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August 25, 2010

Harper's political interference, where to get falafel in Israel?

Reuel S. Amdur

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The International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian crown corporation, recently terminated a pair of three-year grants to Mada al-Carmel, an Israeli Arab social research organization. The grants were cancelled in the second year.

Mada al-Carmel was funded by the IDRC to conduct two studies: “Arab political participation in Israel and the future of Israeli democracy” and “Palestinian women in Israel and the political economy.” 

The grants were for $776,500 over the three years but were cancelled in the second year in a letter received March 3, 2010.

David Malone, President of IDRC, admits that the two grants were brought to his attention by NGO Monitor, a non-profit Israeli organization dedicated to countering “politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas” of non-governmental organizations. 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among NGO’s that have felt NGO Monitor’s wrath.  Following the contact by NGO Monitor, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon wrote to IDRC asking about the grants.

One aspect of the matter was the publication of a poster showing an Israeli soldier confronting a Palestinian woman.  Mada al-Carmel rejected any suggestion that they published or supported the particular poster, but NGO Monitor attempted to make the link.

Malone states that he had not previously been aware of the grants, as because of their small size, approval did not require his concurrence.  However, when they were brought to his attention by NGO Monitor he came to find that they were inappropriate for IDRC, as Israel is a developed, not a developing country.

Mr. Malone wrote to Cannon indicating that he planned to continue the grants, but he cancelled them a month later. 

Two weeks earlier, he met with Ambassador Miriam Ziv at the Israeli embassy.  Mada al-Carmel is suing IDRC and the Canadian government to demand the reinstatement of the grants and in cross-examination Malone was asked if there was any connection between the cancellation of the grants and his meeting with the ambassador. 

However, a lawyer for the Attorney General intervened, saying that Malone could not disclose the content of the meeting because it relates to national security and international relations.

It is hard to explain what business Malone had with the Israeli ambassador, given his determination that Israel is not a country with which the IDRC should be concerned.  Presumably he was there to inquire about where to get a good falafel in Tel Aviv.

Malone testified that grants have been made to South African organizations, although that country is also identified as developed rather than developing.  He also admitted that he changed his mind about whether the grants were a legitimate expenditure by the IDRC between February 11 and March 1, this year.

Clearly the IDRC is making excuses. 

At one point Malone found the grants to be within the crown corporation’s mandate, only to reverse himself shortly after.  Because Israel is not a developing country, grants there are now seen as outside the agency’s mandate, but grants to projects in other developed countries have also been approved. 

What role has the inquiry by Lawrence Cannon and the secret conversation with the Israeli ambassador played in the decision to kill the projects? 

The two projects were so small that they did not even require Malone’s prior approval.  Yet, they could not be allowed to complete their work. 

Pulling the rug out from under Mada al-Carmel is a serious blow to the agency and spells a waste of the work which has been instituted and is to be halted in mid-stream. 

And the decision by Malone was imposed on Mada al-Carmel without warning and with no opportunity to give its side of the story. 

Malone also admitted that never before had IDRC cancelled a project for anything other than inadequate performance, and he conceded that there were no concerns of that nature with these two grants. 

Malone’s and IDRC’s behavior in this case has been unprofessional and irresponsible.

It is hard to believe that political interference has not played a decisive role in this killing, both at the international level with involvement of Israel and at the ministerial level here in Canada. 

Take a bow, Mr. Cannon.

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