TIME: 13:00 – 14:00, Thursday 19th May 2016
VENUE: Committee Room 10, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
SPEAKERS: Professor Gerald Steinberg, Founder and President of NGO Monitor,
Douglas Murray, Associate Director at The Henry Jackson Society
Baroness Neville Jones
Good afternoon everybody, welcome again to another event by the always active, always interesting Henry Jackson Society, to whom we are all very grateful. Today our discussion is about European governments and the BDS wars – what is going on on the surface and what is going on underneath. As you know there is a great deal of discussion about this, most recently in our universities up and down this country BDS and Israel which are very closely associated have been much in the news. We are very fortunate today to have two expert speakers. Our first speaker Professor Gerald Steinberg is actually the founder of the very organisation we need to hear from, NGO Monitor, and he is a Professor of political studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel and he is a founder of the program on conflict management and negotiation at Bar Ilan. His research has been for years on non-governmental organisations and how they affect Israel in particular Israeli politics, Israel/America relations and of course legal aspects and antisemitism. Douglas Murray will be responding to Professor Steinberg’s remarks. Douglas I first came across when he landed in Oxford as a very young student and from day one he was outstanding, courageous, outspoken, perceptive, articulate and fluent, and so he has remained in the relatively few years since he stopped being a student at Oxford. He is an Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, he founded the Centre for Social Cohesion, he is a most prolific writer for the Spectator and Standpoint. He is frequently on television, News night and Question Time where I had the honour of appearing with him and he speaks about issues which are close to our hearts today – terrorism, national security and freedom of speech. He is the ideal person to join Professor Steinberg in the discussion which is going to happen now. Our speakers will probably wrap up within half an hour and that will leave us with about half an hour for questions with you here, the important people who have found time to come here today, for which we are very grateful. So over to Professor Steinberg.
Thank you very much for the speech, thank you to Douglas Murray and thank you to the Henry Jackson Society and to all of you for taking the time off and for going through security and making your way into this room which I very much appreciate. The issues which I am going to be discussing are only one dimension, I don’t want to claim to have any grand theory about the process of BDS or any grand strategy. But there is one central element that I have been working on for about fifteen years which I argue is the engine which pulls along a great deal of, I will use the term ‘demonization of Israel’ which I will present to you. Some of you may have heard me speak in these rooms or at least in this house of Parliament before but I hope this will be some new information on unfortunately the same situation which has existed for close to fifteen years.
Very often the BDS warfare against Israel is attributed to a decision, a statement made by a group of Palestinians in 2005 by Omar Barghouti. You can see very easily the beginnings of the BDS movement at a conference that took place in September 2001 under the offices what was then called the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, now it is called the Human Rights Council, more or less the same structure and at that time they had a conference to celebrate the end of apartheid in 2001 in South Africa. But it quickly became and the planning became captured by the Palestinians, the supporters, the conference took place in Iran, Tehran, which tells you quite a bit about the agenda there and it was very much a conference against racism becoming a conference of racism- antisemitism, marked Israel as a war criminal and at the time they adopted a grand strategy in which they declared Israel to be an apartheid in the final declaration. It was adopted by 1500 organisations approximately, 5000 officials, Amnesty was a principal player I just want to point that out but there were many other organisations, under the rule break of human rights. They adopted this declaration which said Israel is an apartheid state amid war crimes, ethnic cleansing, all of that language is in this final declaration. And that was just the beginning, the final section of that said ‘we are asking the international community to promote policies that will lead to the complete international isolation of Israel.’ They took the package which was used against apartheid and transferred it to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We began to see this operational process in terms of boycotts and resolutions and reports by the United Nations and the beginning of all these activities which we see now.
Very quickly afterwards this was a period of a lot of violence in Israel, of Palestinian violence, of mass bombings – it was the Israeli response against the centre of Palestinian suicide bombings and it was called the Jenin massacre. Afterwards the Palestinian officials used it, the embassy official then went on the BBC and said ‘yes I can testify there was a massacre’ and shortly afterwards that was the beginning of the academic boycott, starting with the UK. Using the Jenin atrocities as proof that Israel commits war crimes and the Israeli troops are war criminals, that was the first enactment of the BDS movement. So that precedes Omar Barghouti and it precedes the formal adoption by Palestinians and I don’t think it is a coincide that is started in the UK and it was led by a number of NGOs. One of the major London based NGOs what was supposed to be a humanitarian aid organisation, Christian Aid became involved in this very quickly as a humanitarian aid organisation, amongst others.
