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Posts Tagged ‘YAMAN

Revolution will not be funded: NGO-ization of Palestine, Ford Foundation

Posted November 22, 2013

While NGO-ization is a more recent phenomenon, it is part of a legacy of outside interests attempting to shape a liberation struggle in a way that support imperial forces rather than the Palestinian people.

While many organizations have responded to such pressures by abandoning their principles for expediency’s sake, INCITE! instead responded in two ways:

1. it engaged in a revision of its fundraising strategies, looking for more grassroots sources rather than foundations; and

2. it organized an anthology of essays by activists and organizers that addresses the “deleterious effects foundations can have on radical social justice movements.

The essays are collected and published under the title, The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

YAMAN  posted in Kabobfest this JANUARY 21, 2010

The NGOization of Palestine

In 2004, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence received an e-mail from the Ford Foundation.

In the e-mail, the foundation rescinded a $100,000 grant it had awarded the group, explaining “that it had reversed its decision because of the organization’s statement of support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.”

The collection is a rigorous analysis and interrogation of the non-profit 501(c)(3) model of organizing. The political costs associated with such forms of incorporation and the loss of accountability associated with a duty towards large donors rather than the constituencies that organizers purport to care about.

The essays study how large foundations — like the Ford Foundation, which was funded in part by the CIA [Edit: To clarify the foundation itself was not funded by the CIA but some of its grants were. Moreover there was extensive collaboration between CIA and Ford Foundation during the Cold War.]– control social justice movements through the power of the purse.

The essays are an important and thought provoking read for all US-based activist concerned with social justice, and even those on the verge of graduation who believe that non-profit work is the most progressive route for change.

Having attended the Al Fakhoora Student Conference in Doha last weekend, I am posting an excerpt of the chapter The NGOization of Palestine, which includes interviews with Professor Hatem Bazian of American Muslims for Palestine, Professor Zeina Zaatari of the Global Fund for Women, and Atef Said an Egyptian human rights lawyer.

Having attended, I thought it worthwhile to consider the issues raised in these interviews and by the book in general.

How have non-profits impacted Palestinian and other Arab liberation struggles?

Hatem Bazian: NGOs control the purse strings. Through this funding or through the staff they hire, they assert their political agenda. For example, the largest coalition of organizations that work on Palestine do not insist on US divestment from Israel or devote organizing resources into achieving this agenda.

But look at the solidarity movements that developed around apartheid South Africa and Central America: they made divestment central to their struggle.

These movements recognized that economic sanctions and pressure are central to change a government’s policies. When it comes to Palestine, NGOs do not want to offend certain segments of the liberal Zionist community.

So they shift their focus to changing Israel’s mind without making Israel suffer. This kind of strategy was dismissed as ineffectual in the South African and Central American solidarity movements.

The Palestinian struggle (which does not differentiate between land stolen from Palestinians in 1948 and land stolen in 1967) has demanded the right of return for all Palestinian refugees and calls for Palestine to be a complete whole.

(Mind you the UN decision in 1947 divided Palestine into 2 States. While the Jews were barely 40%, they were given 57% of the land)

But today, almost all NGOs and foundations call for a “two-state solution” that insists Israel, as it’s currently constructed, must exist as is, and that Palestinians must learn to accept colonization and occupation.

The two-state solution defends Israel’s “right” to define itself on racially exclusivity criteria, and hence exist as a racially apartheid state.  

By proposing that Palestine exist as a divided, demilitarized state whose resources are fully controlled by Israel, this approach effectively eliminates the possibility of Palestinians having a real state that encompasses their historical and international rights. In other words, this “solution” would essentially dispense with the 6 million Palestinian refugees.

In other solidarity movements, there is often the understanding that they exist to support liberation struggles, not to dictate the terms of those struggles. However, when it comes to Palestine, NGOs feel they have the right to tell Palestinians what to do.

In their framework, the problem is Not Israeli colonization and occupation; the problem is that Palestinians need to be trained to develop “civil society” and learn to cooperate with Israel.

