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Gerald Steinberg’s Hasbara War

Sharansky: “Will this guy ever shut up?”

Gerald Steinberg is a hasbara warrior for Israel.  He’s on permanent war footing, ready to do battle with everyone: Wikipedia, the European Union (EU), the United Nations, human rights NGOs.  Israel is his sacred mission, his jihad, if you will.

He teaches at Bar Ilan University and founded the right-wing group, NGO Monitor (NGOM).  Its mission is to engage in political combat with Palestinian and Israeli human rights and peace groups.  NGO Monitor is a cousin to numerous similar groups like MEMRI, CAMERA, Honest Reporting, Shurat Ha-Din and Im Tirzu.  It issues regular press releases and “studies” which invariably produce lurid charges of anti-Semitism, which turn out to be, on closer inspection, made up out of whole cloth.  In fact, at least one Palestinian NGO, Applied Research Institute Jerusalem sued NGO Monitor for lying in its characterization of its work.  NGOM said it “justified violence.”  A libel suit forced NGO Monitor to retract the statement.

Israeli democracy is under threat (some might argue it has already succumbed or even never existed).  Israeli peace activist and human rights NGOs are the canaries in the coal mine.  Their health is a prime indicator of the health of basic democratic values in Israeli society.  That’s why figures like Steinberg and the toxic role they play in damaging these NGOs is a critical subject of discussion.  Democracy cannot survive without a healthy level of criticism and debate over issues of war and peace, ethnic tolerance, and individual rights.  Defending these organizations is defending Israel itself.

Taking on the EU

In 2009, seeking new enemies of Israel, Steinberg took on the EU.  He requested documentation on its funding of Israeli NGOs.  He claimed it had provided $46-million over the years and that much of it served to promote anti-Israel, anti-Semitic activity in Israeli and Palestinian society.  The EU responded by releasing much of the material requested, while it redacted certain names of individuals working on specific projects in order to protect their privacy and safety, should they be harassed or targeted for their work.

Steinberg was dissatisfied with the EU response and lodged a case with the European Court of Justice demanding all the documents he requested.  Of course, he articulated the case as a demand for transparency from both the EU and NGOs involved.  This strategy is a cagey co-optation of the tenets of many of the NGOs themselves, who call for free speech, democratic values and transparency from Israeli society.

The NGOM founder lost his case in a definitive ruling:

“The action is dismissed as, in part, manifestly inadmissible and, in part, manifestly lacking any foundation in law and that “Mr. Gerald Steinberg shall bear his own costs and pay those incurred by the European Commission.”

To add insult to injury, Steinberg turned around and solicited $50,000 in donations from supporters to pay the penalty, but phrased the plea as a means to renew the political assault on the EU and NGOs.  He never mentioned that the tax-deductible donations were to be used to pay a legal fine.  This bit of sleight-of-hand displayed a shocking lack of transparency toward his own donors.  It also placed the U.S. and EU governments and taxpayers in the awkward position of subsidizing  tax-deductions to donors who unintentionally were supporting an attack on EU institutions themselves.

Steinberg’s Academic Career

Steinberg has led a lackluster academic career as associate professor in Bar Ilan’s political science department.  By now, he should’ve been promoted to full professor, but that hasn’t happened.  He co-wrote a single book (with two co-authors), Best Practices for Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs, published by a little known imprint, Martinus Nijhoff Publications.  His articles too are in second- (or third) tier periodicals like Israel Law Review, Middle East Quarterly, and Israel Affairs.  He has had a few published abroad, but those too have never been in prestigious journals.

Steinberg’s professional life is divided into two contexts: academic and ideological.  But unlike many activist professors, Steinberg’s teaching bleeds into his ideological commitments.  Of course, it shouldn’t be that way.  If you teach well, you entertain all relevant and substantive intellectual strains in your courses.  You restrain your ideological commitments in order to allow your students to choose the path that most suits them, the sources, and evidence.

