Swans Commentary » swans.com November 16, 2009  



Nancy Nye And Humanitarian Capitalism (For Palestine)


by Michael Barker





"Without exception, every foundation that funds work on Palestine (from the most conservative to the most 'progressive') does so from the understanding that Israel, as it currently exists, should stay intact, and the solution is to change Palestinians so that they will adapt to their colonial situation."
Hatem Bazian, 2007. (1)


(Swans - November 16, 2009)    In a recent Swans article titled "Nonviolence International And Imperialism" I regretfully wrote that Nancy Nye was married to head of Nonviolence International, Michael Beer, when in actual fact she is the wife of Mubarak Awad (the founder of Nonviolence International). In spite of this mistake, I had demonstrated how Nye's activities at an organization called the Youth Advocate Program International are intimately connected to those of leading imperial elites. However, as that article was predominantly concerned with people and funders directly connected to Nonviolence International, little attention was paid to Nye's other "humanitarian" activism. Therefore, to compensate for my misrepresentation of her marital status, this article presents a more complete and accurate review of Nye's employment history.

Nancy Nye, a former principal of the Quaker Friends Girls' School in Ramallah, is presently the executive director of Youth Advocate Program International, and is the director of donor stewardship for a group called American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA). While this article will not rehash the Youth Advocate Program's links to democracy-manipulating elites, two of the six members of their international advisory council (Martin Garate and Lilian Peters) are representatives of the Quaker peace group, American Friends Service Committee -- an organization whose work has been well-supported by liberal not-for-profit corporations. Nye's work fundraising for ANERA is however of great relevance to this article, especially given that her colleague at ANERA, Mary Kate Chaath, had formerly worked for America-Mideast Educational and Training Services -- a body whose board members include "peace" theorist Mary King, an individual who is likewise a board member of the Nye's Youth Advocate Program. (2)

As a founding member of the democracy-manipulating peak body, InterAction, ANERA was created in 1968 as a non-governmental organization that works -- as their Web site states -- on projects to "improve communities throughout the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Jordan." According to their 2006-07 annual report ANERA's seven biggest funders were the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the State of Qatar, Intel Corporation, the United Nation's International Fund for Agricultural Development, the US Agency for International Development, and the Welfare Association. Of these funding bodies, the Foundation for Middle East Peace enjoys particularly intimate ties to ANERA, as their president, Philip Wilcox, Jr., is an ANERA board member. (3) Beginning in Laos in 1966, Wilcox, spent 31 years in the US Foreign Service before retiring in 1997, after spending three years as the US ambassador at large for counterterrorism. In addition, Wilcox presently sits on the board of governors of the Middle East Institute -- a research group that is highly dependent on the support of energy corporations and military contractors. (4) Remaining on the issue of militarism, the long-standing president of ANERA (1977-2007) and Foundation for Middle East Peace trustee, Peter Gubser, is the treasurer of the National Council on US-Arab Relations -- a group whose 15th Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference (held in 2006) was sponsored by some of the largest military contractors and energy giants in the world, which included amongst their ranks Chevron, ExxonMobil, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.

Another major ANERA funder is the Middle East Partnership Initiative. Acting much like the US Agency for International Development, this partnership was created by the US government in 2002 and during its first four years the partnership channeled $293 million to right-thinking non-governmental organizations to "help facilitate the implementation of a Middle East Free Trade Area" amongst other things. Again the democracy-manipulating motives for creating the Middle East Partnership Initiative became clearer in 2004 when US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State J. Scott Carpenter took over the reins of their work. Indeed, Carpenter had launched his career in the state department coming fresh from a stint working at the International Republican Institute -- a key grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) -- and has acted as deputy assistant secretary of state in the US government's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. (5)

The most intriguing organizational funder of ANERA's work, however, is an inconspicuously-named group known as the Welfare Association (also known as Ta'awoun), which was formed in 1983 to "support Palestinian society in sustainable development." This philanthropic foundation has direct ties to the Friends School of Ramallah, as Friend School trustee Varsen Aghabekian is the director of research and planning at the Welfare Association. Major funding partners of the Association include the US Agency for International Development, and the Association is co-chaired by Abdul Muhsen Al-Qattan and Said Khoury. The former individual, Abdul Muhsen Al-Qattan, is the president of the UK-based Qattan Foundation (which has supported the Palestinian non-profit sector since 1994). In turn, the Qattan Foundation is headed by Ziad Khalaf, a person who is also a member of Al-Haq's general assembly, which is significant as Al-Haq was cofounded by Mubarak Awad's colleague Jonathan Kuttab. (Incidentally, Khalaf's wife is the director of the Friends Girls' School, which is part of the Friends School of Ramallah.) The Welfare Association's second co-chair, Said Khoury, is president of the Consolidated Contractors Company, a company that is a major beneficiary of US government's development contracts. (6) Khoury's son and executive vice president of operations at Consolidated Contractors Company, Samer Said Khoury, is a board member the Peace Works Foundation, and serves alongside Henry Kissinger as the co-honorary chair at the Aspen Institute's Middle East Strategy Group. The connection to the Peace Works Foundation is intriguing as the foundation's president and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, was an advisor for the US Committee for a Free Lebanon, a group, which Right Web writes, "was part of a network of tightly-linked hardline and neoconservative organizations that helped champion an expansive war on terror after 9/11."