Consequently, funding is often focused on developing joint “Israeli-Palestinian” ventures and projects rather than address the issue of occupation.

The NGOization of the solidarity movement in the US has been so thorough that anyone who criticizes this position is silenced and marginalized.

(For instance, in the Bay Area there used to be an annual demonstration for Peace, Jobs, and Justice throughout the 1980s, and No speakers on Palestine were allowed to speak , Nor they supported the two-state solution.)

Without exception, every foundation that funds work on Palestine (from the most conservative to the most “progressive”) does so from the understanding that Israel, as it currently exists, should stay intact, and the solution is to change Palestinians aso that they will adapt to their colonial situation.

For instance, the [Open Society Institute] wants to bring Palestinian intellectuals to the US to “train them.Train them to do what?

Train them to see the situation in the way the US does and facilitate the continued colonization of Palestine?

Zeina Zaatari: Organizations that are able to operate and function and have enough resources to hire staff–these organizations are careful and strategic about what they say. There are lines they do not cross, or else they are penalized.

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) has more foundation support than Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), although both coalition efforts organize against war.

A big  difference is that ANSWER includes Arab organizations with a clear political view, groups UPFJ doesn’t invite into its leadership.

Basically, it is not okay for organizations to address Zionism or historic Palestine. You can talk about occupation, but you cannot talk about discrimination within the Israeli state or the right to return.

For instance, San Francisco Women Against Rape lost funding when it started to address the issue of Zionism in its organization. On the issue of Lebanon, it is okay to send money for support services, but it is not okay to talk about liberation.

If you talk about violence, you must denounce the liberation movement in Lebanon; you cannot focus on the violence perpetrated by Israel. 

Follow the money track, and it’s clear that foundations are driving these and other political agendas.

For another example of how deeply foundation funding impacts this movement, compare the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) with the National Council of Arab Americans.

The ADC works with the FBI, supports US interventions in Afghanistan, does not take clear stands on Palestine, and works with US government officials (such as Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright) who are responsible for killing our people. Its focus is to make Arabs acceptable to the mainstream US, not grassroots organizing.

Meanwhile, The National Council of Arab Americans calls for an end to the colonization of Palestine, addresses Zionism, and does not support the two-state solution. Consequently, it has a much more difficult time getting funding. Additionally, as a result of the Patriot Act, even individuals are afraid to support Arab liberation organizations because they are targeted by the US government.

Atef Said: In Egypt, NGOization often competes with grassroots organizing  work. or instance, in labor organizing, NGOs encourage workers not to clash with business owners, thus pacifying labor struggles.

Sadly, most NGO leaders were previously involved in the country’s Left movements, but were seduced into the NGO world  because they can be funded (including personal benefits like travel and luxury hotel accommodations) and incur less trouble with the establishment.

A significant problem with this model, of course, is that NGOs depend on foundations for their resources, not the people.

Thus, they spend little if any time organizing and are instead accountable only to their funders. For example, since NGOs err dependent on foundation support, directors of NGOs focus on quantity rather than quality of work (that is publish  more reports in less time).

In 1997 and 1998, I started to observe from my work in these human rights NGOs that they are a bit isolated, and while they claim to defend people’s human rights, they are not invested in the question of social change and social justice.

For instance, if we look at the case of workers who are fired or o n strike–a labor organizer would work with them to continue their activism and organization. But the NGO legal aid staffer would ask to be authorized legally to sue the employer on the worker’s behalf. In other words, the NGO asks the worker to stop her/his activism: “Go home and just authorize me to sue him.

After 1998, I continued to work in these NGOs with no big hope that they will really do genuine human rights work. I started to work voluntarily with labor as well as the Palestine solidarity movement, and it  became clear that my work for human rights NGOs was just a paid job.

On the positive side, because of growing social movement that are not NGOized, particularly those in support of Palestine, some NGOs are focusing more on grassroots work, even if it impacts their funding.

Historically, how has the NGOization of the Palestinian struggle developed?