Even in an educational institution (Bar Ilan) founded as part of the National Religious movement (modern Orthodoxy committed to Israeli nationalism), a combination of Steinberg’s mediocre academic output and his clear extreme political agenda, have rendered him unpromotable.  Compare his treatment to that of Prof. Menachem Klein, another member of the political science department who, unlike Steinberg, has a number of well-regarded books to his credit (including, most recently, The Shift, published by Columbia University Press).  Klein struggled for six years to gain a well-deserved promotion to full professor.  For purely ideological/political reasons he was denied until last year.

Bar Ilan was also responsible for firing Ariella Azoulay, a highly-regarded faculty member teaching photography and visual culture, solely due to her political views. Like Klein and unlike Steinberg, she’s published a number of well-reviewed books.  Her revenge was to leave a Level D Israeli university and be hired by Brown University (Level A), which recognized and rewarded her extraordinary talents.  That Steinberg couldn’t attain a promotion despite holding views in accord with those of his fellow right-wing department members is saying something about his deficits.

Wikileaks Cable: Steinberg’s Knesset Legislation Designating NGOs as Agents of Foreign Governments

In 2008, the U.S. embassy invited leaders of various Israeli NGOs for a discussion of Knesset draft legislation that would have required any organization receiving funding from a foreign government (in particular, the European Union) used for a “political purpose” to register with the government.  Such organizations would have lost their non-profit status rendering it impossible for many foreign governments to support them.  During media appearances or any public presentations, the groups would have to acknowledge their “alien” status.

During the meeting, Steinberg, who was instrumental in producing the bill, said it was intended to mirror the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).  In other words, it would mark such NGOs as agents of a foreign power and brand them as either subversive or under the thumb of entities alien to Israel and its interests.  Needless to say, Israeli groups were livid and made their unhappiness known.  This is what brought the embassy meeting about.

Thanks to Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, we have a record of that meeting and specifically, what Gerald Steinberg told the embassy staff:

Steinberg additionally commented, however, that Israel was not like any other country due to the threats to its existence and the ideal…might not be achievable, as Israel was surrounded by enemies whose political allies were taking advantage of its democratic and legal institutions to achieve significant gains. He argued that he did not want the NGO legislation to feed into the delegitimizing rhetoric, but that such an unintended consequence might be an acceptable cost to reduce the power of the NGOs’ current monopolization of human rights rhetoric for politicized purposes.

It is of course ludicrous to designate a non-profit as an agent of a foreign government merely because it accepts funding for projects meant to improve Israeli society.  That in no way reflects what FARA is.  The latter demands that agents and lobbyists for foreign governments register as such.  Israeli NGOs are not lobbying for these governments.  Instead, the foreign entities are supporting the work of the NGOs inside Israel.  Their work promotes Israeli interests not outside interests.

Note as well, that Steinberg clearly indicates that he’s willing to accept suppression of free speech in the interests of protecting Israel from the imagined evils introduced by ‘aliens’ like the European Union, when they fund Israeli human rights groups.

Ironically (and quite hypocritically), NGOM would not be impacted by the legislation since it receives no funding from foreign governments.  It’s funding comes entirely from individual and family foundations, which would be exempt from the legislation.

NGO Monitor’s War on Wikipedia

NGOM also has a checkered relationship with Wikipedia.  As background to this social media war, the Israeli government and NGOs like Steinberg’s told Israeli media they would launch a massive campaign to promote Israel’s interests (pro-Israel advocacy or hasbara) in the digital domain.  As part of this, Steinberg took on the wide-open realm of Wikipedia.  It is one of the most popular websites in the world.  Tens of millions of readers get a huge amount of information from it.  It is the heart of the marketplace of ideas on the internet.  For Steinberg, it was a rich mother-lode to mine on Israel’s behalf.

In typical fashion, he and his staff sought to “frame” the image of those NGOs which were his betes noire by editing their Wikipedia articles, charging them with the same “crimes” alleged in NGOM’s press releases.  He also targeted especially contentious articles dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He had a two-fold strategy: to expose the alleged manipulation of Wikipedia by leftists to spread a so-called hate-filled anti-Israel message; and to use the same strategy on behalf of Israel in Wikipedia.  In other words, just as Steinberg assaulted Wikipedia contributors (or “editors”) who represented a supposedly anti-Israel bias, NGOM itself was using the very tactics he decried in subverting Wikipedia articles devoted to Israel and related contentious issues.