Now I have finished presenting the history, I am going to talk about where we stand today focussing primarily on the issue of money. There is a an industry out there which we estimate is worth over 1 billion pounds/dollars, depending on which currency you want to use, it is massive promoting the polarisation of human rights, humanitarian aid in many different areas and very much focussing on the problems which go far beyond that. I just want to say a quick word on where this information which I am presenting is coming from. The organisation as Baroness Deech stated which I founded is NGO Monitor, because what I found out was after the South Africa conference took place and after all these NGOs adopted this resolution was that nobody in the academic realm, nobody in the journalistic realm, no one was looking at what these NGOs where doing, how they were funded and the political role they were playing, the very damaging political role they were playing, they had an Halo effect. So NGO Monitor grew out of that effort to try and introduce some processes and checks and balances in the principle of democracy. One of the most important principles of democracy is checks and balances – they were no and there are still very few today, checks and balances of the power exerted by NGOs, groups who adopt wording to promote the agenda of human rights and I am not saying they are all bad but when you have that much power, money and influence, when representatives from Amnesty International can speak in the House of Lords, the House of Commons, present allegations of Israeli war crimes, be accepted as the absolute truth and leading to things like restrictions on weapons to Israel which happened after the war in Lebanon, 2006. So the question of checks and balances is most important and we based our material entirely on available sources. Everything what we do is available, we have to do some digging but it is increasingly made public.
The amount of money is essential here, I would argue that the whole BDS movement was propelled by the easily available money, without due diligence and without independent analysis. A lot of your tax payer money is involved – I always get asked if it is Arab money funding this, there may well be but what we see on the surface is at least 100/120 million euros a year and I will show you some examples of significant money in a minute. All of that money goes to the demonization of Israel, all that goes into political warfare with Israel. At least between 5-10% of all the money which is allocated internationally, Israel is in many cases the largest single focus for funds which are supposed to be used for human rights and humanitarian aid. What I am saying to you today is very similar to what I said when I was in Swiss parliament with my colleague Shawn Sacks when he went to Finland recently and Sweden, we go up and down Europe, I have spoke in Spanish parliaments and said you have 5 million euros, this is when Spain had 24% unemployment, you are giving 5 million euros to groups like Breaking Silence, do you know what is being done with that money? And the answers that we got was yes the money is being used for human rights and peace. What results have you had for all this money which you have given? And that was the end of the conversation because they could not justify continuing it, I am not saying it is like this in all situations, Britain is different, but it is a common problem throughout Europe.
The governments which are providing this money, in many cases are publically and I think sincerely opposed to BDS. The statements which are made are very very clear against BDS movements by a number across the board. So you have your ministers from the European Parliament, you have the President of the European Parliament making very strong statements and it echoes throughout many governments. On the other hand when you look at the actions, the money comes from the very same governments and part of that is a result of the lack of ability to impose government policy or political capital awareness and that includes here in the UK. So examples of government funded organisations which are hardcore BDS, I could give you 20 more examples of this but that would kill all my time. One which is particularly active as a group which you have probably never heard of is Grassroots Jerusalem who produces documentation which promotes the BDS movement. It has nothing to do with Jerusalem or Grassroots but they get a third of their budget approximately from the European Union. Moving now to the UK, I will go back to Europe in a few minutes.
In some case it is the matter of the amounts and in some cases it is the matter of the relationships. Inaudible is an Israeli organisation which as far as I know has three people which are active in it but there is one main person. These are very bitter anti-Israeli Israelis, they are paid no attention they are completely invisible in Israel. But they get money from partner groups, mostly churches and one of them is Christian Aid. And they distribute propaganda which promotes which we call a 1948 agenda. It is not about occupation we can argue about borders but it is about Israel’s right to exist for the Jewish people. And this is an organisation that is supported in its activities in a significant way by Christian Aid which gets government money and there goal very specifically is to create a de-Zionised Palestine. Why that is legitimate to provide that money to these types of organisations? Who makes those decisions, on what basis are those decisions made? And I am going to come back to that theme a number of times in the time which I have left.