As the preceding details suggest, the Welfare Association is a key representative of the reformist elements of U.S.-friendly Middle-Eastern elites, and the longstanding chair of the Association (1983-2004) is Abdul Majeed Shoman. In addition to acting as chair of the Arab Bank, Shoman coordinates charitable efforts though the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, a philanthropic body that was formed in 1978 and named after his father (1890-1974). Until recently, former oil executive, Shoman Foundation co-founder and Welfare Association vice-chair, Munib Masri, was vice chairman of the Arab Bank. (7) The elite connections of the Welfare Association are however best demonstrated by the fact that Masri, Said Khoury, and his son Samer Khoury, all serve on the international board of the U.S./Middle East Project -- a now "independent" policy institute (as of 2006) that was established by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since 2007, ANERA's president has been William Corcoran, an individual who prior to taking up this appointment had been a vice president for Christian Children's Fund. To gauge the elitist nature of Corcoran's former employer -- which has dropped the word Christian and is now known as ChildFund International -- one might observe how their current president, Anne Lynam Goddard, prior to moving to ChildFund, had acted as the chief of staff for the high profile humanitarian organization CARE USA (2005-07). Moreover, given that ANERA's work is well supported by ExxonMobil, it is fitting that the chair of their board of directors, Curtis Brand, retired in 2000 after working for the Mobil Oil Corporation for more than thirty years. (8) Yet it is more interesting to observe that ANERA is supported by progressive academics like Sara Roy, (9) whose last book was titled Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto Press, 2007). Here it is notable that Roy's recent work, which "examines the social and economic sectors of the Palestinian Islamic movement and their relationship to Islamic political institutions," was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (to be published soon by Princeton University Press as Between Extremism and Civism: Political Islam in Palestine). (10)

Whether I agree with her or not, Sara Roy clearly has good reasons for supporting the work of an elite-backed organization like ANERA. So to state my problem plainly, this article has not sought to argue that groups like ANERA provide no aid to people who very much deserve an end to their oppression. Instead, while progressive individuals like Sara Roy evidently may well believe that ANERA is serving a humanitarian (not imperial) agenda, this article has attempted to problematize the long-term benefits that can be obtained from such baggage-laden "aid." Groups like ANERA, and Nancy Nye's husband's Nonviolence International, are funded by imperial elites precisely because their activities do not present a threat to an unjust capitalist status quo. In fact, a good case can be made that such groups actually undermine public support for radical agents of social change, thereby undermining their efforts to provide both short-term and long-term anti-capitalist relief and strategic aid to citizens struggling against the direct and indirect effects of capitalist domination.


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1.  Cited in Andrea Smith, "The NGOization of the Palestine liberation movement: interviews with Hatem Bazian, Noura Erekat, Atef Said, and Zeina Zaatari," in INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (South End Press, 2007), p.174.  (back)

2.  Mary Kate Chaath works alongside Nancy Nye as the director of donor development for American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), and her prior work experience includes serving as a contractor (for advising and testing) for America-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST), and as the program coordinator for the United Palestinian Appeal. Formed in 1951, AMIDEAST is a non-profit organization that ostensibly "strengthens mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa." However, their funding connections belie such a noble purpose as donors to their work (which is led by many former US ambassadors) includes Saudi Aramco, Occidental Petroleum, and the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Chaath's other former employee, United Palestinian Appeal (which was founded in 1978), maintains similar connections to imperial elites, and their Web site proudly boasts that in 1985 they became the "first Palestinian-American charity to be registered with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as a Private and Voluntary Organization." United Palestinian Appeal's former executive director, Omar Kader, went on to head the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and now serves on ANERA's advisory committee. Likewise, United Palestinian Appeal board member, George Salem, also serves as an ADC board member, and so it is appropriate that Mary Kate Chaath is vice-president of ADC's Washington, D.C., chapter.  (back)

3.  Four other trustees of the Foundation for Middle East Peace serve on ANERA boards. They are Lucius Battle (who is the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, 1964-67), Peter Gubser (who formerly worked for the Ford Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon and in Amman, Jordan, and later served as president of ANERA, 1977-2006), Jean Newsom (who is married to the former US ambassador to Libya, Indonesia, and the Philippines), and Nicholas Veliotes (who is the former US ambassador to both Jordan and Egypt).