Proof of this is an investigation initiated by Wikipedia, which found that NGOM’s social media specialist, Arne Draiman was systematically editing, deleting, reverting, and vandalizing articles on subjects the organization viewed as critical to promoting its views of the conflict:

According to complaints from editors on Wikipedia, Soosim [Draiman], who was active for several years, began editing intensively in 2010 after joining NGO Monitor…The editors accused him of editing in a biased manner (“POV-pushing” in the site’s language), particularly on his organization’s page and on the pages of organizations that NGO Monitor’s president, Professor Gerald Steinberg, opposes such as B’tselem, the New Israel Fund and Human Rights Watch.

Soosim is also accused of having used a “sock puppet,” an additional account (Scarletfire2112) and a “meat puppet,” which is another person who did the editing together with him under that username.

…[Wikipedia editors] complained [that Draiman and] NGO Monitor ha[d] the custom of issuing a press release, waiting until it is quoted in a newspaper, and then quoting the news item in the relevant articles as fact. During the conversation, it turned out that Draiman even explained this during a workshop he gave on Israel advocacy in which he called on pro-Israel advocates to join the “wiki war.”

…After Draiman was topic-banned from editing articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his own organization, the accusations that he was using an additional account led to his being blocked indefinitely from editing on Wikipedia (in a separate discussion of his case). When he appealed the decision, his appeal was denied.

This also involved an assault on articles devoted to Israeli academics and activists seen by NGOM to be associated with the human rights NGOs.

Since Steinberg is Draiman’s boss and the former has attacked the specific activities in which Draiman engaged when used by his enemies, it’s logical to presume that Draiman acted at Steinberg’s direction and with his full support.  That exposes the full extent of Steinberg’s hypocrisy.

Even more dramatic proof of Steinberg’s almost pathological approach is seen in a 2010 paper (researched in 2008) he wrote, The Framing of Political NGOs in Wikipedia through Criticism Elimination, for the Journal of Information Technology & Politics.  Though the article is typically shoddily written ( at one point it uses the term “providence” instead of “provenance”) and the publication itself is in a distinct lower tier of academic journals, it offers a telling glimpse into the Steinberg’s attack on alleged abuse of Wikipedia by left-wing NGOs.  He criticizes the very behavior exploited so flagrantly by NGOM’s Draiman!

The paper begins by reviewing the Wikipedia articles of those NGOs which are his political targets: among them SABEEL, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Alternative Information Center, Amnesty International, Hamoked, Human Rights Watch, Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and Machsom Watch.  He then targets 11 Wikipedia contributors active in editing the articles devoted to these groups.  Among their sins are “removing criticism from NGO articles” and using Wikipedia “as a public diplomacy tool.”  Not coincidentally, these are precisely the charges levelled at Draiman (in his Wikipedia “trial”) and at NGO Monitor.  Further, use of the term “public diplomacy” is telling, since there is a Ministry of Public Diplomacy in the Israeli government.  In Hebrew, it adopts the word Hasbara as a translation for “public diplomacy.”  This ministry is one of the key initiators of the social media campaign of which NGOM is a part.

There is no “methodology” in the article for reviewing the various edits to determine why they were made or whether they reflected legitimate editorial reasons.  He merely assumes anyone who removed information critical of the NGO did so for ulterior political motives.  He uses terms like “innocent edits” (page 9) to indicate activities by suspect contributors in which he has no interest.  The implication is that editing of articles devoted to groups he dislikes are “guilty edits.”

Among his criticisms, Steinberg reviews pro-Palestinian editors (page 10) and calls them out for, wait for it…creating multiple sock puppet identities, precisely the offense of which Draiman was guilty!

The author creates various categories of editors.  This passage indicates the problematic nature of the categorization (p. 10):

An advocate editor is concerned almost entirely with one page or a very limited topic.  In the case of our research, the focus would be a particular NGO. One hypothesis is that advocates may be members, supporters, or staff of the NGO. These editors are using Wikipedia for a purpose unrelated to the advancement of the encyclopedia, and instead they remove criticism in order to frame their targets in the best possible light.