I will give you a few examples and then put them together for a broader example. Another organisation which receives a great deal of money including up until recently from the Department of International Development, which I will spend a few more minutes talking about as we go on into this and MAP, Medical Aid for Palestinians is extremely active in promoting I would say incitement is an appropriate word, hostile towards Israel particularly in the UK but not only in the UK. They are a London based organisation, they take out newspaper ads in 2014 they were active. MAP was behind the land set, you may know about this, in the medical journal that had carried on a campaign, a vicious campaign against Israel to pursue medical claims and published what was really an absurd letter in July 2014. That money, including the founder of the organisation who is no longer the head, has a complicated history, I won’t go into that but is a publically visible supporter, sending emails telling people to look at the Klu Klux Klan videos of how the Zionists control the world – this was the founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians and the person who signed and co-signed many letters which were in the land set. That stopped and that is something that NGO Monitor was very proud to play a part in but MAP continues to function as a charity, I will talk to you in a couple of minutes about the Charity Commission issues here, there is a complaint we have submitted a complaint along with partner organisations, Jewish Human Rights Watch, to the Charity Commission with the hope that these types of activities which clearly violate the rules of charity.
I am getting closer to your tax money. These days the Department for International Development probably the largest single European International Aid framework and including the budgets a lot of it goes to organisations which are involved in demonizing Israel. Islamic Relief Worldwide is involved in terrorism, Israeli Defence Ministry published a finding that almost two years ago IRW is a channel for funds to terrorist organisations like Hamas. This organisation gets money from a number of different countries, including 5.7million pounds from DFIT. And we wrote letters and simply said we are compiling the responses of the funding governments to the Israeli government decision, are you aware of the Israeli government decision, do you concur, are you taking this into account and making the funding decisions? We asked through freedom of information for some of the documents, who makes the decisions to provide this funding and we got nothing back. What we did hear from the IRW is that they said that they are undertaking an audit to show what their activities are and then they announced a few months after that, that yes they had had an audit and that nothing was found of criminal or terrorist links in that nature, everything is good and that was the end of it. We asked who did the audit, is the document public – no response. These are all very questionable processes. All of these deserve more time but you can see that this is the response what we got from the European Union which is also a major funder and they gave us the exact same language. You can see that this is also something that the authorities themselves get together.
Another example is the Norwegian Refugee Council which doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism it is a different direction but how it is funded. The Norwegian Refugee Council is a major Norwegian humanitarian government organisation. It is not clear to me why, but DFIN, the UK government aid agency provides about a third of its budget which is of the order of about $15 million for 3 years for this particular project. So this is money going from British tax payers to a Norwegian Refugee organisation which is very active in promoting warfare against Israel. Case after case, at least 700 cases and probably more, many of which taking place in Israel but primarily involved in publicity. Each case raises the headline ‘Israel is destroying Palestinian houses’, destroying, decommissioning whatever the right word is. So this is a massive operation that they have. The money goes to the same NGOs which we have talked about earlier but it is all in secret. These NGOs hire lawyers or have lawyers on their staff, large groups of lawyers and they pepper the courts, including Canadian courts in some cases, with allegations of construction, violation on international law, all of those things. Most of these cases are thrown out or dismissed but they get the headlines. It reinforces the image which you see constantly, journalists write about this.
The point that I want to raise is that the DFID, everybody is very secretive about where this money goes. The Israeli recipients report so we know who the Israeli recipients are even though on the official transparency website the supplier name is withheld so this is unusual in this kind of document, it is very unusual. In these cases where it comes to Israeli/Palestinian issues where politics is a central aspect of the funding, we are talking about the Norwegian Refugee Council, funding by the DFID in the UK and the supplier name is withheld. All those things create a very strange situation. We are pretty sure, I would say certain but we cannot prove it in court that a significant amount of money goes to an organisation called Al-Haq which receives a large part of its budget for these kind of legal cases, if you see an image, you can see it in the corner there on the right hand side, you see a headline that Palestinians provide volumes of evidence against Israeli war crimes to the international criminal court. That is somebody from Al-Haq, usually the head of Al-Haq, who has been held in Israeli courts and found by Israeli courts to be involved with the popular front of liberation for Palestinian people, a terrorist organisation, both in Israel and in Jordan. He is the head of Al-Haq and as the court said he is a Jekyll and Hyde, he is a human rights defender by day and a terrorist by night. In the liberal Israeli court, this is not a propaganda story, they are the main promoters and probably the largest or one of the largest recipients of funding from the Norwegian Refugee Council, including money from DFID. We have many more examples of this, I wanted to show you the ones that are typical of this process.
