Playing fast and loose with the facts at NGO Monitor (UPDATED)
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Playing fast and loose with the facts at NGO Monitor (UPDATED)

In the May 2009 digest of NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel watchdog group whose favorite targets are Arab-Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups that deal with Israel, executive director Gerald Steinberg keeps up his attacks against the New Israel Fund in a section titled "NIF-funded NGOs repeat calls for divestment, violating NIF’s own criteria." (For background on Steinberg’s attacks against the NIF, see a 2007 story I wrote here).

There are a couple of disingenuous (read: inaccurate) elements in Steinberg’s item.

As he has done in the past, Steinberg describes the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions as funded by the NIF, when it hasn’t been for years. Steinberg surely knows this, so why does he keep repeating it?

He also describes Mossawa, an Arab-Israeli group that is funded by the NIF, as in violation of an NIF rule against supporting groups that call for divestment from Israel. But the NIF has no such rule.

Steinberg imputes the rule from a 2006 statement by NIF Communications Director Naomi Paiss. While Paiss’ statement (at least the part Steinberg cites) expresses distaste with the idea of divestment and recalls the NIF’s past disassociation from someone who had endorsed divestment it does not commit to any specific rule on the matter.

Not that there’s anything right with that.

Here’s the NIF line on divestment: "Calling for divestment is something we profoundly disagree with," Paiss told me Wednesday. But, she noted, "It’s not something that disqualifies all by itself a grantee from NIF support."

Isn’t this in itself troubling enough for Steinberg and NGO Monitor’s followers without Steinberg having to stretch the truth?

UPDATE: Steinberg tells JTA the NGO Monitor digest’s phrasing was confusing and that it should have said more clearly that ICAHD is funded by the European Union, not by the NIF. He writes (late at night in Israel): "Thanks for pointing this out. Revision will be up in a few hour. The mistake here was syntax — NIF funds enough members of this coalition — no need to expand it to make the point."