Exposing Gerald Steinberg and NGO Monitor, ctd. — Dimming the “halo effect”
FIRST “GERALD STEINBERG ESSAY COMPETITION” ANNOUNCEMENT AT BOTTOM
Disappointed with attendance and media coverage of the December 1 2009 Knesset NGO suppression conference, NGO Monitor and its allies have shifted their message.The new line is: “We have been silenced by “McCarthyism.” Remember, this comes from the leaders of a government-backed campaign targeting a minority. Undoubtedly, these are the rightful heirs of the Dispossessed Cossack of Jewish tradition.
One of NGO Monitor’s specialties is the coining of pseudo-academic terminology. In addition to ”lawfare“, they have given us the “halo effect” — an aura of virtue that protects NGOs from critical examination of their work. Indeed, Naftali Balanson, NGO Monitor’s Managing Editor (note no bio on the staff roster,) attributes his victimization by vicious, McCarthyite, human rights activists to frustration at the dimming of their ”halo.”
Fortuitously, a colleague of Balanson’s has provided us with an opportunity to take a crack at NGO Monitor’s very own “halo effect” — the notion that because it is headed by a senior political scientist, Prof. Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, it recruits only the best researchers and conforms to the most rigorous of academic standards.
As we reported earlier, NGO Monitor’s partner in the latest phase of the campaign to suppress Israeli human rights groups is the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), chaired by Israel Harel, a founder of the fundamentalist Gush Emunim settler movement. Adi Arbel is an IZS staff member and he is the author of a number of publications on the organization’s Hebrew website (this is one example.) On December 3 2009, Arbel gave an interview (Hebrew) to Arutz Sheva, a settler news service, on the Knesset conference and the report acc presented there. Arutz Sheva identified him as a “researcher at IZS.”
Arbel also has a regular column in “Yoman” (diary) the Friday political supplement of Makor Rishon, a right-wing newspaper. Arbel regularly uses the column to bash his perceived ideological adversaries. Much of this Friday’s (December 4 2009) column is devoted to the allegations of the Knesset conference, with a special focus on the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Here’s a translation of the first section
The right to be a Jew
Next Friday, the first Israeli ‘human rights march’ will be held in Tel-Aviv. The march is organized by ACRI in cooperation with tens of other organizations. When the agendas of these human rights organizations is examined, one learns that they are guided by a post-Zionist agenda, aimed at undermining the Jewish character of the State of Israel. The chance that these organizations’ voices will be heard on the violation of the human right of Jews (settlers, for example) to realize realize their property rights [sic] (private [property] paid for in full), is similar to the chance that Ahmedinajad will institute observance of Holocaust Day throughout Iran.
NGO Monitor has repeatedly and emphatically argued that the character, political and otherwise, of a researcher should be taken into account when examining the credibility of his organization’s publications. In its critique of Human Rights Watch, for example, a statement made in the 1970′s by one of the organization’s staffers, is cited as evidence for bias. If we wanted to use this argument to trash their latest report, Arbel would have provided us with ample resources. We would not even have to deconstruct the “aimed at undermining the Jewish nature” assertion, because his Iran-Holocaust analogy would no doubt suffice.
We don’t need to stoop to this level of argumentation, however, in order to expose the quality and integrity of the “research” conducted by Steinberg’s operation. A quick look at Arbel’s “examination” of ACRI’s “agenda” will do.
Let’s forgive Arbel for neglecting to note ACRI’s advocacy on behalf of the “human rights of Jews,” including, among many other examples, its fight for free dental care for all Israeli children and its criticism of the Housing Ministry for failures in the provision of housing in the “rocket stricken south.” After all, he probably thinks these “don’t count” because Palestinian citizens of Israel would also benefit from them.
We can then move on to the assertion underpinning Arbel’s entire argument: ACRI’s failure to cry out on behalf of settler property rights. A close observer of the human rights situation in the West Bank might could easily be confused, thinking that Arbel is referring to the systematic theft of private Palestinian land by Israeli settlers. No, Arbel is asking why ACRI has not jumped to defend settler homeowner’s property rights violated by Netanyahu’s new “settlement freeze.”
Many of Arbel’s ideological allies tend to have a cynical and utilitarian view of democracy, remembering its existence only when it serves their interests. Therefore, the ACRI’s record of defending the rights of settlers and extreme right-wing fundamentalists is inconvenient, to say the least. This might explain why Arbel neglects to mention, for example, ACRI’s Skokie-like defense of Kahanists’ right to march in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm or their advocacy on behalf of due process rights for violent settlers. ACRI’s consistency on these issues provides any reasonable observer with the certainty that if indeed the “freeze,” announced only last week, violates the rights of any human beings, they will speak out against it.
To the few that have been closely following the track-record of Steinberg and his affiliates, this kind of intellectual dishonesty comes as no surprise. What is astonishing is the careless sloppiness of a senior researcher on the team on the very same week that they are fighting to preserve their facade of integrity. This can only be interpreted as hubris, the result of years of operating without any oversight whatsoever.
The times are changing, however. Steinberg’s government-NGO coalition has overplayed its hand. The shift from defamation to outright suppression through legislative measures has galvanized many Israeli citizens into action. Israeli free speech absolutists, like myself, no longer consider this phenomenon just an unpleasant price one has to pay for democracy.
Since the the publication of my November 30 2009 Haaretz op-ed, I have been contacted by Israelis and Jewish-Americans, from all walks of life, asking to volunteer their time. Many have also e-mailed highly revealing documentation, which we will publish here after verification. From now on, every journalist or politician lobbied by the Israeli neoconservative network will have at his disposal the materials necessary to put their reports and policy reccomendations in the appropiate context — that of a partisan suppression operation.
In order to help launch this collaborative research effort, we are happy to announce the first (of many) Gerald Steinberg essay competitions. Readers of Hebrew have at their disposal an archive of columns by Adi Arbel, the IZS researcher who was so helpful with this post. English readers have the entire internet at their disposal.
The author of the best essay exposing instances of intellectual dishonesty or factual omissions by the Israeli neoconservative network, will receive a copy of Max Blumenthal‘s new book, Republican Gomorrah.
Submissions (no more than 1500 words in English) should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 20.