Very briefly I know the vote on Brexit is on the 23rd June, we have no voice there that is your issue but it is a general European problems and in the UK almost everything focuses on DFID. This would be the equivalent in the EU – these are all the groups in the EU that in different ways fund NGOs and very often they double dip. Many different groups promoting BDS are getting funded directly or indirectly by the European Union. Usually the European Union’s response is that ‘we fund projects not organisations’ but of course that is a meaningless distinction in almost all of these cases.
The common theme in this is a lack of transparency. We have done the same thing in the EU we have asked for transcripts of documentation and public documents. We get nothing from them or if we do they are completely redacted, they are wiped out, to give you an example we got 600 pages I think from the EU and almost each page or section had information whited out, what was left was the names of the problems and not the person, for instance who is making the decisions, who are the people involved with the level of expertise, are there conflicts of interest? None of this is answerable. Who’s doing the due diligence on this? None of this is answerable in all these cases. So the secretive process is really troubling and contradictory to the democratic process in general. The evaluations of where the money goes which the European officials claim to make are not available in any form to members of the European parliament or not to the general public. There are often discrepancies between the funding what is listed and what the NGOs themselves are reporting and there are other examples as well where funding is handed off to a very large group like Christian Aid and there are similar ones, at least one in every European country and then it gets used to fund other NGOs and by the time money gets to liberty it is almost impossible to trace.
The argument that we only fund projects and we don’t fund organisations is the same again. This is an example, Baroness Deech talked about a book which was published called Lawfare by Orde Kittrie which I strongly recommend for anyone who has the stomach to go through a couple hundred pages about international law but it is the only book I have read on this topic which I can actually read including two very detailed chapters about how warfare is used against Israel by the Palestinians International criminal court. Well this is a conference which was held in Cairo where they put up the European flag, there is nothing in the European Union funding that details funding a conference in Europe in Cairo which is to create the framework for trailing Israelis as war criminals. This was a conference for lawyers but the people who got the money, one of these organisations, used the money for this purpose and even put up a European flag. Now we have never got an explanation from the European Union about how this is consistent with their polices.
I am going to end with recommendations which we have. The first recommendation is full transparency, I cannot explain it is an inexplicable that organisations like DFID or the European Union which are instruments to democracy and human rights, there are so many similarly named organisations which are secretive and primarily on Israeli/Palestinian funding. The excuses they give you can see through them, the excuses are transparent not the funding processes. Guidelines on where the money should go, organisations which promote what they call one state, organisations which are clearly anti-Semitic, I had a long and interesting conversation with the EU has appointed the coordinator against antisemitism which was a step in the right direction for the EU and we discussed how you would define what is anti-Semitic and I said there are some very obvious examples of that – let’s start with the obvious ones and work our way backwards. An organisation that gets funded by a government body whether it is DFID or the European Union, engages in anti-Semitic activities or language that should not be accepted. It should be the government not the Israelis or anybody else in the community and not say well we will give it to a different project for the same organisation. Parliamentary oversight and I know that there is a parliamentary session coming up to discuss in great detail the recent audit, the McCann report on DFID and I think that is extremely important. This is not only an Israel issue. It is about getting value for money, it is about due diligence with government funds. Although the funding for the Israeli based organisations is exaggerated or is very disproportionate, the principal is the same – holding funded organisations accountable for their activities and also creating a type of order of refunding of mechanisms so that you don’t get the cases of five different European organisations funding the same organisation. That gets back to a greater oversight, a responsible oversight. And on that I think I will end my presentation and turn over to Douglas. This is our website and everything that I said is provided in great detail on our website, all of the organisations that we monitor it is way over 150 now, are on our website A-Z listed and each government that provides funding as well as private donors are on there. Thank you for your attention.
Thank you that was really special. Douglas your reaction.
