EUobserver Shuts Down Op-Ed Debate

EUobserver, according to its website, was founded “to support the debate on – and development of European affairs.” With the EU taking an active role in Mideast diplomacy and particularly in the funding of the Palestinian Authority and a significant number of regional NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) wouldn’t you expect some vibrant debate on EUobserver’s opinion page?

The answer is no if you are representing a viewpoint that doesn’t fit with the prevailing zeitgeist as NGO Monitor found out after Professor Gerald Steinberg submitted an op-ed in response to a published piece by Alon Liel. Here is the correspondence between NGO Monitor and EUobserver:

  • January 1 – Andrew Rettman, op-ed editor of EU Observer, writes that “in principle” they would consider an op-ed from NGO Monitor, and that they “reserve the right to reject it.”
  • January 3 – op-ed submitted
  • January 4 – follow-up email from NGO Monitor asking if op-ed has been reviewed

Andrew Rettman responds: “it looks OK shd be online later”

  • January 5 – NGO Monitor writes to Andrew asking where it is online.

Andrew Rettman: “it’s not out yet jason. i a awaiting another op-ed on the same subject to see which one is more interesting as we will not publish both”

NGO Monitor: “ok. yesterday you wrote me that “it looks ok and should be online later.” this left me with the impression that it would be posted.”

Andrew Rettman: “sorry about that. i got notification on the other comment just after i wrote to you. it shd be cleared up before the weekend. please be patient”

NGO Monitor: “ok, thanks. please do keep me posted.”

  • January 9 –

NGO Monitor: “Hi Andrew, I see that the op-ed page didn’t change over the weekend. Will it be updated today with Prof. Steinberg’s op-ed?”

Andrew Rettman: yes. very shortlly. things finally getting back to normal now after the holidays

NGO Monitor: “great, thanks for letting me know. Much appreciated.”

NGO Monitor: “Andrew, can you please send me the link when its up? Thanks, Jason”

Andrew Rettman:

hi jason, as i was preparing the op-ed for publication, some questions came up. can we clear these up?

§Tunisia and Egypt protests predate Israel protests. is it not the case that the Arab protests inspired the Israeli ones?

§ re. IHH and terrorism – do you have evidence? the Turkish IHH tell me they have no links with the German IHH, from which they split 15 years ago. they says attempts to link them is a smear campaign

§ “participation in an armed attack against one’s own military forces would be considered treason” – did Zoabi physically assault IDF soldiers or was she just on the boat?

§ “false claims of ‘war crimes’ as repeated in the discredited Goldstone report” – could you give an example of a false claim, also in what way is the Goldstone report discredited?

finally – could you add some reference to the EU in your text, just to make it more relevant to our readers?


some personal thoughts from me:

prof GS’ talk of secret funding/campaign to delegitimise etc. makes him sound like one of those conspiracy theory loons

IDF soldiers “brutally” attacked – they killed nine people. i think this is  in poor taste

  • January 10 – NGO Monitor responds with a revised op-ed and answers Rettman’s questions while taking issue with Rettman’s “personal thoughts”.
  • January 10 –

Andrew Rettman: “final draft below for yr approval [not included in this summary]. i took out the goldstone ref. i don’t think it adds anything and it would need a couple of extra parags to explain”

Andrew Rettman: separate email]:” i am still troubled by this allegation of a “campaign” to deligitimise israel…

are you suggesting that NGOs like Amnesty, HRW, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence etc held some kind of secret meeting in which they decided on a co-ordinated anti-Israel propaganda campaign? if not, what are you suggesting? who is behind the “campaign”?

looking at NGO Monitor’s right-wing sponsors, one could imagine a campaign to deligitimise the NGOs, but not the other way round …”

NGO Monitor: “Hi Andrew, it seems that we disagree on the Goldstone reference — for the majority of the Israeli public, the wholesale accusations of war crimes that quoted NGO claims, and associated campaign led by NGOs, really triggered the criticism and the legislative proposals that are portrayed as “threats to Israeli democracy”.  Those sentences in the oped also show that the debate on NGOs certainly hasn’t silenced them.  If you feel like it must be taken out, ok, but our preference is to include it because of the centrality of the issue.

Regarding your other question – there is a very powerful network of NGOs whose goal is to delegitimizeIsraelthrough political isolation and demonization. This was first conceptualized at the Durban I conference 10 years ago where 1500 NGOs, including HRW and Amnesty, adopted a document that included numerous references to “apartheid”, war crimes, etc. and called for the complete political isolation of Israel. The strategy includes bringing war crimes cases against Israeli officials in international courts, and via universal jurisdiction statutes, in other countries’ courts. The European government funding for associated NGOs is at least measured in tens of millions of euros per year — it is by no means a minor issue, as reflected in the various legislation proposals and surrounding debate. NGO Monitor was founded in the wake of this conference to research where the NGO funding was originating, and to provide analysis on the reports the NGOs produce.

Again, please send me the link when its live”

  • January 11 –

NGO Monitor: Hi Andrew, please let me know when its published. Thanks very much.

NGO Monitor: Hi Andrew, can you please send me a response to let me know when this will post?

On January 12, NGO Monitor called Andrew Rettman and was told that the op-ed would not be published.

The above correspondence offers some insight into how the debate over Israel within the EU is skewed by the media, not to mention the lack of professionalism and the anti-Israel agenda displayed by EUobserver’s op-ed editor.