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Interview: Gerald Steinberg

Academic hits out at politicised charities

    Anti-Israel protests in Durban persuaded Steinberg to set up NGO Monitor
    Anti-Israel protests in Durban persuaded Steinberg to set up NGO Monitor

    Gerald Steinberg is on the offensive. The Israeli politics professor will visit London next week to urge action by British Jews against the "demonisation" of Israel by well-respected charities.

    Dr Steinberg, chair of political science at Bar Ilan University, is touring London, and plans to face his audiences with a stark message.

    "Britain in general and London in particular are the centre of the demonisation process against Israel which is taking place," he said.

    His rationale is that challenges to Israel's legitimacy increasingly come not from political and diplomatic arenas but from the third sector. Several key non-governmental organisations (NGOs) driving the "process" are based in London. He will focus on who they are, how they operate, and what British Jews should do to counter them.

    Dr Steinberg, born in London and raised in California, is one of Israel's best-known professors. After the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, where NGOs equated Zionism with racism, prompting Israel and America to walk out, he set up a group to draw attention to NGOs' "exploitation" of human rights values for political agendas.

    Dr Steinberg went on to head the group, NGO Monitor, now at the forefront of calls to bring Israeli and international NGOs to account.

    He claims NGOs take advantage of a "halo effect" and are "given the status of impartial moral watchdogs" by governments and the media. He believes many are "highly political organisations" with an anti-Israel agenda.

    In Britain, he says, some of the biggest-name charities fit this bill. Oxfam "delegitimises Israel through its support of boycotts". War on Want "pushes people to apply demonising labels to Israel". Amnesty International "has challenged Israel's right to self defence by proposing an arms embargo".

    In Dr Steinberg's analysis, these activities represent "third generation warfare" against Israel, following traditional warfare and terrorism.

    During his London tour he will call on British Jews to "name and shame" NGOs they deem to act inappropriately towards Israel.

    Dr Steinberg's tour starts on June 28 at Hendon Synagogue, followed by Finchley Synagogue and presentations at the conference of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. He is also speaking at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, the Board of Deputies and Bicom.

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