Thank you very much, thank you to Gerald and thank you to Baroness Deech, I should also say I am on the international advisory board of NGO Monitor which I am very proud to be on. I am just going to respond with really a couple of questions I suppose just to tease out some other things, thoughts and reflections from you, if I may. But first I would like to bring the good news that a lack of transparency at the EU level is not unique solely to this issue and I would invite people to reflect on this on the days ahead. I really wanted to get onto a couple of practicalities, firstly you didn’t mention anything about it but it is perhaps worth reflecting on I would love to get your views on the legislation that the British government recently passed that was an effort, most people here I am sure are aware to counter the effect of unilateral BDS legislation at a local council, local authority level. This is the trend that was growing you know Sheffield council instead of spending its time discussing rates and bin collections and pot holes were discussing international affairs, effectively running its own foreign policies, these were found to be not only immensely vulnerable to very small specialist hard-core groups within local authorities but also taking up very large amounts of council time on an issue that arguably shouldn’t be of any of their concern. So the government of course here passed legislation as part of a bill to ensure that local authorities could not effectively make unilateral foreign policy decisions or declarations. I wondered if you could reflect on that and also whether there is anything else of that ilk that might be worth thinking about here because the striking thing about that is that whilst everyone was prepared for council by council counter efforts as it where, is there anything else like that you see that would be apart from anything else just time saving here in the UK?
Another question really is what at a citizenship level you think is possible or achievable, you gave the example of War on Want, there has been a terrific campaign in the last year to raise public awareness of the fact that many people give to charities like War on Want assuming that they are alleviating poverty in Africa and digging wells and so on and are quite surprised when really how monomaniac they are as an organisation on the issue of the Middle East in particular. Are there other glaring examples like that, that say for instance a citizen sitting in the House of Commons on a day like today could raise either with the Charity Commission or with other authorities where there is a clear conflict of interest between the claim like an organisation War on Want makes about itself and the reality of what it pursues?
Thirdly and I suppose finally for me, I wonder if you could just reflect a little bit more on the role of the churches in this and the funding arrangements and the NGO arrangements there because you referred to the halo effect, one might say that the churches have the ultimate halo effect and it is very striking to a lot of people how activists from a single direction many Christian charities involved in the Middle East have started to become in recent years. What opportunity is there to change that to make it less monothematic and less biased and bigoted against one state alone?
I would like to hear a bit more from you about Medical Aid for Palestinians, you may not know that I and UK lawyers for Israel spent two years complaining about them to the advertising standards authority, we had a very small result but the quality of the analysis of their advertising was absolutely shocking.
I don’t know all of the details of it, I will start with Douglas’s questions and then I will go on and talk about Medical Aid for Palestinians.
It is good that you mentioned that as it wasn’t part of the presentation, the decision that was made by the British government on the issue that most councils not setting their own foreign policy particularly or maybe exclusively on this issue and not passing resolutions that would prevent the purchase of equipment or companies going to tenders which are somehow connected with Israel, that was a big blow to BDS. It wasn’t just in the UK, I think that is an important aspect of what is going on. The United States now has close to around 25 of the 50 states have passed legislation like that, they go further that any company that is publically boycotting Israel will not get state contracts and they are pushing congress to adopt a similar policy, I think that is coming up to vote in the coming months. In Paris and some other places they are also fighting BDS, well in France in general BDS is considered to be discriminatory in terms of businesses and economics. There was an announcement that one of the Deutsche Bank had withdrawn its boycott of a major Israeli bank that had been adopted about a year ago. Those were all being pressured by the same NGOs and the fact that there is now effective counter pressure against the BDS movement and its constituent members I think that that is an encouraging sign and certainly those who pay attention and saw the British action is a good step in that direction both within itself, saving time but also as a model for other countries which is now being by the way implemented in Spain, something very similar. Local authorities who have adopted BDS type of resolutions are being pushed back and I think quite successfully.
Citizens I think are part of this process. Also the process of whether we have a lobbying, advocating, pushing the Charity Commission, it is true that groups like Jewish Human Rights Net, Jewish Human Rights Watch and UK Lawyers for Israel have submitted requests for review against War on Want, MAP and a couple of others, Amnesty that is also coming up to ask the Charity Commission systematically to look at these. It is possible for us because the head of the Charity Commission has greater awareness. I think the Labour party, antisemitism storm and the willingness of a broader part of the UK, political establishments to condemn antisemitism whether it is Ken Livingstone or other variation of forms and accepting the fact that antisemitism and antizionism is a part of antisemitism and all of those points are linked together, that can also help us to address some of these issues with organisations. Holding the organisations to account, these organisations operate at the grassroots. They have local support groups and they can be challenged quite strongly I think at that level whether it is Amnesty or Oxfam or War on Want, groups like that.
On your point about the churches, the whole BDS movement has really strong foothold within the churches, a council of churches based in Geneva but it is closely linked to the Anglicans and others have a very direct BDS movement they send young people over it is called EAPPI and they come back after 3 months of brain washing completely absorbed with the Palestinian cause, all they see in here is Palestinian suffering, nothing about the history of the conflict, the Israeli side, they may not meet any Israelis perhaps maybe speaking to a group of them and then they then propagandise for the Palestinian cause. This is a one of a number of examples of how deeply rooted this is and it is something that I think needs to be checked and challenged in a more systematic way. The list of things which needs to be done is quite long.
Let’s get some questions from the audience. Who would like to ask question, lady at the back there…
Could you say a little more about the draining of resources away from other inaudible…
So as I understand it the BDS movement has quite a clear set of demands, I am wondering whether these organisations have a claim to these demands, do they have a to do list for the Israeli state after which they are going to abandon these policies and if so inaudible… what does it say?
Could you comment possibly on Iranian or Saudi Arabia funding?
The draining of resources – I think the most great example is the Norwegian Refugee Council. There are many examples of this the refugee who works for the agency which has been in existence since 1949 perpetuating the Palestinian refugee definition and just huge amounts of money going to the Palestinian cause. The Syrian refugees are clearly in immediate need of assistance and there are many other examples of this. So when you focus a disproportionate amount of money in different ways and it is being abused, it is not for refugee relief although the term refugee is often in there, it makes it very difficult for other groups to be able to compete. We did a survey of we took all the funding that the EU gives, the largest single European instrument is called the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, they have a budget of about 130, 140 million euros a year and they distribute it to close to 90 different countries. Most of the money going to NGOs promoting democracy and human rights. You look to see how it is distributed amongst different countries, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict gets far more than anything else in the Middle East by far. You would think that there is absolutely no area in the world, certainly in the Middle East that is in need of assistance in developing democracies and human rights other than Israel. I think Colombia is second and perhaps Russia is third but they are much lower down. This disproportionate investment and of course it perpetuates the question of Israel being an apartheid state, these organisations have an interest and commitment to that. What is the role? Because BDS is not a centralised organisation where we can say here is a piece of paper, here are their roles.
A significant portion of that framework supports a one state solution which leads to the elimination of Israel. That is true by the frameworks which were used in South Africa if the goal of the anti-apartheid movement was the elimination of the apartheid state, then the most mainstream goal of BDS is the elimination of Israel. Other than that it is more a matter of the techniques which they use and I would argue that this is an extension of as I said earlier, as Zionism as racism which is an extension to the rejection of the two state partition plan by the government in 1947, we just don’t want to have anything that resembles Jewish national sovereignty regardless of borders and a lot of the language of the BDS movement has that in it.
Regarding Iranian/Saudi funding we have no evidence of this. There are a number of organisations not clearly involved in BDS but in the general framework where the funding is very mysterious, for example here in Britain you have a group called Kabu which is closely affiliated with MAP and it is hard to know where one ends and the other begins. They run all these tours on the suffering of Palestinians through Gaza and elsewhere for members of Parliament which tricks them into meeting people who are very pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. Where does Kabu get its money from? The council for Anglo Arab British understanding. I think Alan Duncan MP is now the head of it. Where does that money come from because there is a lot of money there and I don’t have an answer for that. The money that we are able to trace is largely from Western countries where there is at least in some form transparency.
I just want to add one thing to that, Kabu did seem to have a large fall off in its funding when the Assad regime in Syria got into difficulty some years ago. It is possible that these things are not connected I say if any lawyers for Kabu are present.
A lot of organisations who were involved in radical politics lost money when Gadhafi lost his regime.
Gentlemen in the blue shirt at the front there and then this lady.
I am just wondering how in practice you could really go to a pot of project funded approach, because if I pass a beggar on the street and he asks me for 50p and I have done this, I turn around and say yes I know you are hungry, I tell you what I will go into the shop here and buy you a sandwich for five times as much. Usually I have been turned down on that because they didn’t really want the 50p for a sandwich, they wanted it for something else. So the question is given that governments who provide funding for these projects do not have the time or the information for a public investigation, inaudible…, propose to say… inaudible… the government is not set up for that?
