Monday, August 1, 2016

Suzanne Nossel condemns GONGOs, except when she supports them

Sar Shalom

The current issue of Democracy Journal has an article by Suzanne Nossel, described in the byline as a former COO of Human Rights Watch and former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, dealing with confronting efforts of authoritarian regimes to suppress civil society. This is an altogether important issue. However, in the second paragraphy, Nossel writes, "... as well as democracies like Israel, India, and Turkey, have gone on the attack, aiming to discredit and harass local groups," thus likening Israel to the pseudodemocracy of Turkey where the opposition is free to run whatever candidates it likes, but is restricted by government decree in disseminating why the public should support it. While it is unsurprising that a former executive from Amnesty and HRW would seek to leverage any legitimate issue in order to bash Israel, there is a part of her article that is worth a look.

Later on in the article, Nossel writes:
For all these reasons, civil society has become both more important and more dangerous in the eyes of governments. So much so that authorities in China, Azerbaijan, Russia, and elsewhere have constituted government-controlled entities that pose as NGOs (so-called GONGOs or government-organized NGOs) with the objective of claiming the mantle of citizen-based credibility in order to defend government positions.
So it would seem that Nossel opposes governmental use of NGOs in order to give a civil society-veneer for the government's agenda. However, previously we read,
serious concerns with a proposed Israeli law that would require NGOs receiving substantial foreign funding to announce the same at any public gathering where they appear.
One factual point that must be made clear, Israeli-staffed NGOs receiving their budgets from foreign private entities will face no new disclosure requirements. The entities that will be required to disclose their funding sources will be those receiving their funds from foreign governments, in other words the GONGOs.

This raises the questions, when does Ms. Nossel, and her fellows at HRW and Amnesty, consider public endowment of GONGOs to be a perversion of civil society that simply provides an astroturf fig leaf for governmental action and is support for GONGOs to be praised with every attempt to expose it to be condemned? Could it be that when GONGOs are a weapon in the war to delegitimize Israel that everything about their perversion of civil society should be ignored in order to fulfill the world's most pressing priority, putting uppity Jews in their place?


  1. It's frankly amazing how so many liberal-western countries actually argued that TRANSPARENCY undermines democracy... at least in the case of Israel.

    It's a world gone upside-down.

    1. The funny thing is, Doodad, most progressives - or, at least, many progressives - honestly believe the crap that the Arabs tell them about the insidious nature of the Jews in the Middle East... if not the rest of us.

      Obviously, given the hostility of white western Europe toward the Jewish State, Israel should absolutely insist that these alleged "NGOs" reveal their funding sources so that the public can know who they represent.

      For the western countries, including the US, to insist that such transparency is anti-democratic reveals the true nature of the politics of the people doing the insisting.

    2. Read the latest installment at Augean Stables.

  2. NGO's and so called Charities like the Clinton Foundations are rapidly becoming the new shadow governments in the world. They use, unsurprisingly, the model of Iranian Religious Charities as their form. In Iran these charities own nearly all of the economy and they are steered by small groups of elite rulers who are billionaires in their own right. NGO's and foundations work hand in glove. NGO's spend the money, influence, bribes and baksheesh, and foundations take the money in, in a cycle of money laundering and tax avoidance. Along the way, funds are diverted for direct government access or any other grey or black purpose the foundation owners need.

    One way through this Gordian Knot is for Israel to take a nonpolitical accounting based approach. Their new law about funding transparency is a good start. Now establish ratio thresholds that define the rules of the road for these NGOs. If government funding is between zero and 5% there's one set of rules, 6-15%, another, all the way up to 100%. And if the answer is 'we don't know' then the operating assumption is 100%. The higher the ration of government funding the more restrictive the rules become until they are on par with relations with that government or government directly.

    Another approach one that would be harder to accomplish to do formal network analysis of NGO members and senior staff. Members and staff who are also members of other groups, and so one and where there is a connection to persons and groups that are anti Israel, antizionist, antisemitic in varying degrees, then a penalty is assessed on those members staff to offset the security costs of coping with their arm's length violence and terrorism. A kind of pay to play approach.