Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg
Israeli. Lives in Toronto. Racism Researcher. Activist. Believes in Peace and Justice Everywhere.

Putin couldn’t do better

These days, it seems the Israeli government is using every trick it can to restrict the steps of the left in Israel; from targeted legislation to the misuse of media and the courts. The demagoguery seems to know no bounds. This incites public attention and creates de-legitimization and devaluation of the opposition.

“Most cynical is the government’s use of politicized “research” against its civil society opponents. Leading this effort to discredit the left is “NGO Monitor.”… But two can play at that game.”

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Perhaps, most cynical is the government’s use of politicized “research” against its civil society opponents.  Leading this effort to discredit the left is “NGO Monitor.” Such an organization comes straight out of the modern authoritarian’s playbook.  Vladimir Putin couldn’t do it better. NGO Monitor presents itself as an independent, nonpartisan research institute that provides information and analysis to support an in-depth discussion of the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote human rights and a humanitarian agenda in Israel.

But two can play at that game. Recently the “Working Policy Group” (WPG) produced its own report. A group of retired Israeli diplomats and leading academics published a wide-ranging report filled with examples, showing NGO Monitor’s real political motivations.

The WPG findings expose NGO Monitor’s lack of objectively. First, it publicly boasts close ties with the current right-wing Israeli government. Second, articles and reports published by NGO monitor contain baseless claims and factual inaccuracies (many examples presented in the report).

“Why bother defending the occupation if you can destroy the reputations of those arguing against it?”

Furthermore, the institute conducts selective studies. Its reports focus exclusively on civil society- organizations that criticize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But what is really alarming is its hypocrisy: while the Institute demands transparency from human rights organizations on their sources of funding; it is incredibly protective of the confidentiality of its own sources of income. Where does NGO Monitor get its money from?

NGO monitor is systematically focusing on civil society organizations that criticize the Israeli occupation and expose violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The organization uses two main tactics to deflect attention from the occupation. The first is focusing its publications exclusively on refuting the conclusions of specific NGOs, while it does not conduct independent research (for the sake of comparison, many human rights organizations carry out independent study). The second one is its relentless attacks on individual activists in an attempt to discredit them personally and by extension, their organizations. Why bother defending the occupation if you can destroy the reputations of those arguing against it?   

Research institutes must meet some basic standards to be considered reliable. NGO Monitor does not come close to meeting these standards. Its sole purpose is to support right-wing demagoguery under the guise of academic research intellectualism.

Filling up the public sphere with false research is worrisome.  But despite the tireless efforts of the Israeli right to obfuscate and deflect attention from the tragedy of the occupation, not everyone is falling for it. About a week ago, the New Israel Fund of Canada held its annual gala. It was noted that every time Netanyahu uses the name of the New Israel Fund to fuel hatred and incitement in public, the organization receives a new wave of donations and more offers of involvement in the NIF’s activities.

Notwithstanding the government’s persistent demagoguery and efforts to besmirch the reputation of civil society organizations, the public increasingly understands the difference between bogus organizations like NGO Monitor and a real NGO. The Israel Democracy Institute’s Democracy Index for 2017 shows that for the first time since 2010, there has been an increase in trust in human rights organizations in Israel.  We, Israel leftist, sometimes feel isolated. However, these new data should give all of us some hope. We must keep working on changing the fate of our country.   

The full report by the Working Policy Group can be found in the link:

About the Author
Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg is an academic researcher, group facilitator and an activist. She is a New Israel Fund fellow. Currently living in Canada, after spending most of her life in Israel. She has a post-doctorate from the University of Toronto, and Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on race relations in Israel and antisemitism in North-America. She has worked as a social worker in Israel and facilitated intercultural and anti-racism groups.
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