Hatem Bazian: Beginning in the 18th century, Christian missionary workers emerged in the middle East and set about influencing policy through education. Banking institutions also developed that became involved with Christian elites.

European countries, in turn, often claimed themselves as the protectors of Christians in the area to justify political intervention in the region. Using educational exchange programs, England, France, and later, the US aspired to create an elite within the region that would support their interests.

After Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinian liberation movement was often shaped by Arab states. They tried to control the movement and its interaction with Israel so that it would not negatively impact their diplomatic relations with Western countries.

The PLO, which was constructed from outside Palestine,  mirrored the authoritarian structure and corruption of the neo-colonial Arab states. However, since the uprising of the 1980s, the shaping of this movement has shifted from outside Palestine to inside of it.

It is now less susceptible to being co-opted into the Arab state structure and can assert a different vision for struggle. This vision, of course, is fluid and the movement has diverse sectors.

After the 1970s, NGOs emerged as key shapers of the movement. But they too attempted to influence the movement in ways that accorded with US and Western interests.

So, while NGOization is a more recent phenomenon, it is part of a legacy of outside interests attempting to shape a liberation struggle in a way that support imperial forces rather than the Palestinian people.

Zeina Zaatari: Oslo helped set the framework for what is and is not acceptable. Pre-Oslo, or during the first intifada, political movements were still strong, organizing within Palestine, and, to a lesser extent, in refugee camps outside Palestine.

But Oslo isolated the Palestinian issue as unrelated to larger Arab-Israeli conflicts, and transformed the movement by shifting its focus from liberation to statehood  and from decolonization to peace.

Funders supported the Oslo agenda by rewarding projects concerned with mutual coexistence, and forced the collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian groups.

Within Palestine, organizations previously concerned with a broader vision for justice — such as freedom for historic Palestine ,the right of return, and the land — turned their attention to smaller issues such as social services and other structures necessary for statehood, representational politics, and constitutional development.

Donors put much money behind this kind of work, and the work of liberation became much more compartmentalized: for instance, the issue of refugees became separated from the larger liberation struggle, its emphasis redirected in the post-Oslo political and funding climate from the right of return to humanitarian relief.

Revolution will not be funded: NGO-ization of Palestine

“We reversed decision for the grant because Women of Color Against Violence’s stated its support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.” Ford Foundation

While many organizations have responded to such pressures by abandoning their principles for expediency’s sake, INCITE! instead responded in two ways:

1. it engaged in a revision of its fundraising strategies, looking for more grassroots sources rather than foundations; and

2. it organized an anthology of essays by activists and organizers that addresses the “deleterious effects foundations can have on radical social justice movements.

The essays are collected and published under the title, The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

  posted in Kabobfest this JANUARY 21, 2010

The NGOization of Palestine

In 2004, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence received an e-mail from the Ford Foundation. In the e-mail, the foundation rescinded a $100,000 grant it had awarded the group, explaining “that it had reversed its decision because of the organization’s statement of support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.”

The collection is a rigorous analysis and interrogation of the non-profit 501(c)(3) model of organizing. The political costs associated with such forms of incorporation and the loss of accountability associated with a duty towards large donors rather than the constituencies that organizers purport to care about.

The essays study how large foundations — like the Ford Foundation, which was funded in part by the CIA [Edit: To clarify the foundation itself was not funded by the CIA but some of its grants were. Moreover there was extensive collaboration between CIA and Ford Foundation during the Cold War.]– control social justice movements through the power of the purse.

The essays are an important and thought provoking read for all US-based activist concerned with social justice, and even those on the verge of graduation who believe that non-profit work is the most progressive route for change.

Having attended the Al Fakhoora Student Conference in Doha last weekend, I am posting an excerpt of the chapter The NGOization of Palestine, which includes interviews with Professor Hatem Bazian of American Muslims for Palestine, Professor Zeina Zaatari of the Global Fund for Women, and Atef Said an Egyptian human rights lawyer.

Having attended, I thought it worthwhile to consider the issues raised in these interviews and by the book in general.