He adds a “hypothesis” having no basis in fact and offering no evidence to support it.  Not to mention that being a “member, supporter of staff of the NGO” doesn’t violate Wikipedia policy.  Editing while concealing your affiliation with such groups (again, something Draiman did) IS a violation.

Note that this category of editor (p. 11)  is actually engaged in an activity that is commendable by Wikipedia standards:

The “lobbyists”…set very high standards for the inclusions of criticism.  As they become more involved in Wikipedia, their use of Wikipedia’s internal policies and guidelines to achieve their goals becomes more sophisticated.

In other words, these editors reject material added by NGOM because it’s either poorly sourced or not sourced at all.  And what’s worse, they actually marshal Wikipedia guidelines to support those high standards and to invalidate material inserted by NGOM!

In some instances, the journal author’s sole aim seems to be to retaliate against editors who removed criticism that Draiman or someone affiliated with NGOM added:

RachaelO has removed text criticizing B’Tselem for “using outdated sources for reports on highly charged political topics,” and attacked the source which she introduced as “a watchdog group that accuses organizations such as Amnesty International of anti-Israel bias.”

Steinberg’s paper is full of sweeping, unsubstantiated statements like this one (p. 12):

As a result of framing, Wikipedia cannot be a consistently reliable source on politically contentious topics.

He argues that a phenomenon he calls “framing,” which he rather sloppily describes and falsely attributes only to left-wing editors, destroys the credibility of Wikipedia.  He neglects to understand that, by its nature, Wikipedia is a contentious enterprise, especially controversial topics like Israel and Palestine.  No one expects perfect balance from these articles.  That’s why readers have brains and intellects which allow them to read and judge the material.  Only in Steinberg’s perfect vision of a right-wing Garden of Eden, would Wikipedia be free of any “left-wing bias.”

In this passage (p. 13), Steinberg perfectly characterizes the problematic nature of NGOM’s own participation in Wikipedia, as I noted above:

We have shown that criticism elimination can have a gatekeeping effect that allows parts of Wikipedia to be dominated by those with an agenda. The presence of politically motivated framing and de facto gatekeepers runs counter to the Wikipedia model of knowledge generation. It has implications for both article quality and trust, particularly on contentious topics.

Steinberg’s recommendations to “improve” Wikipedia are equally ludicrous.  He suggests that sections of articles devoted to criticizing NGOs should be closed to editing by those who are anonymous or have “limited editing history.”  This violates the democratic nature of the enterprise.  Besides, how do you define what is “limited?”  And how do these restrictions prevent a seasoned partisan editor from doing precisely what Steinberg decries?

He further suggests that Wikipedia educate editors about the importance of including “sourced criticism” in articles.  This is something it already does and there is no need to do as he suggests.  This also ignores the fact that what editors object to in the NGOM originated material is that it is all built on opinion, rather than empirical proof.  For example, if Gerald Steinberg is quoted in a mainstream media outlet as claiming a Palestinian NGO “justifies violence,” Steinberg would define this as legitimate “sourced” criticism.  The problem is that such a statement remains an opinion unsupported by evidence since he hasn’t offered proof that the NGO does support violence.  He’s merely said it does.

The ultimate sin of this article is that it clothes Gerald Steinberg’s ideological war against critics of Israel in an academic suit.  This makes a mockery of the academy’s balanced pursuit of knowledge.  The article isn’t a dispassionate analysis, but rather a self-interested whitewash, in which Steinberg exploits his political activism for professional advancement.  The shame is that the editors of this justifiably obscure journal have become willing participants in this chicanery.

NGO Monitor’s Fiscal Opacity

This is as far as NGOM’s fiscal accountability and transparency go (from the website):

NGO Monitor was founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation.  Major donors include Ben & Esther Rosenbloom Foundation, Baltimore; MZ Foundation, Oakland; Klarman Family Foundation, Boston; Middle East Forum Education Project, Philadelphia.

