How an Israeli group plans to infiltrate human rights monitors

Email from the Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara recruits secret agents to infiltrate human rights group.

An Israeli propaganda, or hasbara, organization is seeking to infiltrate Israeli human rights groups.

The Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara announced that it aims to plant secret operatives at HaMoked, an organization that campaigns against Israel’s abuses of Palestinians living under occupation, by sending people to apply for job openings.

In an email distributed in December, the Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara directs viewers to current job listings at HaMoked, which it describes as promoting an “inaccurate analysis of international law, with the goal of criminalizing Israeli actions.”

The email also notes that HaMoked received funding from the governments of France, Holland, Norway and Spain.

The Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara, a private group, claims its goal is to combat “the defamation of Israel around the world.” It explains that it will be monitoring HaMoked and other groups presumably deemed critical of Israel’s practices and advertise their job listings through its own network.

It also says its effort comes in response to a recent campaign by the ultra-right-wing organization Im Tirzu targeting human rights groups that receive foreign funding.


Last month, Im Tirzu released a report calling on the Israeli government to shut down human rights organizations that receive foreign funding and criticize Israeli policies.

Im Tirzu also released a 68-second video that labels the heads of four major Israeli human rights groups as traitors who aid terrorists at the behest of their foreign bankrollers.

HaMoked and its executive director Dalia Kerstein were among those named in the campaign.

Israel’s attorney general is considering requests to investigate the video as incitement.

Growing trend

Kerstein told The Electronic Intifada that she does not believe this latest campaign by the Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara will get very far: “It is a bit worrying, but I believe HaMoked will stop them at a certain point: we are so transparent and the activities are so public.”

But Kerstein says that it signals a growing trend: “Everyone is using this language of traitors and infiltrators. We are marked now as enemies. The general mood is that we might have to look over our shoulders very soon.”

The Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara runs a program that trains “covert hasbara agents.”

Its website promises graduates a “prestigious and impressive” accreditation as secret agents.

In an interview with +972 Magazine, the group’s founder David Hermelin said the training emphasizes “complexity,” clear communication and facts.

An example he provided of such alleged facts is that international law gives Jews the exclusive right to settle all land west of the Jordan River – what is today Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli justice minister, has led the government’s fight against Israeli human rights groups.

Last November, she introduced the so-called transparency law that would require nonprofits that receive more than half of their budgets from foreign states to wear special badges when they visit the Israeli parliament and to mark their official publications accordingly.

Even European Union officials, who praised Israel for its “prosperous democratic society,” slammed Shaked’s bill as “reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.”

Right wing funding

HaMoked’s Kerstein, who acknowledges that her organization receives most of its funding from European governments and donors, says that all sources are completely transparent and are reported to the government four times a year.

While the proposed law is seen as a direct attack on left-wing organizations, there is no shortage of right-wing groups in Israel receiving ample funding from abroad.

As The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this week, it is estimated that American donors annually send $1 billion to Israeli groups that support or promote settlement activity.

Nine major Israeli right-wing organizations collectively received about $125 million in donations from 2006 to 2013, according to a recent survey by the anti-settlement group Peace Now.

The sources for nearly 95 percent of the funding remained confidential. Of the contributions whose sources are reported, the vast majority came from donors in the United States.

One of the best funded of these organization, the Yesha Council that represents Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, is among the least transparent, according to Peace Now.

Not surprisingly, there has been no discernible campaign by Israeli leaders to force groups whose political goals they share to disclose their funding sources.

Dena Shunra provided translation.


Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.