Israel Resource Review 12th January, 2003


PASSIA: US acknowledges that US AID Finances the Leading Palestinian Arab Media Lobby Organization
David Bedein

Ever wonder who is behind the well-oiled Palestinian propaganda operation that reaches out to every media outlet and every college campus in sight?

Well, look no further than the US taxpayer.

The US government has finally acknowledged that US AID indeed funds PASSIA, the organization that trains Palestinian Arab media professionals in the art of transforming the image of the Arab-Israeli struggle into an Arab David against an Israeli Goliath. US AID reports directly to the White House, which makes that allocation of particular significance.

On February 7, 2002, a staffer of the US House International Relations Committee provided Israel Resource News Agency with a list of Palestinian Arab agencies that were supported by US AID. That list included PASSIA, the foremost Palestinian Arab media and lobbying training center.

Since February 2002, the U.S. state department spokesman and officials of US AID had declined any comment about US funding of the Palestine Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) even though the PASSIA's study program booklets printed since 1998 read "kindly supported by USAID" just above the copyright.

However, Israel Resource News Agency has obtained a memo dated August 26th, 2002, in which US AID acknowledged that it had been funding PASSIA since March 1997, to the tune of $1.2 million per annum, yet only in a "generic" and non-specific way, with he proviso that no funds would be used to lobby the US Congress. In its statement, US AID also mentioned that the US government also applied rigorous standards of financial accountability to the funds that it remitted to PASSIA.

Funding for PASSIA was also provided by:

The Ford Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation
Freidrich Ebert Stiftung
The European Union
Canada Fund
The Government of Japan

Yet David Nassar, former field director of the Arab/American Institute of Washington D.C. (AAI) who directs the PASSIA "Civil Society Empowerment" project and authored and collated the corresponding booklets, states that the program was designed specifically "to meet the specific needs of Palestinian society".

On page 7 of the booklet entitled: "Advocacy and Lobbying", published in January, 2002, he asks: "what are the large groups that your audience in Palestine are to fall into?"

Answer: "Everyone from the Chairman on down… PIC members… and the press, who "often does not respond but write what they are told to write." Readers of this American taxpayer funded exercise are instructed to: "hit their targets as we (AAI) do in the US all the time" where "the goal does not necessarily have to be identified."

One such "target"? (page 13) The United States Congress who "cut aid to the Palestinians for not improving the way in which the P.A. deals with suicide bombers The objective? "To do whatever we (they) needed to stop this resolution" sponsored by California Senator Diane Feinstein and Kentucky's Mitch McKonnel.

On page 16, we learn that the last thing Mr. Nassar did before leaving the United States, "was to organize four press conferences in the state of Ohio. "Because the Members of Congress from that State have contributed to violence in the Middle East by the Palestinian's calls for freedom, one of the words we really wanted to make sure was in there." Only afterwards did they determine "who should be a source and look for a credible messenger. Because it is important (if the Palestinians) are to win to provide the idea that everybody wins."

On page 25, we come to learn that "the people who have been granted authority to monitor are the ones that are the most corrupt, because who is watching them?"

Yet when it comes to PASSIA's own disclosure, page 37 informs that "despite the many positive rewards of it, [disclosure] we tend to refrain from it valuing highly the concept of 'tassatur' (secrecy)" because "disclosure of a stand or a position requires that we must also defend it." Although "putting forward strategies to improve the quality of education in Palestine will support the Palestinian question" are fine, since education is considered (by the US) one of the main factors that develops society."

"Education" of a totally different sort, is what is offered in their booklet: "Media and Communication Skills" which begins with the clearly Palestinian revisionist version of Israeli/Palestinian history under the non-generic heading: "Palestinian Society: the Challenges".

"The first challenge rose with the Balfour declaration of 1917, which called for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine: a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people…"

"The second challenge, was to restore the Palestinian self-identity and resist the expansion of Jewish settlement in Palestine…."

"The third challenge, arose when the Arab League involved itself in making major decisions relating to the future of the Palestinians . . . ""The fourth challenge was the most difficult; namely to achieve unity after the dispersion of the Palestinians following the War of 1948. The aim of the State of Israel, since its declaration, was to create entities and prevent unity or direct communication between areas where Palestinians existed within the cease fire line…"

It is however interesting to note, that under the heading: Israel Occupation in 1967, Mr. Nassar writes: "The impact of the Israeli Occupation on the development of the Palestinian civil society was minimal due to the practices of the military authority"…in direct contradiction to the claims made daily by the leaders of the intifada. However, in the next paragraph, he goes on to state:

"The establishment of the PLO in the mid 1960's contributed to the success of the attempts to create and re-structure civil institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the institutions were forced to function under abnormal conditions and severe military occupation restrictions far away from the Palestinian leadership." And that the intifada emerged due to local deteriorating political and economic conditions…This resulted, amongst other things, in the increase of foreign aid to local institutions." In chapter two: Palestinian Civil Society and the Policy process, by Dr. Nabil Khatib, Director of the media center at Birzeit University, we learn that it is not just Israel but the (then) existing PNA that PASSIA holds in its sights:

"Whilst the media is not supposed to have any predetermined interest in a particular issue…. (they) the media only aims at defending the general objective and the general good, one has to take into account that this is not always the case… Sometimes we need as Civil Society Organizations, (CSO's) to make use of the international media in order to exert pressure on both the PNA and the Israeli government by developing an international public opinion."

"In the particular [not generic] case of Palestine, we have now neither self rule, nor autonomy… that in our case, the self-rule has the potential to lead to statehood…"

"In order to influence the general policy in one way or another, all CSO's should know how to influence the media. The best known way to do this is to come up with a hidden agenda, and deciding on the most suitable time to release information to the media… in order to direct the media towards a predetermined slogan, a defined demand… The best method for exerting pressure, is to transform a problem into a public opinion issue, using the media."