No other donors are listed nor are any amounts specified.  But we can note that the Klarman Foundation is the charitable vehicle for hedge fund manager, Seth Klarman, owner of The Times of Israel.  Klarman’s politics are distinctly Likudist.  It’s also not a coincidence that one of Steinberg’s most reliable media venues for publishing his work is…The Times of Israel.  The Middle East Forum was founded by Daniel Pipes, who comes from a long family line of neocons (his father, Richard, was a prominent official in the Reagan administration).  Pipes, like Steinberg, is both an Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian.

Steinberg refuses to list other donor names, claiming that doing so would expose them to physical harm.  He offers no proof to support such claims or evidence of any act of harassment against donors to his group or any other whose names or identities may’ve been exposed.

In his case against the EU, he demanded information he wouldn’t offer the public himself.  The EU told him the names of donor organizations, the amounts donated and what projects they funded.  It only refused to provide the names of NGO employees working on these projects.  Yet Steinberg is far less transparent.

This means he is the ultimate hypocrite, demanding what he refuses to give.  Didi Remez, a leading activist in the Israeli democracy movement, who recently successfully defended a libel case brought by the right-wing NGO, Im Tirzu, analyzed some of the implications behind NGO Monitor’s funding:

NGO Monitor is not an objective watchdog: It is a partisan operation that suppresses its perceived ideological adversaries through the sophisticated use of McCarthyite techniques — blacklisting, guilt by association and selective filtering of facts.’

He suggests hoisting the critics of the peace groups on their own petard: ‘If Israeli neoconservatives really want ‘transparency’, why not take them at their word?’ He thus goes on to call for the proper scrutiny of funding of organisations that further settlement activity in the occupied territories.

‘Hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli taxpayer money and U.S. tax exemptions, mostly hidden from public view, are the driving force of the settlement enterprise. Auditing their funding would undercut organisations which depend on financial opacity for their covert operations that fuel the settlement enterprise,’ he says.

Beyond official Israeli government action in promoting settlements, such donations independently enhance a greater Jewish presence in Palestinian East Jerusalem and in development projects in many West Bank settlements.

‘How long will the U.S. taxpayer put up with the tax-exempt status of Shuva Israel, a Christian Zionist fund, if they were aware that it supports the expansion of settlement outposts, even those illegal under Israeli law?’ questions Remez sarcastically.

A review of the IRS 990s for REPORT, formerly American Friends of NGO Monitor, finds it contributed $1.2-million to the Israeli group in 2012.  One of its board members is Nina Rosenwald, an heiress of Julius Rosenwald, founder of the retailer, Sears.  She is a major funder of right-wing pro-Israel and Islamophobic groups in the U.S. and founder of the pro-Israel Gatestone Institute (an offshoot of the Hudson Institute, which itself is affiliated closely with Max Singer and the Institute for Zionist Strategies).  Though the 990s do not list individual donors, it must be assumed she is a major donor to NGOM.

NGOM’s Exploitation of Political Tropes

Consider the ideological “hooks” Steinberg uses to dramatize NGOM’s work.  They’re akin to the “wedge issues” you used to hear Republicans talk about in the 1980s and 90s.  They’re the red-meat phrases thrown to the true believers to induce a certain emotional response.  They rarely have any substantive or probative value.  One example, is the use of “blood libel.”  Steinberg has used it no less than three separate times to smear various targets: Palestinian NGO Blood Libel, Ken Roth’s Blood Libel, Blood Libels & Delegitimization.  The term is a historic one, harkening back to anti-Semitic uprisings against Jews from the Middle Ages till the last century, in which Christians claimed that Jews used the blood of Christian babies to produce Passover matzah.

If you examine this trope, you’ll find that there’s absolutely no substance to the charge as used by Steinberg.  There’s no anti-Semitism involved.  The only blood that is involved is that of Israelis, who NGOM’s founder believes are endangered by the allegedly traitorous, slanderous activities of the NGOs.  The use of terms like “blood libel” are empty of any substantive meaning, but rich in emotional, adrenalin-provoking response from Jews traumatized by the Holocaust.

As such, Steinberg engages in a classic act of manipulation, as practiced by demagogues and ideologues throughout history: exploit a traumatic wound of your followers in order to gain political advantage.  The wound is so atavistic, so embedded in the DNA of the audience, that they can’t help but be motivated to respond to the call to arms.  The historic deed has little or nothing to do with the political issue at hand.  It is exploitation for exploitation’s sake.

