Established in 1995 and based in Haifa, Ittijah describes itself as “the network for Palestinian non-governmental organizations [NGOs] in Israel.” Its mission is “to strengthen and empower the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel by promoting the development of Palestinian civil society and advocating for political, economic, and social change.” Among Ittijah’s more than 50 member organizations are the Arab Association for Human Rights and the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Dispaced Persons in Israel. Itself a member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Ittijah cooperates with Adalah, a leading proponent of the pro-Palestinian militant political agenda.
Ittijah has received funding and support from numerous sources, including the European Union, the Ford Foundation, and NGOs such as Christian Aid, and the New Israel Fund. In its January 16, 2004 newsletter, Ittijah backed PNGO’s campaign against USAID’s anti-terrorism clause, the latter of which stated that foundations should not “provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity.” Similarly, Ittijah officials convened on February 10, 2004 to formulate a response to the Ford Foundation’s new regulations for grant contracts, wherein Ford stipulated that recipients of funding “will not promote or engage in violence, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor … make sub-grants to any entity that engages in these activities.” According to Ittijah’s February 13 newsletter, the organization’s leaders “agreed that they should insist on the maintenance of their independence, and on the fact that they are the owners of their own agenda. They would not be able to agree on political conditionality on financial support.”
Ittijah has three principal areas of focus:
Advocacy: “Ittijah works on local (inter-Palestinian), regional (Arab), and international advocacy to promote the unique status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, to highlight their social, political and economic needs …” Toward this end, the organization sponsors regular Ambassadorial study days, conferences, and solidarity delegations; it also publishes fact sheets that present its perspectives on Middle East affairs.
Capacity Building: “Ittijah strives to increase the human, technical, financial and educational resources of its member organizations, through facilitating access to knowledge transfers, volunteer staff, technical and educational resources, and fundraising support.”
Networking: “Ittijah fosters field-based networking (such as women, youth, etc.) on [local, regional, and international] levels to encourage specialized contact between civil society organizations with similar platforms, skills, expertise and experiences.” Under the auspices of this category is Ittijah’s Youth Program, whose establishment was based on the premise that “the Israeli educational system discriminates systematically against Arab youth. … In virtually every way, the quality of education provided to Israel’s Palestinian citizen children is inferior to that provided to the state’s Jewish children.”
At the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001, Ittijah played a prominent role in promoting accusations of “Israeli-state racism towards Palestinian citizens,” and of “the apartheid [which] the State [of Israel] practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
In a May 19, 2004 press release titled “Rafah Appeal, Ittijah and PNGO Call for Support to the Population of Rafah”, Ittijah claimed that the Israeli government had carried out “massacres, ethnic cleansing and war crimes” in Gaza.
In its “Fact Sheet about Palestinians in Israel“, Ittijah charges that “[d]iscrimination and racism are endemic in Israeli society” — in the realms of law, citizenship regulations, requirements for participation in the political process, land rights, budget allocations, basic infrastructural and government services, education, and health care.
Strongly opposed to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in May 2004 Ittjah circulated a document titled “Petition of the Arab Associations: Who will put an end to the American-British occupation’s crimes?”
Ittijah’s General Director is the Palestinian political analyst Ameer Makhoul.
This profile is adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor.