NGO Monitor tries to silence us by going after our donors. Supporting +972 is the best response!
By Noam Sheizaf
+972 Magazine is at the center of a negative piece published today in the Jerusalem Post. According to the piece, a right-wing watchdog group called NGO Monitor has launched a public attack on the German Heinrich Böll Foundation for supporting the site with a grant of 6,000 euros, received last year.
In recent years, NGO Monitor has systematically targeted human right organizations, academics and progressive groups in Israel. A recent piece in Haaretz reported that right-wing groups have created a blacklist of some 1,000 academics, politicians and commentators who are targeted for being too “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist.” NGO Monitor works in the same way, but against non-profit organizations; their blacklist of Israeli organizations can be found here.
The Post article cites Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor:
“Heinrich Böll’s decision to support +972 fulfills no humanitarian purpose and does not foster peace and mutual understanding… [Böll] cannot justify funding an online magazine that targets English speakers and routinely presents biased, one-sided perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This funding helps provide a platform used to demonize Israel. +972 reporters and bloggers, for example, invoke the hateful ‘apartheid’ analogy. Why is German taxpayer funding going to this counterproductive activity?”
The attack on +972 is being carried out in the standard way NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu and similar organizations work these days: Not by debating the content of our reports and commentary pieces, but by trying to delegitimize and silence us.
It is worth noting that all the writing on our site is done on a voluntary basis, and the limited funding +972 received – in addition to the the writers’ personal investments – is used for editing and maintenance work on the site. Unable to prevent us from speaking or writing, NGO Monitor is instead trying to hurt our ability to operate. Since +972 is completely transparent about its financial resources; all the organization had to do is go to our “About” page to find the target of their censorship campaign.
The work of NGO Monitor and similar groups is not possible without the help of sympathetic reporters – in this case, the Jerusalem Post’s correspondent in Europe, Benjamin Weinthal. This isn’t the first time Weinthal carries out a hit job on behalf of NGO Monitor (see here, here, here, here, here and here). It should thus come as no surprise that while his article states that “+972 did not immediately answer a Post query,” we didn’t actually receive a request for comment – not by phone, not to the site e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) clearly presented on the “Contact Us” page, and not to my own e-mail, also available on the site. After the publication of the piece, we finally found a short request for comment, sent just a few hours before the Post ran its smear article, to the address set up to receive op-ed contributions to +972 (!). We can only assume that it was hoped we would miss the message.
Had we gotten a chance to comment, this is what we would have said to NGO Monitor, the Jerusalem Post and anyone else trying to censor, threaten and silence voices that make them uncomfortable:
+972 Magazine was launched a year and a half ago with a clear intention to bring fresh, on-the ground reporting and commentary not usually found in the mainstream media. While we don’t hide our support for human rights, freedom of information or our opposition to the occupation, the 15 bloggers, two editors and dozens of guest writers and photographers who have contributed to the site in the last 18 months represent a variety of voices, which are often at odds with one another. For us, giving voice to their opinions and reports represents a true commitment to democracy and freedom of expression. We see +972 as a unique platform for new ideas, fresh reports and vigorous debates.
Since the site was launched, we have posted texts by Palestinians, Egyptians, Americans, Europeans and Israelis. Of the 2,000 posts published on the site so far, anyone should be able to find some – or many – to disagree with. It is our belief that this offers opportunity for debate, not censorship.
Obviously, NGO Monitor and some of our journalist colleagues think differently.
These are difficult days for democracy and freedom of speech here. This is why we thank the Heinrich Böll fund for standing by +972, and for not interfering with the content on the site. We hope that others who have considered supporting us will also not surrender to smear campaigns or threats.
Expanding the reach of +972 is, we believe, the best and most effective response to those who wish to silence us.
UPDATE: A warm thank you from the entire +972 team to all those who donated, emailed us and shared this post following yesterday’s attack on us. You’ve made difficult day to one of the happiest we had. It’s your support that keeps us going!