Failed Strategies of Pro-Israel NGOs

NGO Monitor began as a project of Dore Gold’s Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.  Eventually, it became independent, though it continues to share some funders like the Wechsler Family Foundation and the Jewish Agency, among others.

Steinberg is doing in an academic context what Kenneth Marcus is doing in a civil rights law context.  Just as Marcus attempts (unsuccessfully thus far) to innovate by creating odd new concepts like ‘anti-Israelism,’ meant to associate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism; so Steinberg attempts to divorce NGOs from their traditional humanitarian context (a sphere the public understands and even embraces) and turn them into groups engaged in naked political exploitation stemming from anti-Semitic motives.

Rightist pro-Israel NGOs like CAMERA, Honest Reporting, MEMRI and Palestine Media Watch, specialize in battling the progressive peace agenda in the media.  An example is Itamar Marcus, the founder of PMW, who lives in the Efrat settlement and has family connections to Jay and Hadassah Marcus, who run the Central Fund for Israel, which had plowed $46-million into the Israeli settlment enterprise.  Marcus, who speaks no Arabic, claims to be an expert on Palestinian media.

He made a major stir when PMW’s study of allegedly anti-Israel Palestinian school textbooks was featured in a 2007 Senate hearing by then-Senator Hillary Clinton.  It matters little that PMW’s research was not just called into question, but demolished by more rigorous work by Nurit Peled Elchanan in her book, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education.

Similarly, Marcus was an “expert witness” in a case representing the family of Gilad Zer, an Israeli victim of Palestinian terror.   The case, which had all the trappings of a Shurat HaDin lawsuit (though they weren’t formally involved), asked for a $20-million judgment against the Palestinian Authority for allegedly supporting such acts of terror.  Judge Dalia Granot, as in so many of these pro-Israel lawfare actions, not only found against the claimant, but she found Marcus to have no particular expertise in the field he claimed as his own.

Just as Shurat HaDin exploits the law (lawfare) for in the battle for Israeli supremacy,  Im Tirzu does something similar in an attempt to rehabilitate nationalist Zionism for a new generation.  Hence their appropriation of a sacred Zionist symbol like Herzl for their movement.  They attempt to take old wine and place it in new bottles, hoping no one will recognize that the wine is the same vinegar it was in the old bottles.

The group, known for its litigiousness, recently lost its libel suit against eight Israeli activists who founded a Facebook page, Im Tirzu—Fascists.  Ronen Shoval, founder of Im Tirzu, objected to being called “fascist” and demanded $750,000 in damages.  The judge rejected the claim, found that the group’s ideology did have fascist parallels, and ruled in favor of the Facebook members.

Pinkwashing, the appropriation of progressive concepts like gay rights and turning them into a method of promoting Israeli supremacism related to the conflict with the Palestinians is also part of this phenomenon.  StandWithUs is one of the Israel advocacy organizations whose trademark is co-opting traditional activist values.   Yet another strategy in this process is attempting to transform BDS from a movement opposing Occupation and calling for the realization of Palestinian national rights (e.g. the Right of Return) into one that argues for the elimination of Israel.  It’s a bit of hocus pocus that most often fails to work (except in the minds of those already predisposed along these lines).  But that doesn’t stop these groups.  They believe that the more often they place these arguments before the public, the sooner they’ll be embraced.

Though I believe this strategy will fail because of Israel’s unique and problematic moral stature, from the perspective of the rightist NGO’s it’s worth a try.  They may look back on the U.S. neoconservatism which began in the 1950s and 60s with a small coterie of turncoat liberals “mugged by reality” (Hooks, Podhoretz, Kristol, Pipes, etc.) who turned to conservatism.  By 1980, they’d elected a president (Reagan).  By today, this movement had morphed into the Tea Party and the corporate welfare statists represented by the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson.  It has arguably become one of the most influential political developments in American life over the past 50 years.

