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Challenging Philanthropy to Step Up for Palestine

Nearly 150 members of the progressive philanthropy community joined together on November 16 for a lively webinar celebrating the launch of Funding Freedom: Philanthropy and the Palestinian Freedom Movement, a new report published by the Solidaire Action donor organizer network. The report outlines the increasingly severe attacks on organizations that support Palestinian rights and offers human rights funders a roadmap for creating the conditions to give sustainably, consistently, and without doing harm.

Grassroots International is excited to be part of this process and to be highlighted within the report for our role as a movement support funder. In Palestine, our partners engage in crucial work ranging from youth organizing, to women’s cooperatives, to documenting and litigating Israeli war crimes, to community gardens and land reclamation projects, to organizing against home demolitions, to mental health as a human right programs, and more – all with a movement-building orientation.

The report could not have come at a more important time, as emphasized by Grassroots’ executive director Chung-Wha Hong:

“Around the world, we continue to see the rise of authoritarianism, the criminalization of civil society, and the use of lawfare and other tactics to try and weaken social movements. The good news is that more donors are getting informed and organizing to fund frontline communities. We encourage funders to review the report’s recommendations, and to seriously consider the steps they can take to protect human rights organizations and activists in Palestine and beyond.”

The report includes a number of important recommendations for funders who support or want to support Palestinian rights, including to:

  • set principles that apply to all grantmaking to expose potential inconsistencies around their commitment to human rights and democracy, and to provide a basis for articulating who they support and why;
  • create opportunities for Palestinian-led organizations by making introductions to their networks, inviting them to speak at events, and acting as a validator for less well-known organizations;
  • give more money to support justice for Palestinians, make multi-year commitments and general support grants without preconditions, and support organizing and power-building;
  • build collective power by uniting with values-aligned funders to educate and empower one another, jointly advocate for shifts in philanthropy and public policy, and to protect and defend organizations facing unjust attacks; and to
  • divest from companies that support or profit from Israeli apartheid in order to cut any complicity in human rights violations.

In addition to providing clear guidance to funders facing external challenges, the report calls on them to do more to reverse harmful dynamics that have plagued philanthropy for decades, such as the marginalizing and silencing of Palestinian voices, dangerous political litmus tests, and harmful investing practices.

The report was authored by Rebecca Vilkomerson with broad input from philanthropic and movement leaders. As emphasized during the report launch by Rajasvini Bhansali, executive director of Solidaire Action, Funding Freedom is the result of a collective process to push for much-needed changes within philanthropy. Its publication does not mark the end of this process, but the beginning of what is hoped to be a much more concerted effort of donor/funder organizing in support of Palestinian liberation moving forward.