For years, NGO Monitor has harassed anti-occupation groups in Israel-Palestine, spreading falsehoods in order to shut them down; now is the time to speak out.
By Michael Sfard / +972 Magazine (translation by Sol Salbe)
August 30, 2017
It does not matter what we say; only who we talk to. This is the guiding principle of the organization’s activity, the keystone of its work: guilt is not determined according to what you do (or what you say). No, guilt is predicated on those with whom you are in contact (“guilt by association”).
Around a decade ago, a new Israeli organization appeared out of nowhere. It had a name that sounded like a piece of medical equipment: NGO Monitor. The organization was founded by a Bar Ilan professor named Gerald Steinberg, as part of a right-wing think tank led by Netanyahu confidant Dore Gold. Since its establishment, Steinberg and NGO Monitor have been working tirelessly to dry out the funding of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights and peace groups.
Like a pesky fly, the Monitor sticks to anti-occupation civil society organizations, following their activity and their fundraising efforts and exerting great efforts to harm their ability to raise money. In order to realize this goal, NGO Monitor has created an industry of articles, data sheets, and posts which circularly cite one another and slander these organizations. It then systematically repeats and recycles those papers so many times that had they been academic papers, they would have been the hit of Google Scholar.
For years I have ignored Steinberg and his Monitor. He wrote about me endlessly, accusing me of every possible transgression, and dedicating countless paragraphs to me on his website. I never responded. After all, Steinberg does not address the content of my words and works to silence my community, so there cannot be a discussion between us. When I opened a Twitter account a few years ago, it took all but four minutes for a chilling message to be sent to me: “Gerald Steinberg is following you.” I immediately wrote to him: “And I thought you had been following me for years,” and for the first time in my life, I blocked someone on social media.
Last week Steinberg devoted an article to me in Makor Rishon, a version of which later appeared in English in the Times of Israel. My inclination, again, was to remain silent, to ignore it. But a doubt that nested in me grew as the minutes passed. Maybe it’s because that in the current Israeli political climate ignoring incitement is a luxury we cannot afford, and maybe it’s because this article exemplifies Steinberg and his Monitor’s contemptible and dangerous methodology. In any event I have come to the conclusion that this time I will respond. So, I present to you an annotated reading of Steinberg’s most recent creation.
The pretext for the current attack on me is a lecture I gave in December 2016 to an audience of supporters of the U.S. based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) at NYU, which was co-hosted by the local Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) group. The point of the article is that what I did was egregious. To him, addressing these organizations was an immoral act.