That US taxpayer-funded "how-to" manual was written in 1998.

When it comes to media manipulation, PASSIA'S job was made easy for them, as the booklet continues into chapter 6, a 'discussion' between their moderators; Dr. Khatib, Rami Khouri, of Jordanian television and Tudor Lomas, and two journalists who offered their advice: . Eric Weiner, of National Public Radio - another US taxpayer funded enterprise, and Lyse Doucete of the BBC.

We are first told by Weiner, that "being balanced, according to their mandate, can be frustrating" and urges the audience/reader "to present your stories on a human level and not rely on the facts." As they "have to justify their existence which makes it easier to get through to us."

Ms. Doucete, who refers to suicide/ homicide bombers as "honor" killers, believes "her job is to translate" rather than simply report the news because "Israel is led by a Prime Minister who believes that it is not Israel's policy that is wrong, just that they have to explain it better." And so admonishes the Palestinians that "if you want to beat the Israeli's, you have to beat them at their own game…" There follows eight pages of clear instruction on how the Palestinians can manipulate the press to their own advantage. Weiner: "…the fact that you have 1000,000 pounds from the British government… is not particularly interesting. But, if you explain why it is going to make such a difference by saying "Did you know that since the closure was imposed we haven't been able to get paper through to Bethlehem . . . we are far more likely to be interested."

Doucet: "You should also know how to pick your target… Always be smart about where you pitch your story, and pitch it at the right time…. It is true that Israel is treated with kid gloves and not held to the same standards as Iraq when it comes to UN resolutions…"In terms of financial responsibility of PASSIA, this organization is registered under The Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations in the Israel Ministry of Interior, along with all other Jerusalem based organizations.

A review of PASSIA's publicly accessible financial records show that PASSIA does not mention US AID as a funding source, nor does it even record the income of US AID in its annual recorded income.

The legal advisor to the Israel Registrar of Non Profit Organizatons provided a report ated May 5, 2002, in which he stated that, indeed, US AID allocations do not appear anywhere in the records of PASSIA.

In addition, the receipts provided by PASSIA for the purchase of PASSIA materials bear no mention of its registration number, as required by law, a procedure considered to be a felony by the adapted Ottoman law which regulates the operation of non-profit organizations.

So much for US requirements for rigorous standards of financial responsibility.

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Evaluating the US State Department Memo on PASSIA
Andrea Israel

Foggy-Bottom Do's

In direct violation of stringent, federal government law, The United States Department of State, Office of International Development (USAID) just keeps on blithely funding the Palestinian Authority's,Congressional arm-twisting department: the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA).

They do this on orders that came directly from the Clinton White House, there by by-passing Congress, despite the U.S. federal law that reads: USAID money cannot be used for lobbying the U.S. Congress in any form".

They do this in-spite, or more accurately, because the U.S. Congress is unaware that they do, and they do it by claiming, in a 9/4/02 State Dept. memo that:

"PASSIA is a non-profit organization research institution that focuses on issues of democracy, good governance, rule of law, reform and communication among religious groups in Jerusalem."

USAID goes on to say that:

"It (PASSIA) is not affiliated with any government.

Which is of course a lie since the Palestinian Authority is "the duly elected government" of the Palestinian People". This means that while the Administration is fighting a war on international terror, the State Department is pouring millions of dollars, hand-over-fist, directly into the coffers of Yassar Arafat.

USAID's initial funding, we are told, was to :focus on training, mid-career professionals drawn from Palestinian civil society organizations to advocate and lobby in the Palestinian domestic context in a generic sense."

The second federal largess (1.4million, given quarterly and only after the previous quarter's worth has been used in full, came in January, 2002, just four months into their second intifada.

It is at this point in the memo, that the claim is made that they, (the Palestinian Authority) is ecumenical" and that these unaccounted for US taxpayers dollars are being spent for: " generic", local, PA community use only.

Which would be fine, except that Michigan, Kentucky, California and Ohio are not located in either Gaza or the West Bank. They are American states, who's State Department is funding what is at best, their manipulation…

Until now, USAID got away with it, because this Clinton policy holdover goes directly into their, appropriations fund, thereby avoiding the process of congressional oversight authority, while at the same time, circumventing the law these public servants are sworn to uphold. The official State Department reasoning behind this secret practice of governmental hostage taking, reads like this:

" In the case of PASSIA, our funding of the series does not free PASSIA funding up for other activities…Our funding does not mean they have funds freed-up for some other activity or line purpose." And so goes this line of appeasement/encouragement reasoning: "If we did not fund this activity, PASSIA would not conduct it or they would seek funding from another mainstream donor." One might ask here, if that isn't exactly the point. One might also ask if there was even the hint of Foggy-Bottom embarrassment at such flagrantly violationist behavior? Not so much as a hint:

"On the contrary, …USAID feels well-positioned…because we are proud of the example of democracy and good governance embodied with the American system. We are a good example"

It is here that the current occupants of the Department of State might be reminded that nowhere in American history, did the US government condone, let alone engage in the practice of blowing up babies out of their carriages, or their grandmothers in the act of feeding them.

This USAID admission comes only after evading the question first put to them over a year ago by David Bedein, bureau chief of Israel News Resource Agency, (IRNA). The funding, according to the memo, began in March 31, 1997, on orders directly from the Clinton Oval Office.

The booklets PASSIA produces in conjunction with their twelve-week training courses in lobbying, media manipulation and "good governance", thanks just the USAID on their flyleaves (should anyone on 'oversight' have ever cared to look) but the USAID does not act.

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