legal means against those who criticise Israel. Sabine Lang writes that NGO Monitor has focused on the use of legal means to limit funding to NGOs.
Neve Gordon, writing in Law & Society Review, describes the term as part of a campaign to portray human rights as a national security threat and to impede organizations that expose human rights abuses, using NGO Monitor's activities as one of its main examples.
In January 2010, Gerald Steinberg brought a case before the European Court of Justice arguing that it was wrong of the European Commission to withhold some of the contents of over 200 financial documents that NGO Monitor had requested, regarding the funding of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. In November 2012, the court said that NGO Monitor could not receive the financial documents regarding 16 projects of human rights organizations in Israel, calling it "in part, manifestly inadmissible and, in part, manifestly lacking any foundation in law". The EU commented "that the Middle East is an unstable region, and therefore such information may pose a danger to human rights groups". Steinberg said that "for over 10 years the EU has been keeping the information regarding funding of NGOs in complete secrecy. My conclusion is that they have something to hide. In addition to a violation of basic principles of government transparency, the secret funding is trying to manipulate the democratic process in Israel." Michael Sfard, a lawyer specializing in international human rights law said Steinberg "invents demons and then chases them.... All the data about the donations of foreign countries to Israeli human rights organizations are published on the Web sites of the organizations, as required by law."
In 2013, NGO Monitor issued a report on the findings of the 2011 Israeli law requiring Israeli non-governmental organizations to disclose financial contributions from foreign donors and governments. The report assessed that foreign funding of Israeli NGOs totalled NIS 34,355,579 in 2012. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, called the new law an "international model for transparency". Steinberg also stated his opinion that "the amount of foreign funding going to NGOs involved in polarizing activity in the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict as 'alarming'." The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) spokesman Marc Grey stated that donors to ACRI were already listed on its website making the law "redundant", the donations allowed organizations to protect human rights and freedoms, adding that "the basis for Israel's relations with democratic countries is shared values – democracy and human rights above all – the State of Israel itself is a recipient of funds from these very same countries, in the framework of trade agreements, investments, loans, and donations." A spokesman for B'Tselem said the information had been published on their website for years and said that NGO Monitor is a group of "Israeli government apologists masquerading as an objective watchdog. They do not even practice what they preach in terms of their own transparency and their sloppy, third-rate research."
Criticisms of NGOs
The organization formerly criticized the Ford Foundation for funding the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which took place in Durban, South Africa. The Ford Foundation has modified its policies regarding funding of NGOs. It also has taken exception to such accusations and says its involvement in the Palestinian territories reflects its belief that a just solution to the conflict is vitally important to the region and the peoples directly affected and that it also funds groups such as the New Israel Fund.
NGO Monitor also criticized B'Tselem, "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories".
NGO Monitor has criticized the New Israel Fund, which states that its primary objective is "to strengthen Israel's democracy". Larry Garber, then executive director of the New Israel Fund, and Eliezer Ya'ari, then NIF's Israel director and a retired Israeli air force major, wrote in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post that if Israel were to accept the premises of Gerald Steinberg, the director of NGO Monitor, then "Israel's credibility—and, more important, the nation's morality—will suffer."
With the stated aim of encouraging critical debate on the role of NGOs in the Middle East conflict, NGO Monitor held a 2006 conference in Jerusalem with 21 humanitarian aid groups in attendance. A panel discussed the pros and cons of NGOs dealing with Hamas. NGOs such as Amnesty International, B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights were invited to speak but declined. Amnesty International said the conference did "not give a balanced ground for open and fair dialogue" while another human rights group accused NGO Monitor of "partiality".
The on-line communications editor of NGO Monitor, Arnie Draiman, was indefinitely banned from editing Wikipedia articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict due to biased editing, concealing his place of work and using a second account in a way that is forbidden by Wikipedia policy. Draiman was a major contributor to the articles of his employers NGO Monitor and Gerald Steinberg, and performed hundreds of edits of human rights organizations, such as B'Tselem, the New Israel Fund, Human Rights Watch and many others which NGO Monitor's president, Professor Gerald Steinberg, opposes.
Jennifer Rubin, in an opinion piece on the website of The Washington Post in December 2010, said that NGO Monitor is "an organization that investigates and sharply criticizes many self-described human rights groups as thinly disguised anti-Israel outfits".
Yossi Alpher, writing in The Forward, said that since its inception, NGO Monitor has "exposed the manipulation of some human rights campaigns to malign Israel unjustly and even to undermine its viability as a Jewish state". But Alpher also complains that NGO Monitor "seems dead set on eliminating human rights monitoring of Israel entirely and smearing anyone who supports this vital activity".
