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December 2012

How much does it cost to delegitimize Israel?
Gerald Steinberg and Giovanni Quer

Facts on public funding of Italian NGOs that delegitimize Israel

Edited by Giovanni Quer
Federazione delle Associazioni Italia-Israele
Informazione Corretta
Fondazione Camis De Fonseca

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become the principal source of information of States and international organizations with respect to human rights.
How do NGOs influence States’ interests and foreign policy?

Major donors of NGOs are States: can these NGOs living on public funding define themselves non-governmental?

Activities of international cooperation are integral part of Italy’s foreign policy: who controls NGOs that execute part of Italian foreign policy?

Public funding to NGOs comes from Regions, Provinces, Municipalities, Cooperazione Italiana (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and other International Organizations. Who decides about NGOs funding? Why is data not accessible? Why this lack of transparency?

Anti-Israeli ideology leads to indulgence on terrorism and its pervasive nature. This report has verified cases of cooperation with organizations that support terrorism. How can we impede NGOs operating in Palestine from collaborating with terrorist organizations?

This report analyzes public funding to NGOs that delegitimize Israel, highlights the strategies of demonization, criticizes the lack of transparency, and requests new rules for international aid.

The delegitimization of Israel

The delegitimization of Israel is a diplomatic war started with the adoption of 1975 UN General Assembly Resolution equating Zionism to racism.

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, delegitimization was the result of the historical-ideological context of the Cold War; currently, delegitimization is the result of third-worldism and other ideologies that exploit the human rights discourse.

The most active actors in international delegitimization campaigns are NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Cooperation projects in Palestine are to be interpreted through the lenses of anti-Israeli ideology: the attention toward the Palestinian people is galvanized by the hostility against Israel. Consequently, the existence of Israel is the only cause of Palestinian victimhood.

NGOs live on public funding that affiliate the organizations to the financing public institution, which therefore tacitly share their ideological views.

This tacit ideological consent creates a double foreign policy toward Israel: the official one, friendly and supportive, and the opposite, based on human rights, of condemnation and stigmatization.

Delegitimization occurs in the following forms: emotional propaganda (use of language and images), omissive information, and indirect support for terrorism.

The legalistic discourse is functional to the distortion of facts in the debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict, by formulating accusations that profoundly fascinate the public because based on such values as justice, equality, and freedom.

Delegitimization in numbers

- Only 47% of accessible data report the sum of Italian Regions’ funding of NGOs, which amounts to: 4,947,832.00 EUR.

- Italy’s funding (through the “Cooperazione Italiana” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) amounts to: 137,143,359.00 EUR, of which 79,126,000.00 EUR allocated to institutions of the Palestinian Authority and 58,017,359.00 EUR allocated to NGOs operating in Palestine.

The whole report can be read in pdf format clicking on "download".

The Role of NGOs in the Delegitimization of Israel, by prof. Gerald Steinberg

Prof Gerald M. Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor and
Political Science Department, Bar Ilan University

For more than ten years, the Italian government and local authorities have provided taxpayer funds to a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are centrally involved in anti-peace and anti-Israel political advocacy. Like many other Western European governments, the flow of millions of Euros annually from the Italian budget to a number of radical political advocacy groups has been largely hidden from public view. There have been no government documents detailing how the recipients are chosen; listing the amounts and recipients in a comprehensive framework; or evaluating what, if anything useful has been accomplished. Clearly, this money has not led to breakthroughs in the Arab-Israeli peace efforts, or helped the Palestinian population under the control of Hamas become economically independent and democratic.

Similarly, the Italian parliament has not debated the justification of these policies, or examined the outcomes by asking whether these tens of millions are being spent wisely, or are actually counterproductive to stated policy goals of promoting peace, democracy, and human rights. In parallel, the otherwise active Italian journalists have allowed the NGO "halo effect" to prevent any serious independent investigations.

Given this history of failure, the following report, based on systematic, detailed and fully sourced research, marks an extremely important contribution to understanding the Italian government's annual budgetary allocation to a small group of political advocacy NGOs operating in the Middle East. For the first time, the evidence is presented both to the Italian public and the citizens in the region (particularly Israelis).

The analysis clearly demonstrates that, at the very least, millions of Euros in Italian taxpayer funds are being wasted every year on a small group of favored political NGOs that accomplish nothing of significance.

In a more disturbing analysis, this money is used for immoral objectives related to political warfare against Israel, singling out the Jewish state in a racist manner and exploiting the language of human rights to destroy these very principles. Since the notorious NGO Forum at the 2001 UN Durban conference adopted a strategy for the elimination of Israel based on false allegations of "apartheid" and "war crimes", these radical NGOs have received European government funding, including from Italy. There is no moral justification for government support of these anti-human rights, anti-peace, and anti-Israel organizations. While many use the language of human rights, humanitarian aid, and peace, their agendas are not consistent with any of these moral objectives.

