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Israeli gov't is trying to defund +972 Magazine, report says

Israel has been working to curtail critical voices in recent years, often by portraying them as foreign agents and seeking to dry up their funding.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Handout photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, June 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Handout photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, June 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations to stop funding +972 Magazine, according to a report in the German media Thursday. +972 was able to independently verify the report.

The total contributions from the two foundations, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, comprise only 9 percent of +972’s overall 2018 budget as of September. In the past two years, 40 percent of our budget has come from the support of our readers.

Both foundations have pledged to continue supporting +972 despite the political pressure.

Show your support for +972 Magazine: Make a donation today!

According to Die Tageszeitung, the progressive German newspaper that broke the story, Israel sent a letter to the German government requesting that it “fundamentally rethink” its support for dozens of human rights organizations in Israel.

The seven-page letter accused the non-governmental organizations of intervening in Israel’s internal affairs and promoting anti-Israel activities. It specifically mentioned +972 Magazine, claiming that the platform goes against Israel’s interests because “the authors regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung described the allegations as absurd. “Unfortunately, we have been seeing for some time that the pressure on NGOs critical of certain policies of the Israeli government is increasing,” a spokesperson for the foundation, associated with the German Green Party, told Die Tageszeitung. “[An attack on a] critical magazine like +972, which reflects Israel’s diversity of opinion, is also an attack on the well-known journalists of Israel.”

Other organizations targeted by the letter, and supported by other German foundations, include Coalition of Women for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and B’Tselem.

The German government would not confirm or deny whether the letter was drafted and sent directly by the Israeli government. Contacted by the paper for comment, though, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs denied sending the letter.

+972 Magazine is an independent publication created and owned by a group of Israeli and Palestinian writers committed to ending the occupation, and advancing democratic values and freedom of information.

The magazine is published by the nonprofit “972 — Advancement of Citizen Journalism.” The nonprofit also publishes the Hebrew-language news site Local Call together with Just Vision.

The current Israeli government has been working to curtail and eliminate critical voices within Israeli society in recent years, particularly those fighting to end the occupation and expose human rights violations against Palestinians and marginalized communities. One of the main tactics for doing so has been to portray anti-occupation and human rights groups as agents implementing the agendas of foreign, anti-Semitic, European governments. Much of those times those campaigns have been carried out such as NGO Monitor and Im Tirzu.

We at +972 Magazine have never believed that the Israeli government was a supporter of our work, and we will continue to conduct fierce, independent journalism determined to end the occupation and advance human rights and democratic values in Israel-Palestine.

Knowing once and for all that the Israeli government would rather we not exist only makes us more determined to carry out that mission.

We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to ensure our work can continue. If you believe in our mission, please make a donation today.

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Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      The Right, and even “mainstream” Isareli journalists, like to say that publications like +972 Magazine are “irrelevant,” and right wing commenters frequently assert that no one reads it. But this hostile attention by the Israeli government proves that +972 Magazine is very relevant. This is a victory.

      All the more reason to donate to +972 this holiday season. Give extra. There is no better bang for your buck than money donated to support +972’s authentic, on-the-ground Israeli citizen journalism.

      The irony in accusing +972/Local Call of being “foreign interference” is that in a way +972/Local Call is more authentically Israeli and local than just about any other publication in existence. If Israel were doing the right thing then why is it so afraid of the light +972 shines on what is really happening? It is just for that reason—that +972 tells the real truth about what is really going on on the ground locally—that the government is trying to shut it down. (All the while claiming to be a western liberal democracy with a free and unfettered press.) Donate today!

      Somebody please tell me how a non-Israeli NGO donating to a publication founded by and published by and written by Israeli citizens, in a supposedly liberal democracy with a supposedly free press, is “outside interference,” at all, period; and then, when you’ve answered that, then please tell me why it is then not massive “outside interference” for an American in Las Vegas named Shel Adelson to donate to, nay, fund lock stock and barrel, the massively-distributed Bibiton (Israel Hayom)? Anybody want to explain that deep mystery to me?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      The Middle East Monitor has also run a story on this –

      https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181207-israel-pressuring-germany-to-de-fund-publications-group-calling-for-palestinian-rights/

      Assault on free speech has been a common feature of Israeli governments. This week another example of its efforts to silence critical voices was revealed by the +972 magazine, which reported details of a campaign by the right-wing Netanyahu government to de-fund independent publications and human rights organisations…In an effort to dry up the funding of the magazine and number of human rights organisations including Breaking the Silence, and B’Tselem, Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations that provide funding to these organisations…

