Gerald Steinberg, the founder of NGO Monitor, and reputed independent, politically-neutral activist on behalf of NGO transparency is, in actuality, a solely owned subsidiary of the Israeli government, according to the reporting of Yossi Gurvitz and Noam Rotem.
In testimony before a Knesset commitee Steinberg uses this slick verbiage:
I have the honor to represent NGO Monitor here. I will be the first speaker who represents a perspective that isn’t governmental or even quasi-governmental, but which represents the perspective of civil society.
But Gurvitz and Rotem have produced the smoking gun that disproves Steinberg’s claims of independence. Under “Additional Activities” in his curriculum vitae he notes the following positions:
Steering Committee, Forum on Antisemitism, Office of the Prime Minister, Government of Israel
Consultant, Government of Israel
On the NGO Monitor website he describes himself as an “advisor” to the foreign affairs ministry, though curiously, the English language version of his bio omits this pertinent fact. On this Australian website he describes himself as:
…A consultant to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Security Council (NSC)…
As Gurvitz-Rotem note in their post, Steinberg isn’t just a representative of the government of Israel. He’s more specifically an attack dog for Bibi Netanyahu, and many of his activities emanate from the Office of the Prime Minister (where the Israeli NSC, for example, is based). As they further say in the post:
In other words, Gerald Steinberg works for Bibi Netanyahu.
The reason all this is important is that there are a host of pro-Israel NGOs including Im Tirzu, Shurat HaDin, NGO Monitor, and one they don’t mention, StandWithUs, which purport to be independent watchdogs with no political axe to grind. This stance allows them to make a claim of being dispassionate and disinterested regarding official Israeli government interests. In fact, just as the CIA was found to have secretly funded and co-opted liberal groups in the 1950s, the Israeli government is doing the same now.
Gurvitz and Rotem provide the example of Netanyahu political operative Yoav Hurvitz, who transferred $20,000 to Im Tirzu in 2008. The funds were never acknowledged by the group. Only a protest and threat by the Israeli Charities Registry to shut it down exposed this shady transaction to the light of day. The group’s founder, Ronen Shoval, has boasted that Bibi offered him the job of director of the PMO, a choice political plum previously held by such pro-settler “political luminaries” as Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett.
Gurvitz first reported that Shurat HaDin, the legal advocacy NGO which sues Arab banks for purported terror claims, was founded with critical funding from the Mossad. It’s director is quoted in Wikileaks as revealing such information to a U.S. embassy official.
StandWithUs is slightly different than the above NGOs. It was founded in the U.S. as a pro-Israel advocacy group. However, during the Olympia Food Coop anti-BDS lawsuit deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, boasted that SWU is an arm of the government in this fight. The group never advertises this fact as it would decrease its credibility and force it to register as an agent of a foreign government if it was directly funded by the Israeli government. But we have everything but the dollars changing hands as proof.
Similarly, if Steinberg’s official connections to the government apparatus were better known, he wouldn’t be the darling of quasi-liberal media media outlets like To the Point and the Washington Post, which feature his commentary semi-regularly.
Returning to Steinberg’s role in all this, it’s worth hearing his Knesset testimony as it bares his, and the government’s strategy in its war against legitimate peace and human right NGOs:
It took government ministries a number of years to understand that they faced an existential war against the State of Israel. It is de-legitimizataion in all its forms: from the Bedouins and the alleged activities of the Jewish National Fund, where they exploit the language of morality, war crimes, apartheid and these terms put together. It requires a response that acknowledges this is a war. And to my regret this is still not understood in many places.
It’s taken many years to understand that this is an entire industry [i.e. human rights NGOs] which must be attacked. Attacks against NGOs who are part of this process don’t easily fall within the purview of a governmental body. I just don’t see, with all due respect, and no matter how much I appreciate efforts of the foreign ministry, PMO and Jewish Agency, it [the attack] must originate from civil society. One NGO against another. Whether it’s Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. If it’s [an attack] from the media the response must come from NGOs that oppose the media.
There may be room for more coordination [between the government and civil society NGOs], sharing of information, and building strategy between government and non-governmental forces, but to expect the government to address all these issues is not realistic.
There you have it. Bibi’s masterful strategy for converting astroturf NGOs into semi-official advocates for government policy.
Another part of this permanent war footing that Steinberg mentions is his toxic and fraudulent interventions on Wikipedia, which got an associate booted from the site. I’ve recounted his strategy in this endeavor in this investigative report I wrote (which, by the way, was rejected by Electronic Intifada as insufficiently newsworthy).
One of the great ironies of this which Gurvitz and Rotem note, is that the Israeli Tax Authority has filed notice with Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO which provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinians and African refugees, that it will end its non-profit status since it advocates for ‘specific political positions.’ What the Authority didn’t add was the PHR advocates for the “wrong” political positions. If it advocated for NGO Monitor’s political positions it would be home-free.
I’m always tickled when I think of Gerald Steinberg’s justification for shielding the identity of his NGO’s donors from public access. He claimed these individuals would be put in danger if they were known. What is far more likely true, is that Steinberg wants to shield some of the financial dealings between himself and the government, which enable his NGO to exist.
Bravo, excellent article.
The danger of NGOs for totalitarian states. That’s why for example Russia, Egypt and Israel are banning foreign-funded NGOs to protect their national interests and sovereignty. Imperial states thrive on subversion through government funded agencies as USAID and its off shoots in: Georgia, Arab Uprising, Syria and Ukraine. Similar funding for religious goals by GCC states Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The Dutch Likud minister Uri Rosenthal de-funded NGOs in support of Palestinians. It’s an intricate game of influence and propaganda. In Dutch parliament, the small fundamental Christian groups invite known Israeli hasbarists to explain the I-P issue. Just unbelievable, these legislators want to be fooled.