The Open Society Foundations, the network of philanthropic organizations funded by billionaire George Soros, appears to have been hacked earlier this weekend, and its confidential reports made available on the website DC Leaks. These newly revealed documents provide a granular look into the extent of the network’s operations in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with millions of dollars designated annually to organizations highly critical of the Jewish state, some of whom deny its right to exist.
Even more troubling, the documents repeatedly indicate that the network actively tried to conceal its engagements in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and has worked to set up an extensive network of organizations designed to support and promote its views. “For a variety of reasons,” reads the report, “we wanted to construct a diversified portfolio of grants dealing with Israel and Palestine, funding both Israeli Jewish and PCI (Palestinian Citizens of Israel) groups as well as building a portfolio of Palestinian grants and in all cases to maintain a low profile and relative distance—particularly on the advocacy front.”
According to one document, for example, the Arab Regional Office Presidential Portfolio Review, dated August 6, 2015, the Soros network has given $2,688,561 in 14 grants since 2001 to Adalah. A self-described “independent human rights organization” that has been instrumental in accusing Israel of war crimes on numerous occasions in international forums, Adalah has called on governments the world over to sever or downgrade their diplomatic relations with Israel. An additional $1,083,000 in nine grants since 2003 went to I’lam, a Nazareth-based Palestinian media center. In a 2014 publication about the Nakba—the name Palestinians give the creation of the state of Israel, literally meaning “catastrophe”—the center accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and argued that “the practical meaning of the Nakba undermines the moral and ethical foundation of Zionism and, hence, of the State of Israel.” Other similar-minded organizations received similarly large grants, sometimes through the auspices of another Soros grantee, the New Israel Fund, which supported many of the same NGOs.
But perhaps more instructive than the list of grantees itself is Arab Regional Office’s 2014 portfolio review document of the Palestine/Israel international advocacy portfolio, a deep and candid dive into the Soros network’s goals and ambitions in the region.
The ARO, the report indicates, was motivated in part by what it perceived as “a particular shift in political dynamics particularly in the US reflected by the publication of the Walt and Mearsheimer article ‘The Israel Lobby’ in Spring 2006 which pointed out the lobby’s role in, among other things, influencing the Iraq invasion.” Another encouraging shift, according to the report, is the rise of the international movement to boycott Israel: “A number of factors make this a good moment to review this portfolio,” it reads, “including some new or improved opportunities we may choose to exploit. In recent years there’s been heightened international solidarity around Palestinians’ rights, the rise of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and other economic levers, and increased use and traction of arts and culture by Palestinians as a means to raise awareness of violations and the impact of the conflict.”
Rather than try and impact the conflict, however, by supporting organizations working to directly persuade the concerned parties—namely, Israelis and Palestinians—of the necessity of more equitable conditions for the benefit of both sides, the Open Society Foundations, ironically, took a much less democratic approach and instead focused exclusively on exerting outside pressure on the Israeli government. The ARO, the report indicated,
pursued the following objectives:
1. Local groups are capable of more frequent and effective international advocacy in the US and EU, particularly by Palestinian voices.
2. A dedicated advocacy platform is formed to provide Palestinian and Israeli groups with access to technical resources and knowhow to develop D.C. advocacy.
3. Enhance the capacity and effectiveness of EU advocacy through direct support to local groups and advocacy platforms alike.
4. Civil society actors are better equipped and positioned to rapidly respond to emergencies, and grave violations or concerns for human rights.
The Soros network, the report shows, has also been methodical about supporting a diverse number of groups in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, creating a web of small organizations supporting each other’s goals in the media, vis-à-vis foreign governments, and elsewhere. This, traditionally, is how an echo chamber works: by creating an enclosed system of like-minded partisans that appears sufficiently diverse in scope, it is often able to amplify its messages and lend them credibility. A number of the Soros-funded organizations, for example, including Adalah and others, have been key in promoting the false accusation that the Israel Defense Forces wantonly massacred innocent Palestinian civilians in Jenin in 2002. Coming from a plethora of well-funded Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, all geared exclusively towards communicating with European and American government and lobbying groups, these false accusations were reported extensively in the international media and were widely considered factually true.
Further revelations are likely to emerge as the large-scale document dump continues to be studied, but, for now, there can be little doubt about the Soros-funded extensive and deliberate effort to delegitimize Israel while doing comparatively very little to address real human rights abuses in the Palestinian Authority or elsewhere in the region.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.