In 2002, the Foundation for Middle East Peace supported the publication of Helena Cobban's The Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks: 1991-1996 and Beyond, which was published by the misnamed US Institute of Peace.  (back)

4.  To demonstrate the ideological pedigree of the Middle East Institute one need only look at its former president, Edward S. Walker, Jr. (2001-06), whose previous accomplishments included serving in the first administration of George W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and later as the US ambassador to Israel (1997-99).  (back)

5.  Most recently J. Scott Carpenter worked in Iraq as director of the governance group for the Coalition Provisional Authority.  (back)

6.  Abdel Mohsin al-Qattan is presently a trustee of the NED-funded Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

Said Khoury's cousin, Hasib Sabbagh, who was an "important go-between for Arafat and the US government" is one of the three cofounders of Consolidated Contractors Company (a group created in 1952). Sabbagh is an honorary trustee of the Welfare Association, as was the recently deceased progressive poet Mahmoud Darwish. Also of interest, Friends School of Ramallah trustee Mazen Karam is the country manager for Morganti Group in Palestine, a group that was acquired by Consolidated Contractors Company in 1988.  (back)

7.  Another notable affiliate of the Shoman Foundation is Ibrahim Dakkak, who is the chair of the Palestinian advisory committee for the Palestinian American Research Center (which is headed by "humanitarian" activist Philip Mattar). In 1977 Dakkak played a key role in founding the Arab Thought Forum, which he chaired until 1992. Funding partners of the Arab Thought Forum include the US Agency for International Development. Interestingly, the Forum's founding president, Mahdi Abdul Hadi (1977-81), went on to found the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (with Hadi presently serving as their chair), and a notable fellow trustee of the Society is the president of Al-Quds University Professor Sari Nusseibeh -- an individual who is well known as an Israeli collaborator. Nusseibeh's wife, Lucy Austin Nusseibeh, happens to be the founder of the NED-funded group Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy; on top of this, Lucy is the former head of a group that was founded by Mubarak Awad and Jonathan Kuttab, which was initially known as the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence (now referred to as the Holy Land Trust).  (back)

8.  ANERA board vice chair, Edward Gnehm, Jr., who is a former US ambassador to both Jordan and Kuwait, recently served as a board member of the NED-funded Partners for Democratic Change; another notable board member of this group is former US ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis, the past president and CEO of the misnamed US Institute of Peace.  (back)

9.  Interestingly, other ANERA advisory committee members include Khalil Jahshan (who formerly served as the executive vice president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and is a trustee of the NED-funded Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy), Rabbi Everett Gendler (who is a former advisor for the controversial Albert Einstein Institution), and Her Majesty Queen Noor (who is a board member of the "humanitarian" group Refugees International).  (back)

10.  For a related discussion of why the elitist MacArthur Foundation supports radical academics, see my forthcoming article "The Russell Sage Foundation And The Manufacture Of Reform" (Swans Commentary, November 30, 2009).

Unfortunately, many progressive researchers work closely with democracy-manipulating liberal foundations, and a perfect example of this phenomenon can be seen by looking at the group Grassroots International. Formed in 1983 to "create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements," Grassroots International "provide[s] grants to our Global South partners and join[s] them in advocating for social change." Thus, paradoxically, a group that provides grants to -- what they call -- grassroots groups is itself funded by some of the world's leading capitalists. Thus institutional funders of Grassroots International include a multitude of liberal foundations (like the Tides Foundation and the Hochschild's family's HKH Foundation) and philanthropic bodies like the American Jewish World Service. Sara Roy serves on Grassroots International's advisory board alongside critical writer on Israeli affairs, Naseer Aruri, author of Dishonest Broker: The U.S. Role In Israel and Palestine (South End Press, 2003). Another notable advisory board member is Nadim Rouhana, who wrote the book Palestinian Citizens in an Ethnic Jewish State: Identities in Conflict (Yale University Press, 1997). Rouhana perhaps best illustrates the links that exist between progressive intellectuals and elite funders, as he is a trustee of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which is a member of the Network of Democracy Research Institutes of the NED-initiated World Movement for Democracy. He is also a member of the Palestinian advisory committee for the Palestinian American Research Center (see footnote#7).

The executive director of Grassroots International, Nikhil Aziz, is a member of the convening committee of the Funders Network on Trade and Globalization (which is a project of the Rockefeller Family Fund's Environmental Grantmakers Association), and sits on the steering committee of a "humanitarian" association of grantmakers called the International Human Rights Funders Group, whose ranks include key democracy-manipulating elites like the US Institute of Peace, the NED, and Rights and Democracy (the Canadian version of the NED), amongst many others. Prior to taking up his position as the executive director of Grassroots International Aziz had been the associate director at Political Research Associates, a group that specializes in exposing conservative funding networks. Aziz is joined on Grassroots fourteen-person strong board of directors by former Political Research Associates executive director, Tarso Luís Ramos. Needless to say, while Political Research Associates staffers enjoy writing about right-wing movements, they have systematically denied that similar problems exist with regard to liberal philanthropy by relegating it to the realm of conspiracy theorizing; e.g., see Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (Guilford Press, 2000).  (back)


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About the Author

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in Australia. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008 and 2009 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com.



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published November 16, 2009