      Reply to Comment
    3. Moshe

      What Germany is doing is an act of war. Trying to undermine a friendly government 972 has no support within Israel & wouldn’t exist without that $$$$.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Firentis

      Foreign governments and organizations are sending money to sponsor Israelis that are opposed to the Israeli government and to promote ideological viewpoints that are marginal in Israeli society. This is done to 1) put pressure on the Israeli government 2) promote marginal ideologies in order to try to interfere in the Israeli political process 3) to produce anti-Israeli propaganda. If Putin was doing this in the US I would presume this would be considered a heinous intervention in the domestic affairs of another country. But because it is done by European governments somehow we are supposed to accept that it is benevolent.

      The idea that sending funding to activities can’t be foreign intervention if that funding goes to citizens of the target country is laughable. I am sure that the Israeli government can find extreme and marginal ideologues in the US or Europe to sponsor. Would that too not be considered foreign interference because the ideologues are citizens of the US or European countries? Does this thing actually logically fit in your heads? I suppose I had a higher opinion of the intellectual capabilities of some of you. Oh well. Life is disappointing sometimes.

      No one in Israel knows what +972 Magazine is. It is marginal. It is put out in English for purposes of propaganda against Israel. Why else would Hebrew speakers bother to write in English? The sister site – mekomit – is more known and it is the home of all sorts of far-left advocacy journalists that are too extreme, too marginal, or too low in quality to appear in Haaretz which in itself is a minor newspaper in Israel.

      972mag exists for a lot longer than two years. It currently gets 60% from sources other than the “readers” donations they like to talk about. Where does the rest come from? Where did the funding come before that? The answer is that it came from the same NGOs and from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund which all hold fundamentally anti-Israeli positions and they use 972mag to promote them. Whether someone in Israel reads 972mag is irrelevant to them. What matters to them is to produce content that can be used abroad to demonize Israel.

      This form of foreign intervention via funding of NGOs should come to an end. The sooner the better. But that shouldn’t have much impact on 972mag. Right? As the article points out 972mag apparently has loyal Israeli readers who would be happy to sponsor it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: If Putin wants to fund a website that discusses human rights issues in the U.S. – like mass incarceration of African Americans, for example – it’s perfectly legal and, in my opinion, perfectly ethical. In fact, here it is: https://www.rt.com/

        And if Putin wants to openly pay U.S. reporters to gather stories about human rights issues in the U.S., as long as it’s done openly that’s perfectly legal too. What are you talking about?

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          RT is a Russian company. So the comparison doesn’t work.

          If Putin started funding Infowars I wonder how that will be received and whether there might be one or two accusations of foreign interference.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            @Firentis: The answer to your question is that if Putin funded Infowars and registered as a foreign agent and did it openly it would be perfectly legal in the U.S., and in my opinion U.S. citizens would not have a problem with it – as long as the funding situation was transparent.

            What we have to observe about the situation is that 972 is perfectly legal under Israeli law – at least at the moment. That’s why Israel has to go to the German government and ask them pleasepleaseplease pretty please with sugar on it, will you stop this? – we have no legal means of doing it ourselves. That’s what they’re saying.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            I think if the Russian government started funding a plethora of NGOs in the US that promote marginal right-wing ideologues, US citizens would very likely have a problem with that.

            The Israeli government certainly can’t do anything about 972 being written or published. It can however stop foreign governments or foreign political party affiliated institutions from funding Israeli NGOs. At the moment they are trying to approach the foreign governments to ask them to use their contributions in a responsible and non-hostile manner because that banning it via legislation could impact non-political NGOs. If that fails, the next time there is an outrage led by European-funded NGOs someone in the government will pick up the banner and push it through. Now even though the law itself would be universal in application its impact would be felt overwhelmingly by the far-leftists that rely on European funding. In itself that should be an indictment of such funding, but the Court might consider it discriminatory. Or it might consider it a legitimate means in preventing foreign government interference in Israeli domestic affairs. I don’t know which way it would go.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Firentis: Bruce is exactly right: What are you talking about?

            The U.S. government does not prevent foreign NGOs from undertaking advocacy for political issues or criticizing the government. NGOs and foreign party institutes funded entirely by foreign governments do not have special restrictions on their activities in the United States, can conduct meetings and publish materials freely, and are not required to provide reports to other U.S. federal government agencies, provided they register and file tax returns.

