October 03, 2006

NGO Monitor: Politics or Altruism: An Analysis of Palestinian Children's NGO's

Omri wants us to get our snark back on. Count me in, Omri, I'm on it. To my Jewish readers, I don't know if you shared the same experience yesterday during your Yom Kippor synagogue services, but my rabbi pointed out to our congregation how important it is to do tzedakeh. Tzedakeh is Righteousness manifested through charitable donations. Tzedakeh is a rabbinical and Biblical commandment to give to charity. My Christian friends are already ordained with this mission and I know that based on the several dozen Christian services I have attended in my lifetime. Jeff Jacoby tells us that our sages teach us that God Himself is the original model of kindness

He clothed Adam and Eve when they were naked, visited Abraham when he was sick, comforted Isaac in his grief, buried Moses after he died. We, who are commanded to follow in God's ways (Deuteronomy 13:5), must likewise clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort the bereaved, bury the dead. We pray on Rosh Hashana - and Yom Kippor - for God to treat us with charity and kindness -- asei imanu tzedaka va'chesed -- not randomly but daily, not on a whim but constantly. Hashem wants the same from us. "For I desire kindness, not sacrifices," said the prophet Hosea 2,700 years ago. Our rabbis teach us to understand how important Tzedaka is for the world, and knowing this, it would only make you want to give more.
But I implore both my Jewish and Christian friends, I beg you to consider who you give charity to. Not all charities deserve your hard-earned dollar. Here's an important article with several good reasons why you should always review the charity prior to giving a donation. From NGO Monitor:
Although numerous NGO's (Non Governmental Organization) dedicated to assisting Palestinian children claim to be apolitical, few actually meet this criterion. Indeed, the purported political neutrality of Palestinian children's NGO's is often tainted by their sources of funding, the dissemination of virulent anti-Israel propaganda and the controversial activities of their staff.

Palestinian Children's Welfare Fund (PCWF), an NGO "whose goals are to improve the living standards of the children of Palestine," provides a classic example of the blatant politicization of certain Palestinian children's NGO's.

The PCWF mission statement proclaims "the group is a non-political, non-religious enterprise whose aspirations are purely humanitarian." Yet, the children's charity recently held a drawing contest for young children entitled, Why I love Palestine. The judged rewarded, almost without exception, entries that featured disturbing and vehement anti-Israel themes.

The PCWF website also promotes a call for papers and encourages the recruitment of volunteers to the "First National Convention of American Jews for a Free Palestine." According to the PCWF, "Members of the steering committee are academics, professionals, political and social activists who intend to form a national committee to confront AIPAC and its monopoly in the media over the representation of the Jewish community in the United States."

In addition, the PCWF website prominently features the political and violently charged lyrics of a song entitled "Olive Tree", performed by the Iron Sheikh, a Palestinian rapper. In his song, the Iron Sheikh declares that, "Trouble began before 1948, when Zionists founded the Israeli state." The Palestinian rapper also accuses of Israel of practicing "apartheid," and graphically describes how he would like to physically assault Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Clearly, the promotion of the above-mentioned convention, contest and musical lyrics are inconsistent with the PCWF's apolitical mission statement, and casts a negative pall over legitimate humanitarian activities carried out by the organization.

Similarly, a virulent anti-Israel political agenda overshadows the important humanitarian services offered by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF), "established in 1991 by concerned people in the U.S. to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths in the Middle East." While the PCRF mission statement declares the NGO to be "a registered non-political organization," it is headed by journalist Stephen Sosebee who, in an article published in the Akron Beacon, urged the Bush administration to "pressure Prime Minister Ariel Sharon" to accede to the Saudi peace plan. Sosebee also speaks extensively at universities and other political "solidarity meetings" where he expounds on classic anti-Semitic, anti-Israel statements. During a lecture at the Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up (ZCCF), Sosebee charged that a "Zionist lobby and Zionist influence" manipulated the U.S. government, its citizens and media.

In addition, the PCRF received assistance from The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Global Relief Foundation, and The International [Islamic] Relief Organization - all of which were closed down by the U.S. government for funding terrorist groups.

