Summary: The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), funded by the German
government, claims to “work towards contributing to the attainment of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.” While many of FES's activities are consistent with this mandate, other projects involve politicized NGOs, some of which focus their activities on ideological attacks against Israel, rather than on peace, good governance and development. FES partners include the Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center (SHAML), Gisha, Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), and the Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP). The activities of some of these groups include taking part anti-Israel boycotts, demonizing Israel as an apartheid state, promoting Palestinian claims to a "Right of Return," and issuing reports which use the
vocabulary of international law and human rights for partisan political and ideological agendas. In February 2007, FES engaged a consultant, who undertook a research mission that produced a one-sided, highly politicized report which condemned Israel's anti-terrorism activities. In addition, FES funded the 2004 Beirut International Conference on The Islamic World and Europe, jointly organized with Hezbollah's "Research Department". The support of this German organization for NGOs that deny Israel's right to self defense and embrace anti-Israel propaganda is particularly disturbing.
Funded by the German Government
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) was founded in 1925 as a political legacy of Germany's first democratically elected president, Friedrich Ebert. FES's stated goals are "furthering political and social education of individuals from all walks of life in the spirit of democracy and pluralism, facilitating access to university education and research for gifted young people by providing scholarships," and "contributing to international understanding and cooperation." FES's total annual budget is over 100 million Euros, mainly from public funding. The foundation spends approximately half of its annual budget on international activities.
Funding for the major German political foundations, of which FES is the largest, is systematically and by law assured out of the German federal budget, in direct proportion to the representation in the Bundestag of the parties with which they are associated. The FES is closely linked with the German Social Democratic Party. As an organization receiving financial support from the state, FES is subject to a certain degree of governmental control and influence. According to a study published by the Bundeszentrale f?r politische Bildung (Federal Office for Political Education), the major German political foundations, including the FES, constitute "the most effective and reliable instrument of German foreign policy."
The FES is very active on Israeli-Palestinian issues, but the funding level for these activities is not readily available. (In response to NGO Monitor’s requests for this information, the Jerusalem offices of FES referred us to their internet site, but we could not locate the information.) In examining the specific projects listed on the FES Israel website, the work of many of the projects and partners including universities, research foundations and NGOs are consistent with FES's stated mandate and do not pose a problem. Adva Center for Information on Equality and Social Justice in Israel, Na'amat, and The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies are among these constructive NGOs. (Funding for the so-called 'Geneva Initiative,' led by Meretz Party leader Yossi Beilin, is questionable as it viewed by many as an attempt to interfere with Israeli domestic and foreign policy.)
However, FES's extensive support for radical NGOs that operate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict zone, as well as in Lebanon, is very
significant, as can be discerned from the following analysis.
Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center (SHAML)
SHAML, which is listed as an FES regional partner, describes itself as "an independent non-governmental organization, dedicated to Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian Diaspora." SHAML's promotion of Palestinian claims of a "right of return", which constitute a major barrier to the realization of a two-state solution, undermines the efforts to foster peace that FES claims in its mission statement. This focus is emphasized in SHAML's Cine-Club—a project run jointly with FES—which screens films in the refugee camps. In an interview with the FES concerning the
Cine-Club, the director of SHAML and the Cine-Club's initiator, Dr. Sari Hanafi, has openly stated his support for the "right of return."
SHAML sponsors programs and publications that label Israeli policy as "apartheid." A member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), SHAML is a signatory of the call for "a comprehensive academic boycott of Apartheid Israel." (PNGO was instrumental in producing many of the preparatory documents for the Durban 2001 conference including the document calling for embargoes on Israel, and has issued calls for the "activation of popular resistance against Jewish colonies and the Wall". PNGO members also coordinate activities under the heading of "defending Jerusalem against Israeli measures aimed at the 'Judaization.'")
Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP)
As NGO Monitor has previously reported, HDIP, a Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO and FES regional partner, is a highly politicized organization functioning under the fašade of “policy research and planning regarding the Palestinian health care system." Although the HDIP is involved as a consultant to the World Health Organization, European Community, UNDP, UNICEF, and the World Bank, HDIP refers to the security barrier as an "apartheid wall" in its publications. In addition, the HDIP also runs Palestine Monitor, a radical website which regularly uses the rhetoric of incitement, accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and supports anti-Israel boycott campaigns.
Established in 2005 and based in Tel Aviv, Gisha, which receives annual funding from FES, describes its mandate as engaging "in litigation and advocacy that aim to help individuals exercise their right to freedom of movement while working for systemic change in military practices and abuses at Israeli border-crossings and checkpoints."However, as NGO Monitor has documented in detail, Gisha uses the vocabulary of
international law and human rights to promote a partisan political and ideological agenda, erasing essential facts and different opinions. Gisha's January, 2007 report, "Disengaged Occupiers," for example, repeatedly uses “apartheid” rhetoric.
Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
COHRE is a Geneva-based NGO which has received funding from FES. COHRE has worked together with the Palestinian NGO BADIL, which actively campaigns for the "right of return". BADIL was a signatory to an August 2002 call to boycott Israel, including an endorsement of the NGO Program of Action conceived at the 2001 Durban conference. Together COHRE and BADIL issued a joint report using the demonization rhetoric of the Durban NGO Forum, in which Israel is charged with "the calculated theft of Palestinian
land...through military aggression...the imposition of apartheid-like laws...a cruel form of ethnic cleansing." COHRE's director, Scott Leckie, is a former staff member at the PLO's Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit.
The Mossawa Center portrays itself as involved in "improving the social, economic and political status of the Arab citizens of Israel, while preserving their national and cultural rights as Palestinians." However, Mossawa has emerged as one of the main NGOs involved in the political demonization of Israel, using blanket charges of racism and similar terms. Its reports to UN committees often remove or minimize the context of terrorism to condemn Israeli security measures, and promote legal
arguments to undermine the State. Together with the EU, Mossawa held a conference November 25-December 1, 2006, where it presented a publication entitled "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel." This document called Israel an “ethnocratic state” which “cannot be defined as democratic,” and claimed that only “Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous people of the country,” ignoring Jewish historical ties to Israel and Jewish communal continuity. The report also called for the eradication of the Israeli flag and national anthem, for the right of the Arab minority to have a veto over matters of national import, and for the immediate implementation of the “Right of Return”.
Beirut International Conference on The Islamic World and Europe: A Joint FES – Hizbollah Project
In 2004, FES, in conjuction with Hezbollah's "research department," organized a joint conference in Beirut titled "The Islamic World and Europe: From Dialogue to Agreement." The conference featured speakers from Hezbollah and Hamas and the agenda included an item on "occupation and resistance". In response, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to formally rebuke the FES for its
participation in and funding of the conference.
Sponsorship of Politicized Events
In October 2006, FES sponsored a research mission to the West Bank and Gaza "to review human rights work" and "provide advice on the [FES's] own program" in these areas. The mission culminated in a February 2007 report entitled Defending Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Challenges and Opportunities. Although this "discussion paper" carries the disclaimer that "this report does not necessarily represent the views of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation," the Forward to the report, which offers a positive introduction to its findings, is written by Knut Dethlefsen, Director of the FES office in East Jerusalem. The report was authored by Iain Guest, founder and Executive Director of The Advocacy Project, a Washington, DC-based NGO with a prevalent anti-Israel political agenda and ideological emphasis. It is unfortunate that the FES selected a researcher whose credibility is problematic.
In the report Israel is blamed for the "humanitarian crisis" in the West Bank and Gaza. According to the report, "[T]here is consensus that the Israeli policy of 'closure' is responsible for the humanitarian crisis and has been made easier by the Oslo arrangements." (p.24) The report
downplays the responsibility of Palestinian terrorist groups and the basic right of Israel to defend its citizens against attack. Furthermore, the report implies a moral equivalency between terrorist attacks against Israel, and Israel's defense against terrorism. The following paragraph provides a clear example:
"Intensification of war and occupation. The war intensified dangerously in 2006, leading to wide-spread abuses against civilians on both sides and exhibiting a disregard for basic principles of human rights. Hamas militia fired hundreds of Kassam rockets at civilian targets in Israel, while the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) returned to the policy of incursions, mass arrests, extrajudicial killings, and the use of lethal force against noncombatants." (p. 6) (emphasis added)
While Hamas' attacks are noted, only Israel's actions against terrorism have highly charged adjectives and terminology attached to them. And in the proceeding paragraph, Palestinian casualty figures are reported but mention of Israeli victims of terror is omitted.
The report also uses the highly charged term "siege" to describe Israel's policy in the West Bank and Gaza. The author lauds efforts of Palestinian and Israel-based groups to bring about the "right of return" (p.63).
The conclusion states that, "in a larger sense, this mission was told repeatedly that Israel has no interest in the welfare of Palestinians or in seeing a democratic state in Palestine. Palestinians are convinced that Israel views them solely as a demographic and security threat". (p.7) This conclusion cites discussions held with a number of Palestinians; no parallel discussions with Israeli individuals were cited. Shawan Jabarin, one of the Palestinians who is cited, is the General Director of Al-Haq (another "Durban" NGO). Jabarin was also convicted by Israeli courts for his involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Canada. The author also relied on
testimony provided by Issam Younis, Director General of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza). As NGO Monitor has previously reported, Al-Mezan's publications often exploit human rights and international legal rhetoric, refer to Israeli counter-terrorism operations and policies as "ethnic cleansing," and fail to mention the wider context of Israeli counter-terrorism operations.
In summary, these examples demonstrate the role of FES-funded activities and NGOs in promoting extreme Palestinian positions that contribute to conflict. The role of an official German foundation in supporting NGOs and activities that undermine the legitimacy of Israel and actively
participate in the "Durban strategy" is particularly disturbing.