The Rockefeller Brothers Fund Contribution to Social Justice Whitewashing

In August 2020, the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) issued a press release announcing that their peacebuilding program had adopted new guidelines to confront evolving challenges. Their new strategy is based on 4 fundamental principles: i) developing analysis and policies to advance peacebuilding; ii) supporting collaborative approaches and networks for shared security; iii) strengthening constituencies for conflict transformation and iv) defending civil society and human rights to foster sustainable peace.

As it relates to the third strategy, the trustees at RBF believe that peace “becomes possible when entrenched power structures are weakened or dismantled. This requires pro-peace constituencies to mobilize and build political power.” The trustees at RBF further elaborate that the “peacebuilding program will continue to support civil society efforts that work to transform specific conflicts, focusing on Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine.” By using these guidelines the trustees of RBF are indicating that Israel (the only democracy in the Middle East) can only achieve peace if their power structure is weakened. It is noteworthy that although multiple human atrocities are occurring in Iran, Syria and Iraq, the Trustees at RBF seem intent on “weakening or dismantling” Israel’s defense structure, which by default at times needs to play both offense and defense to ensure its survival.

In fact, the Rockefeller Brother Fund has contributed to the funding of two questionable Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) that lack financial transparency and have clear ties to terrorist organizations: i) the Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and ii) Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS). According to RBF’s Form 990 filings, the DCI-P has received $190,000 since 2017 and the PMRS was granted $50,000 in 2020-2021.

The contribution by the RBF to these 2 NGO’s is troubling for multiple reasons. NGO Monitor, a globally recognized research institute promoting democratic values and good governance, published a research article in October 2021 clearly tying the DCI-P to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); the PFLP is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada and Israel. In October 2021, the Israeli Ministry of Defense was forced to declare the DCI-P a terror organization since it became part of a network of organizations that operates on behalf of the PFLP. Numerous individuals with alleged ties to the PFLP have been employed and appointed as board members at DCI-P.

However, even more troubling is that the trustees at RBF continued to fund the DCI-P despite UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) presenting evidence in June 2018, when RBF could have ceased funding DCI-P, of the close ties between DCI-P and the PFLP. Citibank no longer provides banking services to the terror-linked NGO and Global Giving, a US-based crowdfunding resource, also removed DCI-P from its website.

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), which also received grants from RBF, does not include any financial data, donor information, or sources of funding on its website, reflecting a complete lack of transparency and accountability. In May 2023, Israel arrested PMRS member Mohammad Al-Barq alongside five other suspects who were responsible for manufacturing and planting a bomb on a bus in the town of Beitar Illit, on March 9, 2023, on behalf of the PFLP.

Social justice whitewashing, like “greenwashing” or “pinkwashing” in other contexts, refers to the practice of presenting a misleadingly positive image of an organization, company, or individual’s commitment to social justice to obscure less favorable actions or policies. It involves using rhetoric, token gestures, or symbolic actions to create the impression of support for social justice causes without addressing the underlying issues or actively working to dismantle systems of oppression.

The term “whitewashing” in this context refers to the act of covering up or glossing over negative aspects, much like whitewashing a wall hides imperfections or stains. Social justice whitewashing is a form of hypocrisy that undermines genuine efforts to advance social justice and equity by perpetuating the illusion of progress without addressing the root causes of injustice.

As a finance professional, I am grateful that the founders of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund believed in rigorous financial transparency as one of their core values. Perhaps it is time for the trustees at RBF to really question whether “weakening or dismantling” Israel’s defense structure is nothing more than social justice whitewashing and a smokescreen to encourage anarchy in the Middle East. True and everlasting peace can’t happen by weakening democracies and granting donations to organizations like DCI-P that seek to exploit children in the name of peace. Charitable giving, along with seeking peace are righteous pursuits. However, a society that encourages terrorism and non-financial transparency isn’t ready for peace. There is a reason the United States and many other countries were forced to stop donating to UNRWA. The trustees of the RBF are sophisticated enough to understand the true intentions of their grantee’s and these types of grants are truly a stain on Mr. Rockefeller’s legacy. It is time to unveil the nature of these grants, which amount to whitewashing all bad behavior, including terrorism, in the name of peace.

I have reached out to RBF to better understand their rationale for providing grants to DCI-P and other similar NGOs but haven’t heard back as this article went to publication.

About the Author
Throughout my professional career, I have held several senior accounting and finance related roles at multiple, innovative publicly traded and privately held technology companies. I have a strong background in leadership, compliance and M&A, along with a strategic mindset, which has enabled me to lead teams through leveraged buy-outs, transactions and other transformation initiatives. I have an MS/MBA in Professional Accounting from Northeastern University and a BS from New Jersey Institute of Technology in Engineering Science. I have been a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), since 2004.
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