How have non-profits impacted Palestinian and other Arab liberation struggles?

Hatem Bazian: NGOs control the purse strings. Through this funding or through the staff they hire, they assert their political agenda. For example, the largest coalition of organizations that work on Palestine do not insist on US divestment from Israel or devote organizing resources into achieving this agenda.

But look at the solidarity movements that developed around apartheid South Africa and Central America: they made divestment central to their struggle.

These movements recognized that economic sanctions and pressure are central to change a government’s policies. When it comes to Palestine, NGOs do not want to offend certain segments of the liberal Zionist community. So they shift their focus to changing Israel’s mind without making Israel suffer. This kind of strategy was dismissed as ineffectual in the South African and Central American solidarity movements.

The Palestinian struggle (which does not differentiate between land stolen from Palestinians in 1948 and land stolen in 1967) has demanded the right of return for all Palestinian refugees and calls for Palestine to be a complete whole.

But today, almost all NGOs and foundations call for a “two-state solution” that insists Israel, as it’s currently constructed, must exist as is, and that Palestinians must learn to accept colonization and occupation.

The two-state solution defends Israel’s “right” to define itself on racially exclusivity criteria, and hence exist as a racially apartheid state.  By proposing that Palestine exist as a divided, demilitarized state whose resources are fully controlled by Israel, this approach effectively eliminates the possibility of Palestinians having a real state that encompasses their historical and international rights. In other words, this “solution” would essentially dispense with the 6 million Palestinian refugees.

In other solidarity movements, there is often the understanding that they exist to support liberation struggles, not to dictate the terms of those struggles. However, when it comes to Palestine, NGOs feel they have the right to tell Palestinians what to do. In their framework, the problem is not Israeli colonization and occupation; the problem is that Palestinians need to be trained to develop “civil society” and learn to cooperate with Israel.

Consequently, funding is often focused on developing joint “Israeli-Palestinian” ventures and projects rather than address the issue of occupation.

The NGOization of the solidarity movement in the US has been so thorough that anyone who criticizes this position is silenced and marginalized. (For instance, in the Bay Area there used to be an annual demonstration for Peace, Jobs, and Justice throughout the 1980s, and no speakers on Palestine were allowed to speak nor they supported the two-state solution.)

Without exception, every foundation that funds work on Palestine (from the most conservative to the most “progressive”) does so from the understanding that Israel, as it currently exists, should stay intact, and the solution is to change Palestinians aso that they will adapt to their colonial situation.

Now, for instance, the [Open Society Institute] wants to bring Palestinian intellectuals to the US to “train them.” Train them to do what? Train them to see the situation in the way the US does and facilitate the continued colonization of Palestine?

Zeina Zaatari: Organizations that are able to operate and function and have enough resources to hire staff–these organizations are careful and strategic about what they say. There are lines they do not cross, or else they are penalized.

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) has more foundation support than Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), although both coalition efforts organize against war.

A big  difference is that ANSWER includes Arab organizations with a clear political view, groups UPFJ doesn’t invite into its leadership. Basically, it is not okay for organizations to address Zionism or historic Palestine. You can talk about occupation, but you cannot talk about discrimination within the Israeli state or the right to return.

For instance, San Francisco Women Against Rape lost funding when it started to address the issue of Zionism in its organization. On the issue of Lebanon, it is okay to send money for support services, but it is not okay to talk about liberation.

If you talk about violence, you must denounce the liberation movement in Lebanon; you cannot focus on the violence perpetrated by Israel. Follow the money track, and it’s clear that foundations are driving these and other political agendas.

For another example of how deeply foundation funding impacts this movement, compare the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) with the National Council of Arab Americans. The ADC works with the FBI, supports US interventions in Afghanistan, does not take clear stands on Palestine, and works with US government officials (such as Colin Powell and Madeline Albright) who are responsible for killing our people. Its focus is to make Arabs acceptable to the mainstream US, not grassroots organizing.

