Ford Foundation Is Criticized on Mideast Funding

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The New York Sun

Three years after the Ford Foundation’s grants to anti-Israel groups prompted a furor in Congress, the $10 billion New York-based philanthropy is at it again, according to a report by the NGO Monitor, an Israel-based organization overseen by Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold.

The NGO Monitor, whose publisher is Mr. Gold, issued a report yesterday targeting 11 Ford Foundation grants since the foundation adopted new standards against promoting violence, terrorism, or bigotry.

According to the report, the foundation has given significant contributions to groups such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, International Committee of Jurists, Miftah, Al-Haq, and Al-Mezan, among others. “Their activities are primarily political, and they exploit human rights rhetoric to delegitimize Israel,” the NGO Monitor said in its report. “The cumulative effect of continued association with supporters of the academic boycott of Israel and the one-state solution is a serious challenge to the Ford Foundation’s credibility.”

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which received a grant of $370,000 from the Ford Foundation, supported the British Association of University Teachers’ attempt to impose a boycott on Israeli universities. Additionally, the group has accused Israel’s military of war crimes for its “willful killings; torture or inhuman treatment.”

Likewise, Miftah, which received $250,000, regularly has described Israel’s security operations as “ethnic cleansing.” Additionally, it has called for economic sanctions against Israel and was a major player at the 2001 Durban Conference on human rights, which turned into an assault on Israel.

Many of the 11 organizations have called for boycotts against Israel in one form or another, and many were active at the Durban Conference.

In October 2003, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency distributed a series of investigative reports written by Edwin Black that organizations such as the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and Habitat International Coalition, which had participated in the disseminating anti-Israel propaganda at the Durban Conference, were receiving funding from the Ford Foundation. A flurry of criticism followed from Jewish organizations, as well as congressmen and senators.

At first the foundation stonewalled and denied any wrongdoing, but eventually the president of the foundation, Susan Berresford, pledged to clean up its act.

Ford stopped funding those organizations and got back some of its previous funding. It also hired Stuart Eizenstat, a lawyer who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations, to help develop new guidelines for vetting organizations, and to help promote the new guidelines to the Jewish community.

Ms. Berresford said at that time that Ford Foundation money would no longer go to “groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel.”

The vice president for communications at the Ford Foundation, Marta L. Tellado, said in a statement yesterday to The New York Sun, “We take very seriously any allegations of inappropriate activity by any of our grantees. We have taken a variety of actions when we found troubling activity in the past, including cessation of funding, and we are prepared to do so again if necessary.”

Ms. Tellado added, “Having said that, we will not make a judgment on the allegations at hand until we follow this review process.”

Mr. Eizenstat, who remains a consultant for the organization, told the Sun, “We will not fund any organization that promotes violence, intolerance, or calls for the destruction of any state.” He too cautioned that a full investigation of the allegations in necessary, and if they prove to be accurate, then appropriate actions will be taken, although he refused to elaborate on what those might be.

A professor at political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Gerald Steinberg, who is the founder and editor of the 3-year-old NGO Monitor, said that the language of the organizations he’s quoted in his report is very much in line with the agenda of the Durban conference, whose purpose was to undermine Israel as a Jewish state. He also said that the key questions for the Ford Foundation were how they vet their grantees and what process they employ to allow outside organizations the ability to determine whether they’re keeping the pledges they’ve committed themselves to.

Ms. Tellado said the Ford Foundation checks grantee organizations, members of their boards, and their executive directors against the list of designated organizations and nationals published by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, as well as against nine other government and international lists.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat of New York who was one of the lead critics of the Ford Foundation in 2003, said that he has not had a chance to read the new report but that it would “greatly disturb” him if it turns out to be true, and that he would remind the foundation of their pledge.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, another New York Democrat who played a key role in pressing the Ford Foundation three years ago, said his staff has asked the Ford Foundation to look into the new complaints raised by the NGO Monitor. “They tell us they intend to look into these allegations,” said Mr. Nadler’s chief of staff, Amy Rutkin.

The Ford Foundation is a charitable foundation founded in 1936 by Henry Ford, the anti-Semite who created the Ford Motor Company. It no longer has any connection to the automaker.

The New York Sun

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