NGO takes unprecedented stand against Israel, biting the hand that feeds them
‘Peace-supporting’ NGOs send out anti-Semitic messages, despite being funded by philanthropic organisations denouncing anti-Semitism.
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A South African NGO last week issued – as is its constitutional right – an angry denunciation of murderous Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” in Palestine. No mention was made of any contributory role Hamas might have had.
The statement called on SA, indeed the entire world, to sever diplomatic ties with Israel. To implement immediate sanctions and divest.
None of these demands are, of themselves, remarkable. They are the standard agit-prop menu of the global hard-left, Islamist-dominated activist organisations that are trying to shape the ever-shifting response to the October massacres by Hamas of civilians in Israel.
What makes it remarkable is that this move to influence foreign policy comes from My Vote Counts (MVC) – a supposedly nonpartisan Cape Town-based NGO whose declared mission is to improve transparency and accountability in our multiparty democracy. Until now, it’s been best known for its work in lobbying to improve the electoral system.
Even more remarkably, MVC is entirely funded by Western philanthropic organisations. One was established by a Holocaust survivor. Another is a German foundation that specifically criminalises anti-Semitism.
MVC’s current “donor partners” are the Open Society Foundation (OSF), the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, the Constitutionalism Fund, the Millennium Trust, and the Raith Foundation.
The OSF, established and headed by billionaire Hungarian-born George Soros, provides R850 000 a year. It did not respond to my questions regarding its support for MVC.
However, according to Michael Savage, the executive director of the OSF locally, the key elements to its funding approach are “a reliance on the rule of law, the existence of a democratically elected government, a market economy, a strong civil society, respect for minorities and tolerance of divergent opinion”.
The Heinrich Böll Stiftung, which is affiliated to the Greens and promotes “nonviolence and peace”, last year gave MVC just over R200 000. It also did not respond to my repeated approaches.
The Constitutionalism Fund gave MVC R2.25 million, almost half of its R5 million annual budget. It is a big US-funded operator with a mandate to spend $25 million in SA over the next dozen years and “aims to breathe life into the [SA] constitution”. It did not respond.
The Millennium Trust has given MVC R1.8 million over the past few years. No response.
The Raith Foundation gave MVC around R2 million in the past couple of years. No response to questions.
MVC also didn’t respond. Neither executive director Minhah Jeenah, nor Amanda Rinquest, chair of the board and a manager at Black Sash.
Predictably, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) did respond. It says the sentiments expressed by MVC are typical of “what is being pumped out ad nauseam by an alliance of Hamas-supporting, largely Islamist pressure groups that demonise and delegitimise Israel”.
The “alliance” is the South Africa BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) coalition, of which MVC is a member. The SA BDS is turning up the pressure on everyone linked to Israel. And, in the context of the government’s ideological sentiments, they’re pushing at an open door.
Activist NGOs are, of course, entitled to do this. The question, however, is whether the Western philanthropies that are funding the likes of MVC are willing to stomach the reputational taint that results.
If not, they should publicly clarify what their position is on enabling the weaponising of supposedly “democracy and peace-supporting” South African NGOs – amid sickening displays of anti-Semitism – in a war against Israel. They’ve got my contact details.
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