Similarly, the Israeli political movement I call settlerism has moved from the periphery in 1968 to the center today.  Israel today reminds me of the deceived words of the patriarch, Isaac, to his son Jacob: “the hands are those of Esau but the voice is that of Jacob.” Israel’s hands are those of a democracy, but it’s true voice is that of theocratic ethnocracy.  Israel, though nominally democratic (it has elections, after all!) has offered virtually all the levers of power to radical settlers and their allies.  The current term of Bibi Netanyahu as prime minister is the apogee of settlerism.  Before the world, they can call the nation a democracy.  But in the meantime they’ve ensured the supremacy of Jewish triumphalism for the next generation or more.

Looking back at this, I suppose you can’t fault people like Steinberg, Marcus, Shoval and Rothstein for trying.  Though again I think these efforts are bound to fail.

Finally, any mainstream media outlet, whether it be the Wall Street Journal or Public Radio International’s public policy program, To the Point (where he’s made twelve appearances in the past six years), or the New York Times (whose Israel correspondent regularly turns to him for interviews) that solicits Steinberg’s views on virtually any matter must know that he’s a proven libeler, liar, and charlatan with thin academic credentials and even thinner claims of expertise when it comes to judging the activities of human rights organizations.  Caveat emptor.

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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Bob Mann September 20, 2013, 3:27 AM

    This is a fascinating piece. Extremely well-researched.

    Have you considered submitting it somewhere for publication?

    • Oui September 20, 2013, 5:07 AM

      Indeed an excellent article.

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2013, 5:01 PM

      @ Bob Mann: This post may be the only piece ever submitted to both Tikkun Magazine AND Electronic Intifada with both rejecting it!

  • Edward Beck September 20, 2013, 4:28 AM

    You are correct in that Gerald Steinberg is a Hasbara warrior and ready to take on any front which works against Israel. However you have insulted his academic and personal integrity in a way that cannot be left unchallenged. I have known Gerald a dozen years and worked very closely with him during much of that time. I knew him to be honorable, forthright, saying what was on his mind and delivering on his commitments. His commitment to revealing and combatting anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in unique and unparalleled among academics. He is widely respected in academic circles contrary to what is implied in this clearly polemic article. I have also had the privilege of working with Kenneth Marcus whose commitment to combatting anti-semitism is also highly regard. Mr. Silverstein believes he can enhance his own reputation by tearing down the reputation of already accomplished individuals. This is when Jews become their own worst enemies. So terribly sad.

    • Richard Silverstein September 22, 2013, 12:39 AM

      @ Edward Beck: Well, well. Even the sine qua non of hasbarists has his very own person hasbarist. How nice for Prof. Steinberg that you have his back & the back so many other pro-Israel hasbara hacks. Mind telling us how you “worked closely with him.” What exactly does that constitute?

      As for whether he’s “honorable” or not, I’d say that’s in the eyes of the beholder. Apparently, many journalists, human rights NGOs, and fellow academics don’t feel the same as you on the subject. Unfortunately, for you. If they didn’t feel this way then I guess Prof. Steinberg would be universally acclaimed as the Jewish equivalent of a saint.

      And if Solon Marcus’ reputation and legal acumen were as great as you claim he’d have won all the campus anti-Israelism cases he mounted. But he hasn’t won a one, now has he?

  • Oui September 20, 2013, 5:35 AM

    Taking on the EU
    In 2009, seeking new enemies of Israel, Steinberg took on the EU. He requested documentation on its funding of Israeli NGOs.

    Of course, the Dutch Likud FM Uri Rosenthal took it personal and eliminated subsidies for NGOs like ICCO, Electronic Intifada and B’Tselem. My article in Jan. 2011 – Dutch FM Rosenthal a Likud Spokesperson. I did cover Steinberg’s odious work for NGO Monitor. After this incident, I never relented on my criticism of Dutch FM Rosenthal. He was not asked for a new term when the Labor Party joined a new coalition in The Hague. How poor his standing was with the Foreign Ministry, on the reception to laud his departure, Rosenthal was a no-show.

    B’Tselem had received a Dutch award for its work for the Palestinian people.

