Canadian Jewish News
January 20, 2010
By Paul Lungen
The relationship between Canadian Jewish Congress and the United Church of Canada remains strained even after a church spokesperson further distanced the Protestant body from a Jewish anti-Zionist organization and said it would meet with Congress to discuss their differences.
Last week, United Church spokesman Bruce Gregersen said a letter to Congress would be sent this week responding to Congress’ request for a meeting.
He acknowledged that providing a $900 grant to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) was a mistake and that the church regretted doing it. “IJV is not an organization that we [the national church] choose to partner with for any future activity,” he said.
Congress CEO Bernie Farber did not appear satisfied with that response. He said, “it shouldn’t take two months to say let’s get together,” referring to Congress’ letter outlining its concerns and requesting a meeting. In addition, a statement distancing the United Church from IJV “was never made by the [church’s] moderator. It should have been done before.
“They need to put forward a policy by the national body. If they do that, it would be a huge step forward.”
Last summer, as the United Church met at its national conference, reports revealed it had provided IJV with a startup grant. IJV is harshly critical of Israel, and one of its latest postings on its website, an article from Israel by Nurit Peled Elhanan “is similar to the racist garbage we had to put up with in the 1980s and ’90s by [Holocaust denier] Ernst Zundel, that Israel is evil, malevolent and conspiratorial,” Farber said.
The United Church, he said, continued to link to IJV’s website even after pronouncing its regret about funding it. In addition, the United Church co-sponsored with IJV a speaking engagement by an anti-Zionist lecturer.
Farber said “despite our being faith partners with [the United Church] and others for 30 years, there is I suppose an expectation we have that we will not make common cause with groups that disparage our partner groups, that are hostile to the mainstream of each other’s communities and gives them neither comfort nor support.
“Despite that, the [United Church] continues to have a relationship that is antithetical to the Jewish community… No one should be under the illusion that the relationship with IJV is without serious consequences.”
Farber said that in early November, Congress president Mark Freiman sent a letter to the moderator of the United Church asking for a meeting. “We’ve received no substantial response.
“We wanted to talk as friends and partners do and to this day we have been ignored.”
Asked about the United Church publicizing IJV views, Gregersen said the national church doesn’t have the power to instruct regional bodies and committees to stop Internet links to IJV.
As for the national church, Gregersen said its position is that “the IJV is not an organization that we choose to partner with for any further activity.”
He said the United Church had previously responded by e-mail to Congress. “We sent Bernie Farber a message that [church general secretary] Nora Saunders was out of the country and we’ll respond when she returns.” Farber said he never received that message.
Gregersen said the United Church had granted Congress a privileged position at last summer’s national conference, giving it the right to address the assembly as honoured visitors.
“From our perspective, the relationship with Congress is still a valued relationship. We know it has been strained for various reasons… We’d be prepared to talk about it.”
For its part, the United Church has its own concerns including Congress’ reaction to the labeling of Kairos, an ecumenical church group, as anti-Semitic.
Gregersen suggested the United Church and Congress should “find something to do that is positive and gives us common ground and is a shared activity.” He suggested joint projects promoting “ecological justice.”
But Farber said that the two groups would not be “getting together until the issue is resolved.”
NGO Monitor turns to EU court for transparency
Jan. 21, 2010
Dan Izenberg , THE JERUSALEM POST
NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog organization, announced on Wednesday it has filed suit against the European Commission of the European Union, demanding that it meet its own transparency requirements and disclose internal documents revealing the decision-making process and criteria for funding Israeli and Palestinian nongovernment organizations.
Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, said at a press conference in Jerusalem that the EU has contributed at least NIS 177 million since June 2005 to about 150 Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, most of which he said demonized and delegitimized Israel.
The application to the EU Court of Justice was filed by the Asserson Law Office, an international law firm providing English legal services from Jerusalem.
Steinberg, who is a British citizen, said he was applying to the court on the basis of a European Commission regulation which states that "in the event of a total or partial refusal to grant access to documents, the applicant may institute court proceedings against the institution."
On October 23, 2008, Steinberg asked the EC for the transcripts of meetings relating to the funding decisions for grants to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs for the past three years under the PfP (the Partnership for Peace) and EIDHR (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) programs. He also asked for other reports and documents.
It took six months for the EC to respond to the request, but even then it only sent a small number of documents and only after whiting out substantial parts of their contents, charged Steinberg.
The EC told Steinberg it could not provide more information because disclosure would undermine public security and also damage privacy and commercial interests.
Attorney Trevor Asserson said none of these were applicable to Steinberg's request.
"The EC is throwing up a cloud of obfuscation," he charged.
Steinberg alleged that of the roughly 70 Israeli NGOs that receive funding from the EC, three-quarters demonize and delegitimize Israel. These, he charged, included B'Tselem, Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, Yesh Din, Ir Amim, Bimkom, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Adalah, The Israel Committee against House Demolitions, Gisha, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Peace Now, Mossawa, Breaking the Silence, Machsom Watch and The Center for Alternative Information.
Steinberg added that he regarded all organizations calling for a boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel as being anti-Israeli political organizations.
In response to Steinberg's charges, David Kriss, EU press and information manager, made the following statement: "In line with the EU regulations on transparency, the European Commission has provided Prof. Steinberg with comprehensive information on the funding of projects in Israel and in the region. The extensive information at Prof. Steinberg's disposal is proof of this. However, in accordance with European law, any EU citizen is entitled to launch an appeal against a decision of the Commission.
"...NGOs whose projects are supported by the European Commission need to be fully compliant with Commission rules and procedures and, in general, operate in a way which is fully consistent with the democratic values of the EU. This does not imply that EU policy has to be systematically reflected in all their statements, seminars or publications. In fact the Commission requires all project publications to carry a disclaimer stating clearly that the contents of a particular document can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. Moreover, the EU fully supports diversity of opinion and the right of expression as long as this is in line with its fundamental democratic principles. Information on funding is readily available on Commission Web sites."
**IAM Editor's note: Maariv's Ben Caspit exposed today the link between the Goldston Report and Israeli organizations funded by New Israel Fund.