Mr Steinberg I don’t know if you have had an opportunity to read the inaudible bulletin about a very similar inaudible… that he actually got from the world bank with inaudible… are you aware this body has been set up called the independent commission on aid impact which is supposed to be precisely… inaudible… not collecting …inaudible… with some aspects of the commissioner inaudible..
I would like to address the issue of inaudible…
First of all the fundability, I am a little more optimistic. The United States government has a policy and at least the first priority in it is building structures which have less possibility of abuse in terms of political application and after that you have a tangible product, sometimes you end up with a hospital and no money to operate it or an empty building or a Palestinian museum that has no ornaments is the latest, but it does address some of this issues. Now it is true that if you are doing a humanitarian aid operation, you should also be worrying about the operational costs. If you have a building and you pay some salaries the structure should also be consistent with the economy. I think that is a different approach to aid and also the justification that this whole industry makes, NGOs, Oxfam, Amnesty, War on Want, everybody says that we have to be involved in politics because that addresses the underlying, root causes. Of course they are obviously far more complicated, we can now use an excuse in that case to do all other things and become politically active but in fact it is quite different to aid on the ground. So for 20 or 30 years these organisations were never challenged on the issue of using significant amounts of aid money for these causes, in fact the Charity Commission consistently endorsed that position and I would be surprised if it changed that. I think academics have a role in pushing back a lot of the inaudible guard of all these issues which is created within the academic framework and justified. One of the things I am involved in is trying to push back also my academic work on these, spreading of boundaries completely.
The UK LFI issue and the independent commission for aid impact, the revolving door issue. We see this all the time, we see people who were at one point working for an NGO but then going to work for the agency which provides that funding. I have heard this story, many many officials will change their positions through that revolving door. In many other areas that would not be legal or acceptable. If one year you were giving away the money and then one year receiving the money from the same sources. Certainly in terms of the defence contact it is no longer allowed but in this industry it is not at all surprising, unfortunately.
Rockefeller brothers I am curious to know why you asked that question but I will answer it and you can tell me later. The work that we do is to track where the funding goes for these organisations and we noticed that in the United States in particular some of the leading promoters of BDS in the US are organisations which were marginal up until 2/3 years ago. One of them is Jewish voices for people which provide Jewish people with voices and probably about as effective as Jewish voices being ineffective entirely. But then they got a million plus dollars and now you see them on many canvases and going to church meetings saying we are Jewish we agree with you it is not anti-Semitic to disagree against Israel by supporting BDS and also we found they got this money from the Rockefeller fund. Again it is not public money or state money and it is harder to challenge but it brings an issue of due diligence and at least in one case a Trustee resigned in protest when we pointed out this issue. It is an ongoing process, it is difficult, I don’t want to be overly pessimistic, it takes a lot of work to get a majority of Trustees to accept that this form of their political agenda is in fact discriminatory, racist and contributes to violence not peace.
Last round, anybody else? Gentleman down there, okay the final three.
Could I ask you, wouldn’t it be more effective just to be brave and call out the names and the EU itself when we are talking about Europe, the governments themselves are visibly hostile to Israel and they enable this and some years ago a non-Jewish MEP wrote and he wrote about the result in it harming Israel. He spoke about it recently. So in exactly the same way the Labour party is now being called out for its anti-Semitism, wouldn’t it be more effective instead of trying to attack the NGOs, they are never going to change their stance, rather to attack the source of the problem?
Nice to see you again Gerald, inaudible… and I admire you …inaudible.. I am wondering ….inaudible… examine how these NGOs are used …inaudible… foreign policy not just against Israel but against some of the things …inaudible… because whoever pays the piper ..inaudible… and that is disturbing way across the board …inaudible…
It is just a bit of advice really so when you write a letter to your MP and raise the issue of how public money is being spent, you generally get a statement from the foreign office who will say inaudible…, I was wondering if there is a tactic that you need to avoid or if you need to employ forensic evidence ourselves so that you can go back and actually say I can see that my money is financing terrorism etc
Ok, three more challenging questions. Calling out the enablers, the EU, we do that, the Israeli government does that and other people do that, although using the process of naming and shaming is one of the tactics that has been used and with some successes on the land set with Amnesty and a few other cases, there is a lot of immunity. I will have to study more, I have read some articles on the processes which have gone on with the Labour party here, which you live here I don’t, but I was I guess the term surprised is the best term, shocked that the Labour party was willing to take on what has been going on for many years directly a form of anti-Semitism. The ongoing process with Livingstone, can that be transferred into the EU, I haven’t seen it. There is a wave of hostility against Israel and it is generally considered to be common practice, acceptable behaviour to make these kind of statements war crimes, apartheid, racism, genocide, ethnic cleansing have become part of the vocabulary and there is not sanction which I see, political or societal sanction for using that language in Brussels or the European parliaments. So I hope that you are right that it is possible but I am not, well I haven’t seen it. I am not saying we shouldn’t try it, I am just saying I don’t think it is effective.