    Uri Rosenthal was a speaker for now defunct “knowledgedemocracy.nl”. Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal, who tried to stifle The Electronic Intifada, sponsors ‘Internet freedom’ conference .

  • Kevin Herbert September 20, 2013, 10:25 PM

    Nice work Richard.

    Thank you

  • MENNY D September 21, 2013, 6:43 PM

    well its obvious that this guy will be active for israel as lots or organization and also you richard declared war on israel with your anti-israel articles which by the way also be proven with some lies and speculation propaganda , so this hasbara guy is no different from you , but unlike you he didn’t start this propaganda war – he is only respond to your war so why you are one-sided and call him ” israel is his jihad” ,if jihad is a holy war for a great idea its you who opened war against israel so you and the bds consider israel as your jihad . i mean its ok to make up your mind but you are doing what he does from the other side of the map and there is no right or wrong on it because it depend where you are on the map . so its hipocracy by you to attack this guy just because he is from the other side of the map and use the word democracy as your shield when the base of democracy is freedom of speech

  • dickerson3870 September 21, 2013, 7:36 PM

    RE: “NGOM also has a checkered relationship with Wikipedia. As background to this social media war, the Israeli government and NGOs like Steinberg’s told Israeli media they would launch a massive campaign to promote Israel’s interests (pro-Israel advocacy or hasbara) in the digital domain.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: I once posted a comment at TPM in response to a TPM Cafe commentary. My comment referred to the Deir Yassin massacre and included an excerpt from (and link to) the Wikipedia article titled “Deir Yassin massacre”. Within minutes, the title of the Wikipedia article had been changed from “Deir Yassin massacre” to “Deir Yassin military operation”, and numerous changes had been made to the body of the article.
    Several days later I checked Wikipedia and the title had been changed back to “Deir Yassin massacre”.

    • dickerson3870 September 21, 2013, 7:44 PM

      P.S. I should have mentioned that the above episode involving a rapid-fire hasbara edit to a Wikipedia article occurred five or so years ago.

  • dickerson3870 September 21, 2013, 8:19 PM

    RE:The Middle East Forum was founded by Daniel Pipes, who comes from a long family line of neocons (his father, Richard, was a prominent official in the Reagan administration). Pipes, like Steinberg, is both an Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian. ~ R.S.

    A BIT OF BACKGROUND FROM WIKIPEDIA ON THE PIPES FAMILY [Team B]:

    [EXCERPTS] Team B was a competitive analysis exercise commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s to analyze threats the Soviet Union posed to the security of the United States. . .
    . . . It is the third team, chaired by Harvard University professor Richard Pipes [Daniel Pipes' father - J.L.D.], that ultimately received considerable publicity and is most commonly referred to as Team B. . .[4]
    . . . The Team B reports became the intellectual foundation for the idea of “the window of vulnerability” and of the massive arms buildup that began toward the end of the Carter administration and accelerated under President Ronald Reagan.[4]
    Some scholars and policy-makers, such as Anne Cahn of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, later criticized the Team B project’s findings.[5][6] . . .
    . . . According to Fred Kaplan, “In retrospect, the Team B report (which has since been declassified) turns out to have been wrong on nearly every point.[27]. . .
    . . . Team B came to the conclusion in their report [28] that the Soviets had or could develop an entirely new anti-submarine detection system that used a system that did not depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable by contemporary Western technology, even though no evidence existed for it or its deployment, other than money spent on research, and when the Western experts believed that such a system would be impossible.
    When the CIA argued that the economic chaos in the Soviet Union was hindering their ability to produce an air defense system, Team B countered by arguing that the Soviet Union was trying to deceive the American public and claimed that the Russian air defense system worked perfectly. Some members were even considering promoting a first strike policy against the U.S.S.R.[8][11][29]
    Team B also concluded that the Soviet Union did not adhere to the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, but rather believed it could win a nuclear war outright. [Richard] Pipes — in his ‘Commentary’ article — argued that CIA suffered from “mirror-imaging” (i.e., from assuming that the other side had to-and did-think and evaluate exactly the same way) . . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_B

    P.S. Thanks for the excellent article on Gerald Steinberg and his NGO Monitor, Mr. Silverstein! ! !

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