The 2013 Menachem Begin Prize was awarded to NGO Monitor, "a leading organization defending the State of Israel and the Jewish people." The Begin Prize is awarded for "extraordinary act(s) for the benefit of the State of Israel and/or the Jewish People." Natan Sharansky said, "NGO Monitor is the leading organization defending the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
In an article in The Atlantic, Matti Friedman criticized international media covering Israel for having inappropriate ties to "international NGOs" that are "hostile to Israel" but that "provide reporters with social circles, romantic partners, and alternative employment." Fried describes the foreign press coups as exhibiting a uniform "distaste for Israel" and "a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism" that "is translated into editorial decisions made by individual reporters and editors covering Israel," to cite material provided by anti-Israel NGOs while refusing to quote NGO Monitor despite the fact that "it could have offered some partisan counterpoint in our articles to charges by NGOs that Israel had committed 'war crimes.'"
Yehudit Karp, a member of the International Council of the New Israel Fund and a former deputy attorney general of Israel, said that NGO Monitor has released information "it knew to be wrong, along with some manipulative interpretation".
The New Israel Fund said in May 2011 that NGO Monitor "knowingly published false information in its newsletter", regarding the NIF funding of Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP). NIF stated that NGO Monitor's director was provided with the correct information verbally in advance. NGO Monitor responded by asserting that its report was based on NIF grant information. NIF's rejoinder stated that its public records lag the end of the reporting year by several months, but reiterated that updated information was provided to NGO Monitor verbally. NIF also stated that it asked CWP to remove mention of NIF's name from the CWP website.
In July 2009, HRW issued a statement saying, "NGO Monitor ... conducts no field investigations and condemns anyone who criticizes Israel".
Uriel Heilman, a managing editor for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and a senior reporter for The Jerusalem Post, wrote in an online opinion column that there were a "couple of disingenuous (read: inaccurate) elements" in the May 2009 digest of NGO Monitor. Heilman rhetorically asked whether the situation itself was "enough for Steinberg and NGO Monitor's followers without Steinberg having to stretch the truth?" Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, later conceded the phrasing was confusing and revised the statement.
Kathleen Peratis, a member of the board of Human Rights Watch, called into question the research methodology underlying an op-ed by NGO Monitor's Steinberg for not saying specifically where or when HRW statements have been unverifiable. In 2006, she criticized NGO Monitor for accusations against Human Right Watch and its "executive director, whose father fled Nazi Germany". Peratis took issue with an op-ed by NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg titled "Ken Roth's Blood Libel", and argues those like NGO Monitor "who want selective exemption of Israel from the rules of war" may not "have faced the implications of getting what they wish for".
In 2009, David Newman criticized NGO Monitor for concentrating "almost entirely with a critique of peace-related NGOs and especially those which focus on human rights, as though there were no other NGOs to examine". He said that NGO Monitor, which he describes as a right-wing organization, had consistently refused requests to investigate the activities and funding of right-wing NGOs, many of which, Newman said, were facilitating illegal activity in the West Bank. In response, NGO Monitor wrote that it is "an independent research organization, providing detailed, systematic, and source-based analysis and publications regarding the activities of NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The ideological label employed by Newman, 'right wing', is neither accurate nor relevant". Newman also criticized NGO Monitor again in 2009, as well as in 2010 and 2012.
In January 2010, thirteen Israeli human rights organizations released a common statement describing NGO Monitor and Im Tirtzu as "extremist", and criticised an "unbridled and incendiary attack" by them against human rights groups.
Ambassador Andrew Stanley, the EU representative to Israel, took issue with NGO Monitor's description of EU policy as operating in secret, writing that "as Prof. Steinberg is fully aware from the various conversations we have had with him, funding of projects by the European Union worldwide is carried out by open and public calls for proposals published on EU websites, including the website of the Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel."
Michael Edwards lists NGO Monitor among a group of organisations who use deficiencies in NGO accountability as a pretext for politically motivated attacks to silence views with which they disagree. Edwards states that they "single out liberal or progressive groups for criticism while ignoring the same problems, if that is what they are, among NGOs allied with conservative views". According to Joel Peters, NGO Monitor's activities include "high profile campaigns with the aim of delegitimizing the activities of Israeli civil society and human rights organisations, especially those advocating the rights of Arab citizens of Israel and/or address the question of violations of human rights in the Occupied Territories", to which NGO Monitor responded by saying, "Our aims and objectives (holding political advocacy NGOs accountable, providing checks and balances, researching and publishing on these issues) are clearly spelled out."
According to Naomi Chazan, NGO Monitor is closely linked to a "tightly knit, coordinated set of associations" whose goal is to undermine liberal voices in Israel and entrench a negative image of them by means of having "continuously hammered away at their key message—in this instance, the abject disloyalty of certain civil society organizations and their funders and their collusion with Israel's most nefarious external detractors". Chazan states the aim is that "by reinforcing this mantra by every available means, innuendo could be transformed into fact".
Ilan Baruch, Israel's former ambassador to South Africa, said in a report by the Policy Working Group (PWG), published in September, 2018 that the organization "disseminates misleading and tendentious information, which it presents as factual in-depth research". NGO Monitor's efforts were designed to "defend and sustain [Israeli] government policies that help uphold Israel's occupation of ...the Palestinian territories". The Dutch government has also criticised NGO Monitor, singling out the unreliability of their accusations against human rights defenders. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said "the government is familiar with the accusations by NGO Monitor against a broad group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, as well as with criticism of the conduct of NGO Monitor itself", citing the PWG report. "This research shows that many of NGO Monitor's accusations are based on selective citations, half-facts and insinuations, but not necessarily on hard evidence", Minister Blok added.