The publication of this independent research report should not mark the end of this project, but rather, the beginning. On this basis, government ministries and officials have been put on notice -- the era of secret and immoral NGO funding is over. Parliamentary committees can begin investigations of the responsible officials and branches, while journalists now have a document that details this funding and the counterproductive NGO activities that result. In this way, Italy can join the UK and Canada, whose governments have begun to stop such wasteful and immoral NGO funding.

The delegitimization of Israel, by Giovanni Quer

The delegitimization of Israel is a form of diplomatic war based on demonization, historical distortion, and boycotts. These campaigns portray Israel as a pariah state, deny its right to exist, and consequently, its right to self-defense. The diplomatic war against Israel began during the Cold War, and includes the adoption of the 1975 UN General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. From the 1970s through the 1990s, the delegitimization of Israel was part of Cold War history and ideology; currently, it is part of an international context defined by human rights and third-worldism, or post-colonialism. This ideology views political relations between developed and developing countries through the theories of Antonio Gramsci, an influential Italian Marxist, and an overarching ideological frame of neo-colonial hegemony and exploitation. This was reflected in structures such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which sought to constitute an alternative power to the then polarized world. 1

Post-colonialism tends to focus primarily, if not exclusively, on criticism toward the West or toward those states perceived as hegemonic, and thus perceived as imperialist2. This worldview is reflected in the political analyses of the Arab-Israeli conflict, where Israel, considered the hegemonic power, features as the colonialist power over the Palestinians, the colonized people3.

Post-colonial images of Middle East in general, and of the Arab-Israeli conflict specifically, portray Israel as the major cause of Palestinian suffering. This biased approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict and antipathy toward Israel are accepted as part of an ideological interpretation of history and politics.

NGOs (non-governmental organizations), the leading non-state actors in the post-modern international arena and active proponents of third-worldism, are a major component of the efforts to delegitimize Israel. In this process, public funding is provided to NGOs, through grants from national and local governments.

Government funding for NGOs reflects tacit ideological consent, lending a stamp of state approval to NGO activity and, at times, to an overall ideology. This implied approval is also noteworthy in cases of funding for individual projects. By selecting a specific project, the funding body legitimizes the NGO analysis as well as its joint activities with local partners, at times extending to links with terror organizations, as will be shown in the report.

In the case of Italian funding of NGOs, this ideological consent for anti-Israel forces clashes with Italy’s official foreign policy and creates an inconsistent relationship with Israel; on the one hand, the official foreign policy is based on friendly relations, shared values, and mutual respect; on the other, an unofficial tacit state policy of condemnation, stigmatization, and demonization.

This report examines public funding for those NGOs that operate in Israel/ the Palestinian Authority. Three major problems arise in the process of data collection:
- Lack of transparency
- Incomplete information
- Post-colonialist rhetoric

Full data on grants to political NGOs is not available on local authorities’ web sites, where, in some cases, information on the previous five years is published. In many cases, the amounts of specific grants to NGOs, as well as the percentage of the total project budget, are not reported. The composition of the evaluation committee that selects a project is never reported. Furthermore, different local authorities may fund the same project: either through the same organization via duplicate submissions, or through multiple contributions to the same project by numerous local authorities.

This report aims to critically analyze Italian public funding to NGOs that delegitimize Israel through ideology, activities, and reporting. Specifically, this study questions the efficiency of international aid when dealing with large funds, without proper oversight. Furthermore, the report investigates the legitimacy of NGO funding under Italian constitutional law, in light of local authorities’ responsibilities and potential inconsistency with official foreign policy. According to the principle of transparency, cooperation activities, which receive public funding, should be subject to public scrutiny.

By critically reviewing foreign aid policies, it is possible to pursue humanitarian aims for the Palestinian people, and to simultaneously avoid the delegitimization of Israel and cooperation with terrorist groups, as this report will show. Moreover, public scrutiny will counterbalance the spread of anti-Israel, third-worldist ideologies, which are not conducive to conflict-resolution, or to the economic development of Palestinian society.

In this respect, the NGO silence during the Second Intifada, the spreading of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate speech in the media and schools, and the atrocities of the Hamas regime, all shows a mystified interpretation of history 4, conflicting with justice and freedom, and a harmful acquiescence to a political ideology that denies Israel’s right to exist.

1On the development of third-worldism from Marxist to post-colonial theories in the realm of international political economy and political theory, see Neil Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
2Pascal Bruckner, The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt , (New York: Free Press, 1986).
3Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), pp. 64-71.
4Mystification, in Marxist terms, is the misinterpretation of historical facts according to the needs and interests of the ruling economic class. In constructivist-Gramscian terms (referring to the theories of Antonio Gramsci, by considering the world as a composition of discourses and of hegemonic elites that impose a certain narrative), mystification becomes the misinterpretation or rewriting of history according to a dominant narrative. In this sense, mystification has two elements: distortion of historical facts and willful reconstruction of historical sequences or fabrication of historical myths, for the interests of a dominant group and its narrative.