Supervise political NGOs, Israeli aid watchdog tells US

Man holds United States and Israel flags in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by: U.S. State Department

U.S. funding of certain political NGOs in Israel and the Palestinian territories lacks the independent oversight necessary to prevent abuses and undermine the peace process, according to a new report by an Israeli aid watchdog.

The report, launched Thursday in Washington, D.C., by Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, claims that groups financed by agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy “contribute to the political campaigns designed to demonize and delegitimize Israel,” contradicting the U.S. government’s official policy of supporting Israel and promoting democracy for the Palestinians.

“Grants are awarded without due diligence, there is no requirement for independent evaluations prior to grant renewals, and there are pronounced inconsistencies between stated objectives and the implementation of funded projects,” the study notes.

To prevent these abuses in the future, the paper calls on the U.S. government to publish clear guidelines and criteria to screen the NGOs and perform independent monitoring of their activities instead of relying on their good faith, among other recommendations.

Abuses

According to the report, “artificially narrow and misleading criteria” were used for assessing grant proposals, “resulting in funding for NGO applicants whose activities sharply contradict program objectives and policies.”

Examples of this are Parents Circle Family Forum, an Israeli political advocacy group that received $1.61 million from USAID but promotes  in NGO Monitor’s opinion  a “one-sided narrative of the [Israel-Palestine] conflict” or the Youth Media Program, funded with $750,000 by USAID in 2010-2013 to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, the study claims.

USAID, the report notes, also finances the activities of Sikkuy, which published opinion articles accusing Israel of racial discrimination against Palestinians.

The degree of supervision over how these and other grants approved by NED are “unclear,” says NGO Monitor, a controversial organization accused by Human Rights Watch of undermining liberals in Israel, while the group insists it receives no public funding and is entirely financed by private donations.

Recommendations

NGO Monitor claims in the report that when they contacted USAID about their concerns, the agency said that “continuation of all or part of the funding for a program [could] be suspended or terminated because such assistance would not be in the national interest of the United States or would be in violation of an applicable law,” but in fact no project was suspended or terminated.

In light of these concerns, the study urges U.S. officials to “conduct detailed and independent evaluations of the NGO activity before grant allocation and during implementation” and prevent renewal of grants to aid groups “whose activities are inconsistent with policy objectives.”

“All U.S. government funding agencies should be required to assess NGO applicants on the basis of their all activities and agendas, and not only on the basis of narrowly defined projects,” the report recommends.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

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