The question about the paper here, which I did not plant the question but since I was given the opportunity. EU foreign policy and the role of the NGOs in the Arab/Israeli case study which is an academic paper we published, an academic journal so we are hoping we have some impact there with law schools about how linked in this money thing becomes. We trace it directly into EU policies of product labelling which the EU does. The NGOs are very powerful lobbies, they are paid for by the EU to lobby the EU to promote the policies which the EU which the EU policy makers want to see imposed on Israel. This is a discussion of a much bigger project. So absolutely I agree with you and it is not outside of our agenda because it is in fact one of the main academic research based products of this process.
Letters to MPs, first of all one of the things that we have to try and do is we have gotten nowhere with freedom of information, I wonder if MPs were to ask for the information for example the recipient is not disclosed, name withheld, if an MP were to ask or series of MPs were to ask why that is the case and whether that is absolutely necessary, was the justification essential that they needed the non-substantive answers which we are getting. So asking the MPs to help find the information is in itself I think valuable. I do think the issue of funding that goes to prisoners and terrorists, it was a very very important issue, it still is and it really highlights in a tangible way the lack of due diligence and oversight and the games which are being played to justify that.
May I pick up on that point and another couple of things. The gentleman at the back, the most important thing about this is having the details to hand when you approach either the MP or when you are making a freedom of information request or to the Charity Commission, the most important thing is not to ask what looks like a fishing expediential question but to have a very precise thing. I called a little while ago for my readers to complain to the Charity Commission about an organisation not exactly linked to this but called the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an organisation set up that is not very concerned with human rights. One reader sent back the application, on the question ‘what information do you have about this charity being inaudible’ and they wrote Douglas Murray told me, so unsurprisingly it didn’t get very far. The more detail you can put in and with FOIs the more specific the request the more under pressure they are really to try and come back with the detail. That slightly goes to the question at the front here about the EU, I don’t want to address this meeting in a different way but one of the great problems with the EU in general to my mind, is the fact that it is so incredibly opaque, that if it is hard in this country to get an answer from a Politian it is infinitely harder when you don’t know which Politian might be responsible and indeed no-one in the structure knows who might be responsible, that to my mind remains one of the greatest problems in that area.
Finally, it may be a bleak way to finish but Gerald mentioned about the Labour party’s enquiry, one doesn’t want to predict the outcome of an enquiry but let me make a stab at it. If you set up an enquiry into anti-Semitism and the person in charge of that enquiry immediately announces first of all that she has joined the Labour party that day, secondly that she says it really isn’t possible to have an enquiry into anti-Semitism without also having an enquiry into Islamophobia and in to all other forms of racism, you already see incidentally the impact of this. My Spectator colleague, Rob Liddle, has announced this morning that he has been expelled from the Labour party for a column he wrote in the Spectator the other week saying that one of the causes of growing anti-Semitism is the growth of the Muslim population at the Labour grassroots level. Since so many Muslim figures themselves have said that anti-Semitism is rife within their communities within the UK, being expelled from the Labour party for simply repeating that same truth is very curious but only a sign of what is to come. So I predict that the party will succeed in expelling Rob Liddle, they will do nothing about any of the other parts, they will find themselves innocent and it will all just move along.
I am afraid we have to stop, it is 2 o’clock. I want to thank you first of all for being such an engaged and intelligent, question asking audience and of course tremendous thanks to Douglas for adding his insights and above all to Professor Steinberg for all the work he has done in the past as well as what he told us today. I am sure I speak for most of us, if not all of us when I say I hope that you will continue the good work and it has given all of us here a great deal of material for asking questions and continuing the work that you have done so thank you very much.