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General Articles
IAM Weekend collection on some Israeli academics associated with anti-Israel Israeli organizations


Rights & Democracy: Committed to accountability and oversight
Posted: January 20, 2010, 10:30 AM by NP Editor

In recent days, Rights & Democracy — a non-partisan organization created by Canada’s Parliament in 1988 to encourage and support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world — has been the subject of several media reports. As members of the board of this organization, we would like to correct some of these reports and provide some insight into our recent challenges.

As has been widely reported in the press, certain members of the board have received a letter, claiming to have been unanimously signed by all members of the Rights & Democracy staff, calling for these members’ resignation. This claim of unanimity is suspect because we have also been contacted by concerned staff members who have never seen or signed such a letter. Unfortunately, this appears to be a case of some managers inappropriately pressuring staff under their authority. The central issue is the fiduciary role of the Rights & Democracy board to ensure accountability for spending taxpayers’ money here in Canada or overseas.

Sadly, controversy is not new to this organization. In 2007, long before most of the current board members were involved with the group, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that Rights & Democracy needed greater transparency, stricter internal financial controls and greater accountability. Even as far back as 1998, the board acted to terminate Rights & Democracy’s program in the Middle East because it was generating precisely the kinds of problems we are experiencing today.

Accountability and oversight have been the focus of our recent board meetings. The board has been trying to fulfill its mandate of ensuring that project and grant monies are being sent overseas in a transparent manner which satisfies internal financial control standards. Spending decisions need to be fully accountable and satisfy the Canadian public’s sense of fairness and reasonableness.

The board took especially seriously a number of unauthorized staff decisions to spend taxpayers’ money for purposes that most taxpayers and most political leaders would find appalling. Some of the sums were large, and some were small. The amounts involved are less important than the poor judgment and lack of accountability demonstrated in approving certain grants.

For example, in February 2009, three questionable organizations were provided grants through discretionary funds which have had little to no board oversight. These organizations are Al Haq, headquartered in the West Bank, Al Mazan, headquartered in Gaza and BT’selem, headquartered in Israel. They were each granted $10,000.

Al Haq’s general director, Shawan Jabarin, has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan because of his ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is a listed terrorist organization in Canada. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected Mr. Jabarin’s petition to have his travel ban lifted because “he is an activist in a terrorist organization.” It should come as no surprise that the board reacted with shock when it found Mr. Jabarin’s own signature on the paperwork accepting this grant from Rights & Democracy.

Furthermore, two of the three named organizations are active in the lawfare movement, which is a strategy of abusing law to achieve military objectives — in this case, to punish Israel for anti-terror operations. Al Haq has even pursued a strategy of lawfare in Canada, where it has backed the use of the courts to harass Canadian companies based in Quebec which have business operations in Israel.

As a result, the board voted to repudiate these grants and temporarily freeze the discretionary funds under the president’s control which were used to provide them. What has not been reported is that the president, the late Rémy Beauregard, who was a voting member of the board, actually voted with the majority of the board, in agreement with this decision. The freeze decision is meant to allow the staff time to complete a redesign of decision-making processes to help the organization avoid such situations in the future.

While it has been reported otherwise, we also want to make it clear that the board actually approved the project to assist victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with some adjustments to the staging of the project.

Finally, it is sad and misleading for critics of the board’s commitment to accountability to use the name of the late Mr. Beauregard for their benefit.  

There is much work to be done at Rights & Democracy on behalf of its many stakeholders, including, most importantly, the taxpayers of Canada. We will continue to work to govern Rights & Democracy according to the highest standards so that Canadians need not be embarrassed by, but rather can be consistently proud of the work of the organization.

*IAM editor's note:

Al Haq, an organization Dapha Golan particiapted their conference:

Symposium on HSRC Report:
“Occupation, Apartheid, Colonialism?”

Sunday 16.8.09, Ramallah

Golan's paper http://www.alhaq.org/pdfs/DaphnaGolan.pdf

BT’selem is an organization associated with 

 Co-chairs: David Kretzmer, Professor of Law, Faculty of Law and School of Public Policy, Hebrew University, and Gila Svirsky, Co-founder of Coalition of Women for a Just Peace
 Orna Ben-Naftaly, Head of the Law and Culture Division and the International Law Division, the Law School, the College of Management Academic Studies 
  Menachem Fisch: Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, Tel-Aviv University and Senior Fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute 
  Menachem Klein: Lecturer in Political Science, Bar Ilan University
 Tal Korman, Attorney, Director, Public Interest Law Program, the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University 
  Vered Madar: Ph.D. Candidate, Jewish and comparative Folklore, Hebrew University
 Edna Ullmann-Margalit, Professor, Director of the School of Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
  Alla Shainskaya: Senior Staff Scientist, Weizmann Institute of Science 
  Oren Yiftachel: Professor of political geography and urban planning, Ben-Gurion University
  Eyal Weizman: Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, University of London 




Canadian Jewish Congress complains of United Church of Canada ties with Nurit Peled Elhanan. UCC : Providing a $900 grant to IJV was a mistake


CJC, United Church ties remain strained

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
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.

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