NGO Monitor attempted in 2010 to cut the funding of The Electronic Intifada by the Dutch foundation Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation by asserting that the website was "anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime." It also said that EI's executive director campaigned to delegitimize and demonize Israel. The ICCO's website praised Electronic Intifada as "an internationally recognized daily news source", functioning as a counterweight to pro-Israeli reportage. The ICCO's chairman, Marinus Verweij, stated in reply:
Electronic Intifada ... has become an important source of information from the occupied Palestinian territories. Newspapers such as The Washington Post and the Financial Times have frequently used material from the Electronic Intifada,' and that '(t)he rights of Palestinian people to a decent way of living are central in the news brought by the EI. The EI reports frequently about the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the State of Israel. In no way is the EI anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.'
EI's Ali Abunimah, answering the accusations, noted that in the "scurrilous" claims, not one piece of evidence from the over 12,000 articles printed by EI since its inception in 2001 had been cited by the NGO.
According to a United States diplomatic cable, uncovered in the WikiLeaks documents, Prof. Gerald Steinberg said that "he did not want the NGO legislation to feed into the delegitimizing rhetoric, but that such an unintended consequence might be an acceptable cost to reduce the power of the NGOs' current monopolization of human rights rhetoric for politicized purposes."
In a 2009 opinion column written for The Jerusalem Post, Larry Derfner asserted that "NGO Monitor doesn't have a word of criticism for Israel, nor a word of acknowledgment, even grudging, for any detail in any human rights report that shows Israel to be less than utterly blameless. In fact, on the subject of Israel's human rights record, NGO Monitor doesn't have a word of disagreement with the Prime Minister's Office."
John H. Richardson, writing for Esquire magazine's website in 2009 described NGO Monitor as a "rabidly partisan organization that attacks just about anyone who dares to criticize Israel on any grounds". It notes that Steinberg is dedicated to fighting "the narrative war", and has made a "special project" of attacking Human Rights Watch.
Didi Remez, a former spokesperson for the Peace Now group and former consultant to BenOr Consulting, which was co-founded by Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, said NGO Monitor "is not an objective watchdog: It is a partisan operation that suppresses its perceived ideological adversaries through the sophisticated use of McCarthyite techniques – blacklisting, guilt by association and selective filtering of facts".
In an op-ed published in 2005 by The Forward, Leonard Fein, a former professor of politics and Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, takes issue with NGO Monitor's statement that Human Rights Watch (HRW) places "extreme emphasis on critical assessments of Israel" and has issued more reports about HRW than on any other of the 75 NGOs it concerns itself with. In his op-ed, Leonard Fein wrote that HRW has devoted more attention to five other nations in the region—Iraq, Sudan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran—than they have to Israel; but that, despite extensive correspondence, Mr Steinberg has failed to correct the "misleading" statement about HRW on the NGO Watch website. Fein argues that NGO Monitor may not be free of the "narrow political and ideological preferences" of which it accuses HRW. The Forward wrote that NGO Monitor says it has increased Human Right Watch's reporting on Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority while Human Rights Watch has rejected the statements and said it was dealing with counterterrorism in a post-9/11 world.
In a 2004 article for the Political Research Associates, Jean Hardisty and Elizabeth Furdon describe NGO Monitor as a "conservative NGO watchdog group ... which focuses on perceived threats to Israeli interests", adding that "the ideological slant of NGO Monitor's work is unabashedly pro-Israeli. It does not claim to be a politically neutral examination of NGO activities and practices."
Ittijah, Union of Arab Community-Based Organisations in Israel, has said NGO Monitor represents the interests and the say of the Israeli state rather than civil society's voice based on human rights values. Ittijah further states that NGO Monitor is guided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Naomi Chazan, former New Israel Fund president, NGO Monitor is "tied to the national-religious right".
In an op-ed published in Jewish Journal in 2016, Noam Shelef wrote that NGO Monitor's leaders are affiliated with the current Israeli government, and that the organization only scrutinizes progressive critics of government policies.
Associated Press "Ban" of NGO Monitor
According to former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman, the AP bureau in Jerusalem gave "explicit orders to reporters...to never quote [NGO Monitor] or its director, an American-raised professor named Gerald Steinberg." Friedman continues, and says, "In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor."
The AP responded by saying, "There was no "ban" on using Prof. Gerald Steinberg. He and his NGO Monitor group are cited in at least a half-dozen stories since the 2009 Gaza war."
Examining the evidence, law professor David Bernstein surmises that while there may not have bee a written ban, there was a clear bias by the AP in terms of what it chose not to cover and which sources it chose not to use, that the problem "might not primarily be who is being quoted, but whether NGO influence and possible bias are considered newsworthy to begin with."
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