Oct. 16 (JTA) —The Ford Foundation disburses approximately $500 million
annually through 13 offices worldwide, to grantees of all descriptions,
in dozens of countries.
Each year, the foundation, with an estimated
$10 billion in assets, makes some 2,500 awards spanning the realms of
art, education, development and social justice.
In the process,
Ford practices globalization just as a multinational commercial
corporation would, deftly weaving monies in and out of its offices and
recipients, in a complex web of funding.
But the Ford
Foundation’s product is not commercial — it is philanthropic. A large
portion of that annual philanthropic expenditure is devoted to what it
terms “human rights and social justice” — that is, not to traditional
relief and aid programs, but to advocacy, activism and agitation.
Ford carefully monitors all programs and materials enabled by its
funds, maintains Alex Wilde, the foundation’s vice president for
Various grantees also confirmed that Ford
requires detailed submissions of printed items and Web site development
plans, sometimes two or three times per year. Hence foundation
officials remain keenly aware of the fruits of their philanthropy.
There is no easy way to identify how much money the scores of
anti-Israel and Palestinian advocacy groups and non-governmental
organizations, or NGOs, actually receive from Ford. This is because
significant funds or program benefits are also channeled through other
not-for-profit organizations and even overseas government agencies.
For example, the 2002 annual report of the Washington-based Advocacy
Institute lists the Palestinian NGO Network, or PNGO, as a “partner.”
In February 2003, the Advocacy Institute brought a group of PNGO
fellows to Washington in a Ford-funded program “to strengthen PNGO’s
advocacy capacity.” The program involved “message development,
coalition building, media,” as well as “access and persuasion of
decision makers,” according to a statement that appeared in mid-August
on the institute’s main Web page.
Ford records indicate that the
foundation in 2000 granted the Advocacy Institute $180,000 “to
strengthen the role of a network of Palestinian NGOs.” The money for
PNGO is tallied among the foundation’s U.S. grants, not those of the
Just a year later, in August 2001, PNGO was one of
the main groups pushing for anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. World
Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
To be sure,
Ford has also granted several million dollars to American Jewish and
Israeli peace groups. For example, Ford in the past has granted
$500,000 to the American Reform Judaism movement’s Mideast peace
program, known as “Seeking Peace, Pursuing Justice,” which seeks to
mobilize North American Jewry for social justice in Israel.
Ford also funds several Israeli-based dissident and human rights groups
that campaign for Palestinian justice. The list includes such Israeli
Palestinian rights advocates as B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and
B’Tselem currently receives $250,000 for what Ford
databases and reports describe as “monitoring human rights in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, documenting violations, and advocating for policy
Rabbis for Human Rights has been granted more than
$250,000 for what Ford databases and reports describe as
“rabbinically-based educational and organizing activities promoting
human rights policies by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the group’s executive director, said the Ford
money has been used to develop a Web site, place newspaper advertising
and bring other rabbis to Israel to learn about human rights.
Last year, Hamoked was granted $300,000 for what Ford’s databases and
reports describe, in one summary, as “advocacy and legal action to
promote human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories facing
human rights violations by Israeli authorities.”
Rabbis for Human Rights, while staunchly advocating for Palestinian
human rights, have also vocally and publicly condemned the campaign of
Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorism aimed at Israeli
Ascherman spoke favorably of Ford, commenting, “Our experience with Ford has been very positive.”
also said that, while “it would be wrong for a funder organization to
have a heavy-handed thumb editing,” in general, grant makers should
“ensure the funds are spent for the goals they support, and I would
like to think the goals of the Ford Foundation do not include
“We at Rabbis for Human Rights obviously abhor
anti-Zionist organizations and anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Brian Walt of
the group’s North American branch.
The Ford Foundation also funds
the Washington-based New Israel Fund for its activities supporting and
promoting social change in Israel. Since 1988, the Ford Foundation has
provided more than $5 million to the New Israel Fund, a coalition of
Israelis, North Americans and Europeans seeking to promote human rights
and justice issues in Israel.
Ford has just announced it would
increase its funding to “peace and social justice groups” in Israel
through the New Israel Fund with a $20 million five-year grant to be
administered by a joint Ford-NIF enterprise.
Aaron Back, Ford’s former program officer for Israel, will oversee the new funding.
money is designed to “increase our funding in Israel and help build the
capacity of civic organizations vital to strengthening its democracy,”
according to Ford’s president, Susan Berresford.
The move will
shift future grant-making from Ford offices in New York to the New
Israel Fund. It is not yet clear which groups will receive money from
the donor-advised fund.
The overwhelming majority of Ford’s monies for the Middle East are granted to pro-Palestinian and Islamic rights groups.