The National Council of Arab Americans, meanwhile, calls for an end to the colonization of Palestine, addresses Zionism, and does not support the two-state solution. Consequently, it has a much more difficult time getting funding. Additionally, as a result of the Patriot Act, even individuals are afraid to support Arab liberation organizations because they are targeted by the US government.

Atef Said: In Egypt, NGOization often competes with grassroots organizing  work. or instance, in labor organizing, NGOs encourage workers not to clash with business owners, thus pacifying labor struggles.

Sadly, most NGO leaders were previously involved in the country’s Left movements, but were seduced into the NGO world  because they can be funded (including personal benefits like travel and luxury hotel accommodations) and incur less trouble with the establishment. A significant problem with this model, of course, is that NGOs depend on foundations for their resources, not the people.

Thus, they spend little if any time organizing and are instead accountable only to their funders. For example, since NGOs err dependent on foundation support, directors of NGOs focus on quantity rather than quality of work (that is publish  more reports in less time).

In 1997 and 1998, I started to observe from my work in these human rights NGOs that they are a bit isolated, and while they claim to defend people’s human rights, they are not invested in the question of social change and social justice.

For instance, if we look at the case of workers who are fired or o n strike–a labor organizer would work with them to continue their activism and organization. BUt the NGO legal aid staffer would ask to be authorized legally to sue the employer on the worker’s behalf. In other words, the NGO asks the worker to stop her/his activism: “Go home and just authorize me to sue him.

After 1998, I continued to work in these NGOs with no big hope that they will really do genuine human rights work. I started to work voluntarily with labor as well as the Palestine solidarity movement, and it  became clear that my work for human rights NGOs was just a paid job.

On the positive side, because of growing social movement that are not NGOized, particularly those in support of Palestine, some NGOs are focusing more on grassroots work, even if it impacts their funding.

Historically, how has the NGOization of the Palestinian struggle developed?

Hatem Bazian: Beginning in the 18th century, Christian missionary workers emerged in the middle East and set about influencing policy through education. Banking institutions also developed that became involved with Christian elites. European countries, in turn, often claimed themselves as the protectors of Christians in the area to justify political intervention in the region. Using educational exchange programs, England, France, and later, the US aspired to create an elite within the region that would support their interests.

After Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinian liberation movement was often shaped by Arab states. They tried to control the movement and its interaction with Israel so that it would not negatively impact their diplomatic relations with Western countries. The PLO, which was constructed from outside Palestine,  mirrored the authoritarian structure and corruption of the neocolonial Arab states. However, since the uprising of the 1980s, the shaping of this movement has shifted from outside Palestine to inside of it. It is now less susceptible to being co-opted into the Arab state structure and can as sert a different vision for struggle. This vision, of course, is fluid and the movement has diverse sectors.

After the 1970s, NGOs emerged as key shapers of the movement. But they too attempted to influence the movement in ways that accorded with US and Western interests. So, while NGOization is amore recent phenomenon, it is part of a legacy of outside interests attempting to shape a liberation struggle in a way that support imperial forces rather than the Palestinian people.

Zeina Zaatari: Oslo helped set the framework for what is and is not acceptable. Pre-Oslo, or during the first intifada, political movements were still strong, organizing within Palestine, and, to a lesser extent, in refugee camps outside Palestine. But Oslo isolated the Palestinian issue as unrelated to larger Arab-Israeli conflicts, and transformed the movement by shifting its focus from liberation to statehood  and from decolonization to peace.

Funders supported the Oslo agenda by rewarding projects concerned with mutual coexistence, and forced the collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian groups. Within Palestine, organizations previously concerned with a broader vision for justice — such as freedom for historic Palestine ,the right of return, and the land — turned their attention to smaller issues such as social services and other structures necessary for statehood, representational politics, and constitutional development.

Donors put much money behind this kind of work, and the work of liberation became much more compartmentalized: for instance, the issue of refugees became separated from the larger liberation struggle, its emphasis redirected in the post-Oslo political and funding climate from the right of return to humanitarian relief.


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