In sharp contrast to the PCRF and PCWF, Zeina, a Jerusalem based Palestinian NGO established to aid children suffering from cancer, can be described as a truly humanitarian and apolitical organization. According to its website, Zeina was "founded in mid-2001 by a group of parents of children inflicted with cancer, who were undergoing therapy at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital." The organization is "concerned with providing psychological and emotional support to the children suffering from cancer and their families. The center aims at helping and counseling their families to face the disease and its side effects and to help ease its effects and to overcome it."

Although Zeina was only founded in 2001, it has already obtained an operation registration from the Israeli Ministry of Interior as a Jerusalem based charitable society, "developed a professional relationship with Hadassah Ein Karem and Sha'reh Tzedek Hospitals," and received "a grant from the French Consulate General in Jerusalem, to fund for the set up of a new center infrastructure, and to cover expenses for practical activities and counseling."

Unlike the PCRF and PCWF, the staff at Zeina has chosen to form a positive relationship with their Israeli counterparts. Rather than engage in counter-productive anti-Israel propaganda via questionable contests, hateful music, and vehement diatribes, the Zeina website offers only a summary of their apolitical accomplishments and goals.

While it may be difficult for Palestinian children's NGO's to maintain neutrality in a politically charged environment, Zeina has illustrated that such conduct is possible.

The PCRF and the PCWF would do well to follow Zeina's example. Advancing a partisan and ideological cause under the guise of children's education and medical care only contributes to the cycle of hatred dominating the Middle East.
NGOs are autonomous, non-profit, and politically unaffiliated organizations that advance a particular cause or set of causes in the public interest. The range of causes on which an NGO can focus is unlimited, but a cardinal principle is that the NGO must operate in a manner consistent with the objectives for which it receives funds. Donations are the lifeline of NGOs, because they are independent organizations. Funding can come from governments, the United Nations, private trusts and philanthropies, individual donors, religious institutions, and, in many cases, other NGOs. NGOs can contribute to democracy by challenging governments and promoting social interests, but they themselves are not democratic institutions and have no democratic accountability. An NGO is only accountable to its particular funding organizations and members.

Still unsure of what I mean? Check out these NGO sites. Some of them will make your skin crawl:

Advocacy Project
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
American Near East Refugee Aid
Amnesty International
Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem
Arab Association for Human Rights
Ard el Atfal
Ard el Insan
Asia Society
Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID)
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Betselem (B'tselem)
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Caritas Internationalis
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (CPAP)
Christian Aid
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)
Defense for Children International/Palestine Section
Department for International Development

Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
European Union
Free the Children
Grassroots International
Habitat International Coalition
HaMoked -- Center for the Defense of the Individual
Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute
Hebron Restoration Committee
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Crisis Group (ICG)
International Development Exchange
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
International Institute for Peace
International Progress Organization
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Jerusalem Media and Communications Center
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Machsom Watch
Medecins du Monde
Medecins Sans Frontieres
Medical Aid for Palestinians
Mennonite Central Committee
Mercy Corps
Middle East NGOs Gateway Project (MENGOS)
New Israel Fund
Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America
Oxfam International
Palestine Children's Relief Fund
Palestine Children's Welfare Fund
Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International affairs (PASSIA)
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON)
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA)
Partners For Peace
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Save the Children Fund

Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA)
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Terre des Hommes
Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR)
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
United Nations World Conference Against Racism (UNWCR)
War on Want
World Bank Palestinian NGO Project
World Organization Against Torture
World Vision International (WVI)

NGO's, like the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Ford Foundation, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) New Israel Fund, Miftah, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I), LAW, Christian Aid, and the Advocacy Project each collect funds for a variety of projects and areas from generous donors, philanthropic institutions, and government budgets, but they themselves are not democratic institutions and have no democratic accountability. An NGO is only accountable to its particular funding organizations and members.

Remember: These self-declared 'humanitarian NGOs' promote politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas and they lend a false credibility to the notion that Palestine is even a real nation. Don't be scammed.