The list extends for pages. For example, last year, the Al Mezan Center
for Human Rights in Gaza received $100,000 for what Ford databases and
reports describe as “community-based advocacy work on economic, social
and cultural rights in Gaza.”
The Al Mezan Center works
closely with the International Solidarity Movement, which stages civil
disobedience actions to obstruct Israeli security forces operating in
the territories. The center also operates a Web site, at www.mezan.org,
that seeks to document alleged Israeli atrocities and violations of
international law, and that also denounces Israel’s war against the
Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.
A recent typical Al Mezan
Center news release began, “The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have
blatantly escalated their aggression against Palestinian civilians in
the OPT during the last week.”
Al Mezan is one of the many
Palestinian NGOs that refer to the Israeli Defense Forces as Israeli
Occupation Forces. OPT is its abbreviation for “occupied Palestinian
Augmenting its Ford funding, Al Mezan also
receives funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation,
the International Commission of Jurists in Sweden, the U.N. High
Commissioner for Human Rights, and several other U.N. and European
A second Palestinian agency, operating under
the name Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute,
received one $60,000 Ford grant under “Media Arts and Culture,” plus a
second award for $75,000 under “Sexuality and Reproductive Health.” The
institute operates an incitement Web site, www.palestinemonitor.org,
dedicated to mobilizing world action against Israel and Zionism. Its
main page offers recommended activism.
For example, a page on
the site, as of mid-August, sub-headlined “How can you take action for
the Palestinian cause?” offered two Palestinian links, one of which is:
“Boycott Israeli Goods.” Clicking on that link leads to another site,
www.boycottisrael.org, which includes a list of American companies to
be boycotted for doing business in Israel, including Johnson &
Johnson, Disney and Starbucks.
In mid-August, Palestine
Monitor’s own “Activism” page offered enthusiastic coverage of a
September 2002 attempt by pro-Palestinian protesters to enter
Caterpillar’s Washington premises for the purpose of serving a
so-called citizens-arrest warrant for “war crimes” related to selling
bulldozers to Israel.
A third entity, the Jerusalem Media and
Communication Centre, recently received three grants totaling $365,000
to create what Ford databases and reports describe as “media services
for the foreign press and a weekly electronic magazine,” as well as
“enhancement of media activities related to the crisis situation.”
The center publishes “The Palestine Report,” which can be found at
www.palestinereport.org. This Web site employs dramatic imagery and
testimony to portray Israel as an apartheid state guilty of war crimes,
violations of international law and repeated massacres.
early October, one of the center’s main Web site features was a
clickable section entitled “From Revolution to Revolution,” which
“focuses on internal Palestinian politics, political strengths and
cracks in the armor of unity.”
A prominent “Resources” list
links to the Web sites of six Palestinian factions. Several of them are
listed by the State Department as terrorist groups, including the
People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Islamic Jihad and
Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.
When the Jerusalem Media
and Communications Centre was asked whether other organizations could
be listed as well, an official explained, “We only link to the biggest
and best organizations.”
A State Department spokesman for the
Near East Affairs bureau who viewed “The Palestine Report” and its link
pages to terrorist sites declared, “I am uncomfortable with the funding
of this site and especially these links — very uncomfortable.”
Yehudit Barsky, director of the American Jewish Committee’s division on
Middle East and international terrorism, added, “I think this
demonstrates that we in the United States have not paid attention —
foundations can be used in a way no one can imagine. Here we see a Web
site promoting terrorist organizations. The Ford Foundation just did
During this investigation, Wilde, the Ford Foundation
communications vice president, refused to answer any questions
regarding PNGO, the Policy Institute, the Jerusalem Media and
Communications Centre or any other aspect of the foundation’s
involvement with Palestinian NGOs.
Nor would Thea Lurie, the foundation’s deputy media director, or media associate Joe Voeller.
But in a six-page written response to questions that the foundation
released only after this investigation was completed, Wilde said: “We
are a grant making organization. We support grantees for agreed-upon
activities and do not dictate what they should say.”
statement also said: “Our human rights work reflects a commitment to
principles that go beyond partisanship and politics, to basic rights
and protections that human beings possess by virtue simply of being
During a visit to Ford’s headquarters in New York,
foundation officials brushed off questions about anti-Israel agitation.
Quipped one senior Ford official: “Anti-Zionism is in the eye of the
Edwin Black is the author of the newly released
“War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a
Master Race” (Four Walls Eight Windows), which investigates corporate
philanthropic involvement in American and Nazi eugenics. In May 2003,
he won the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ award for best
book of the year for his previous book, “IBM and the Holocaust” (Crown
FUNDING HATE Series
Part 1: Ford funded Durban activists
Part 2: Fordīs Mideast money trail
Part 3: U.S. worries about transparency
Part 4: Case study of a Ford grantee