Shira Beery provided significant research for this post.
Partisan pressure on the Israeli academe has been building up for a few months, but came to a head over the past few days. Much of the public’s attention has focused on Im Tirzu’s blunt threat to go after the funding of Ben Gurion University unless it acts immediately to remove “post-Zionist” faculty from its Political Science Department. The week began, however, with a report that the President of Tel-Aviv University was examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department, following advocacy by the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), a right-wing organization established by settler leader Israel Harel (profiled by Coteret here).
Newly uncovered documentation reveals that The Hudson Institute, an influential and activist neoconservative think-tank, has provided nearly $500,000 to the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing.” The grants represent more than half of the IZS’s total reported multi-year funding and position Hudson as the organization’s largest donor.
In addition, the documents indicate that Hudson provided $600,000 to The Atlantic Forum of Israel, an opaque, security-oriented, organization founded by the Israeli National Security Adviser, Uzi Arad, and run by him until last year.
Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval and the organization’s spokesperson, Erez Tadmor, took part in a Young Leadership program run by the Institute for Zionist Strategies several years ago, seemingly contradicting the two men’s earlier assertion that they were not acting in concert with the institute in their public campaign against the “anti-Zionist bias” in Israeli universities.
The IZS report on sociology departments is reminiscent of Im Tirtzu’s report on political science departments. Not only is the methodology of the two reports identical (an examination of syllabi and a classification of lecturers into categories such as “Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” ), but the conclusions they reached about the state of Israeli academia are similar.
Until the final months of 2009, both Im Tirzu and the IZS were nearly unknown in the Israeli public sphere and, until now, their sources of funding have remained obscure. On Wednesday, Calcalist, a business daily published by Yediot, revealed that Christian Zionist John Hagee’s CUFI had channeled $120,000 to Im Tirzu through the Houston Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency [a full translation of article can be read here, courtesy of Judaism Without Borders.]
Previously unpublished documents, analyzed in this post, demonstrate that The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has been the largest financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the NGO’s total multi-year funding and dwarfing all other sources.
Hudson’s form 990 report to the IRS for 2006 (page 17) states that the the institute transferred $230,000 in the previous tax year to “support Israeli public policy research.” Form 990 for 2007 (last page) states that a further $256,185 were transferred in the previous tax year for “consulting/research.”
According to the IZS’s own reports to the Israeli Registrar of Associations, the Hudson Institute provided 100% of the organization’s external funding in 2006 — $105,881 — and 2007 — $325,462. External funding for 2008 (the last year reported) was $50,351, coming exclusively from a rather bizarre source: The Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF).
The IZS was established at the end of 2004 (registration document here). Its 2006 financial report states that donations worth $431,597 were received in 2005. The Hudson Institute’s form 990 for 2005 does not provide details of external grants. Therefore, confirming that it was also behind these funds requires the IZS’s 2005 report, which has Coteret has not yet obtained. Even if this year is discounted, however, Hudson has provided over 53% of IZS’s total reported funding and is its largest donor.
Instead of detailing its grants in the 2005 report, Hudson provides a narrative report of its programs, broken down by the resident scholar responsible for their implementation. On page 23, under “Planned Projects” for Senior Fellow Meyrav Wurmser (if the name does not strike a bell, I encourage you to follow the link), of the institute’s Center for Middle East Policy, appears a brief description that may hint at the purpose of the institute’s support for the IZS (emphasis mine):
The Hudson Institute’s involvement in controversial and partisan battles in the Israeli public sphere is legitimate. What is not is the fact that it is hidden from the public eye. The organizations share information on their financial relationship with their respective regulators but not with the general public. Both the IZS and the Hudson websites do not mention the organizations’ connection. In Hebrew, the IZS site simply states that its funding is “private.” In English, it refers potential donors to a newly established (it has registered but not yet filed with the IRS) US charity, “Friends of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.” Indeed, identifying and documenting this connection required many days of work spread over the better part of a year.
In this context, at the same time the assault on pluralism in the Israeli academe intensified this week, the “NGO Transparency Law” — a thinly veiled attempt to suppress Israeli human rights groups — was making headway in the Knesset (probably not coincidentally, the IZS godfathered the bill along with Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor.) Writing in this morning’s Jerusalem post, Hagai El-Ad, Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) observes:
In recent months Israelis have witnessed an unprecedented barrage of anti-democratic campaigns, from Im Tirzu to the Land of Israel Forum. All of these campaigns are funded by unknown sources.
It is the funding of those wishing to silence Israel’s human rights groups that is hidden from the public.
It appears that the Hudson Institute’s opaque involvement in Israeli affairs is not limited to “democracy” issues and encompasses high-level geopolitics as well. Its form 990 for 2007 (last page) reports on the transfer of $600,000 to the “Atlantic Forum of Israel” in the previous tax year. Trying to understand what this organization does is no easy task. It’s website is “under construction”.
The website of the (now defunct) American Jewish Congress tells explains that it is “Israel’s official non-governmental representative” to NATO. An October 2009 article in Haaretz reports that Uzi Arad resigned as President of the Forum before assuming the position of Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser. The Saban Forum 2007 itinerary (page 9) adds that Arad founded the NGO.
Why is this significant? It may not be, but there are any number of important reasons why this information should be fully in the public domain and subject to further scrutiny. Consider this one, for example:
- The question of whether Israel should attack Iran and whether the US should support such a move is very tangibly on the (publicly perceived, at least) policy agenda of both governments.
- Numerous Hudson Institute scholars, past and present, have taken very hawkish positions on this question (see this very recent article for one example.)
- Uzi Arad has publicly articulated his (hawkish) position on the issue.
- The Hudson Institute recently provided an opaque, security-oriented, NGO founded by Uzi Arad and, until last year, run by him, with over half a million dollars of funding.
- The Hudson Institute is a central component of an active and ideological neoconservative opposition to the foreign and security policy of the current US President; Uzi Arad serves as National Security Adviser to the current Israeli Prime Minister.
The facts listed above may be unrelated. That cannot be confirmed, however, without full disclosure. All involved (and given what’s at stake, that includes you and me) have an interest in moving that process forward.
- NIS 471,858 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.4565. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 8.
- NIS 1,337,031 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.1081. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
- NIS 180,650 at an average yearly exchange rate of 3.5878. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
- A UK charity “founded in 1865 and is the oldest organization in the world created specifically for the study of the Levant.” Its grants, however, are made to individual researchers, and the 2008 grant list does not mention the IZS or anyone associated with it.
- NIS 1,936,922 at average yearly exchange rate of 4.4878. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 3.