Watchdog ‘Not Surprised’ Left-Wing Activists Revealed to Be Helping PA Prevent Land Sale to Jews (INTERVIEW)
“Every society has its fringe members and attention-seekers, and Israel has more than its fair share,” the head of a prominent watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Sunday. “But this case is especially egregious.”
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, founder and president of Israel-based NGO Monitor, was responding to a recent scandal surrounding the participation of left-wing Israeli activists in the endeavor of preventing Palestinians from selling land to Jews. Among these activists is a member of the foreign-funded NGO B’Tselem.
The focus on Thursday evening of popular Israeli Channel 2 program “Uvda” (fact) — modeled after CBS News’ “60 Minutes” — this activity on the part of self-described human rights groups was revealed to involve ratting out such land-dealers to the Palestinian Authority. Though the Foreign Property Ownership Law does not specify Jews in particular, the practice is informally forbidden and those engaging in it are arrested, beaten and even put to death.
The show’s host, Ilana Dayan, has since been criticized by many on the Israeli Left for producing the program, whose content was enabled by the infiltration of a right-wing provocateur posing as a sympathizer to the main Israeli anti-hero of the story, Ezra Nawi, and his group, Ta’ayush.
“In the anti-occupation and anti-Israel NGO network, Ta’ayush and Ezra Nawi are known entities active in the violent demonstrations against the anti-terror barrier, among other activities,” Steinberg told The Algemeiner. “Ta’ayush is an outlier NGO on the fringe of the fringe. It is not registered as an NGO, and its funding is mysterious, though a few years ago, the radical anti-Israel NGO Jewish Voice for Peace, registered as a US non-profit, provided it unspecified assistance.”
In the Channel 2 documentary, Nawi is heard on camera openly admitting that the Palestinians he turns in – usually after entrapping them by pretending to be a prospective buyer – subsequently come to physical harm as a result of his activity on behalf of the PA and against his own country, the state of Israel.
Steinberg said he is “not particularly surprised that one of B’Tselem’s Palestinian employees was involved with Nawi and Ta’ayush. For radical Palestinians, the Israeli NGOs operating under the facade of human rights are good cover, and provide access to resources via the New Israel Fund (NIF) and European governments.”
Steinberg continued, “After the program was aired, B’Tselem and the NIF went on the attack against Ilana Dayan, who until then had been a close ally. In addition to trying to shift attention away from their own organizations, they are trying to prevent the broadcast of Part 2 of the expose, on the links between Breaking the Silence, another member of the NIF network, and Nawi.”
There have also been reports, said Steinberg, “of an internal schism within the NIF over how to handle its growing isolation in Israel and to keep its main American donors in the dark. All of the responses to criticism aroused by the ‘Uvda’ program are coming from NIF officials in the United States, particularly their spokesperson, Naomi Paiss. In contrast, the Israeli NIF president, Talia Sasson, and her CEO, Rachel Liel, have been conspicuously silent throughout the ongoing crisis.”
Steinberg concluded that “what makes Israel’s situation different from other democracies is the massive resources that outside players — the NIF and European governments — irresponsibly give to various radical and anti-democratic groups. Without this money, the small groups of activists in Ta’ayush, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and the rest would have far less impact.”
Such groups came under scrutiny recently by Zionist organization Im Tirtzu, which produced a video clip calling Israeli activists associated with them “foreign agents” and urging that they be outlawed for aiding and abetting terrorists.
This comes amid controversy surrounding a new NGO transparency law proposed by Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.