            RE: “This is done to 1) put pressure on the Israeli government 2) promote marginal ideologies in order to try to interfere in the Israeli political process 3) to produce anti-Israeli propaganda.”

            1) “Pressure.” So Shel Adelson puts pressure on the Israeli government with his foreign funding, the only difference is you like his pressure.

            2) “Marginal ideologies.” You give away the game here and show your argument to be fundamentally flawed. In a democracy with a free press, being “marginal” does not constitute a justification to suppress free speech. The American Founders in fact were especially concerned to protect just such uncomfortable or “marginal” speech. Non-marginal, “mainstream” speech does not need protection.

            3) “Anti-Israel.” More of the same. What constitutes “anti-Israel propaganda” is not up to a government that touts free speech and touts being a democracy to decide.

            If you want Israel to be an East German style security state, then say so.

            “ its impact would be felt overwhelmingly by the far-leftists that rely on European funding”

            They hypocrisy of this is mind-boggling. The settlers aka the far right get ALL SORTS of funding, direct and indirect, from abroad. Never mind the US Republican Party and Shel Adelson et al. and Israel Hayom et al….

            Reply to Comment
    5. Firentis

      As for Greg’s comment. It isn’t very had to selectively prevent this kind of interference. All you have to do is ban funding to political NGOs coming from foreign governments or from NGOs associated with foreign political parties.

      What private individuals do is their own business. When governments enter the picture to fund foreign political NGOs they do so as a matter of pursuing what they believe their own national interests, not that of the target country. In other words it is explicitly a manifestation of the foreign policy of the country and by definition foreign interference. And it should be stopped.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Instead of attacking our intellectual capacities you should get your facts straight. You have been pushing this “foreign interference” theme for a long time and it never adds up. You want to make a distinction between the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Shel Adelson. Never mind that Shel Adelson is intimately tied up in massively influential funding of one political party in the USA and candidates for that party’s offices make pilgrimages to Las Vegas to prostrate themselves before him and see who can be more obsequious. And that party is in power. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is a German, legally independent political foundation, affiliated with the German Green Party. What, pray tell, is the difference, except the matter of what politics you like? There is none. It is just BS to say otherwise. Are you trying to tell me Shel Adelson is not affiliated with the right wing of the Republican Party? So you are skating on non-existent ice when you try to say “What private individuals do is their own business,” which is I take it your way of skirting the question I ask about why Israel Hayom is A-OK with you.

        RE Putin: You would have a case if the Heinrich Böll Stiftung were funding a covert band of German internet hackers linked to German government secret services spreading deliberately false information and all the while doing this masquerading as Israelis, and for the purpose of undermining an Israeli election and manipulating its outcome. You have no leg to stand on. If a Russia-based or Tahiti-based NGO sends funds to the Pittsburgh Daily Worker newspaper to support American writers to publish articles criticizing extreme capitalism or whatever, the US Government does not swoop in and tell those Russian NGOs to dry up their donations.

        “it is explicitly a manifestation of the foreign policy of the country.“

        No, neither the Heinrich Boll Stiftung nor the Green Party are “explicitly a manifestation of the foreign policy of the country” of Germany. Baloney. You might as well insist the American government shut down AIPAC forthwith, immediately, as “explicitly a manifestation of the foreign policy of the country” of Israel.

        Again, if you want Israel to be an East German style security state, then say so.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        And finally, Firentis, if it’s all so marginal and laughable, and no one knows what it is, then why are you so exercised?
        Of COURSE, they publish in both Hebrew and English. Noam Sheizaf started this publication explicitly intending to reach an outside audience. You want to advise the US Government to shut down the International Herald Trbune because it publishes something Trump or Adelson doesn’t like? You want to advise the German government to shut down the English language edition of Deutsche Welle because Alexander Gauland doesn’t like its opinion pieces? Angela Merkel left East Germany a long time ago and doesn’t intend to go back to that kind of state. And neither do the vast majority of other Germans.

        Reply to Comment
    6. john

      i prefer 972’s abundant transparency over israeli dark money for canary mission and the ‘hasbara fellowships’ feeding trolls all over the web.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Bruce Gould

      Here’s an interesting follow up to this story: the Israeli government has asked Germany to stop funding the Jewish Museum in Berlin –

      “Letter sent directly to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bureau cited an exhibit about Jerusalem that presents ‘the Muslim-Palestinian perspective of the city'”

      https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/report-israel-demanded-germany-cut-funding-to-jewish-museum-in-berlin-1.6726205

      Israel seems to have a hard time managing everyone else’s views.

      Reply to Comment