Founded in 1983, and based in the United States with 23,000 members, MADRE describes itself as an "international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with women's community based groups…to develop long term solutions to the crisis they face."
In practice, however, MADRE's activities reflect an extremist political and ideological agenda that also justifies terror. Nevertheless, and despite its high-profile role in the 2001 Conference on Racism at Durban, MADRE received $350,000 of funding from the Ford Foundation in 2003 (There is no list of sponsors on the MADRE website.) A former MADRE official, Sarah Leah Whitson is currently the Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, providing another example (along with Joe Stork and Gary Sick) of the primacy of anti-Israel bias in HRW's Middle East activities.)
The 2001 Durban Conference and beyond
Madre was a major participant in the NGO forum of the Durban Conference on Racism in 2001, including a highly biased presentation on the history of Palestinian refugees. MADRE's political agenda is also reflected in the partnership formed with the Palestinian NGO Ibdaa, a "refugee community center" engaged in virulently anti-Israel activities. Ibdaa also had a prominent role at the Durban conference, and supplies much of MADRE's anti-Israel materials.
In examining MADRE's publications on the conflict, extreme distortions in the service of a political agenda are commonplace. Reports accuse Israel of using F-16s to destroy "houses, mosques, kindergartens, clinics" and make the false claim that "half of all the land [in West Bank] will be swallowed by Israel." Its background resource to the conflict is a farce. There is no reference to Arab terror attacks, no historical background, and Israel is consistently portrayed as responsible for the 1948 and 1967 Wars. MADRE repeats the canard blaming Zionism for anti-Semitism, and portrays the Oslo process as an anti-Palestinian accord designed to consolidate Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza, a claim repeated in a MADRE report "Hunger in Palestine".
MADRE's dominant political agenda is also seen in the differences in the distribution of its reports. Between December 1999 and April 2003, this organization issued 17 reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as compared to 13 on all of Latin America, eleven on Iraq, five on women's health and three on Africa during this period. The content of these reports reflect the continued ideology of delegitimization of Israel.
Excusing terror in order to demonize Israel
In its "Palestine Country Overview", the post-Oslo violence beginning in September 2000 is termed a "Palestinian struggle" versus an Israeli "military offensive characterized by grave and massive violations of Palestinian human rights." Rejecting Israel's security concerns, MADRE places Palestinian terror in the context of the "right to resist military occupation". Marking International Women's Day on March 8, 2002, a MADRE statement ignores Palestinian terror and the murder of hundreds of Israelis, while charging Israel with assassinating "activists" or "leaders" and building an "Apartheid Wall", which is falsely labeled "electrified". This is a blatant propaganda text, including sentences such as "Israeli forces have responded to Palestinian demands for independence by attacking with US made Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets..." A MADRE press statement of April 2, 2002 during the height of the Palestinian terror campaign continues this theme: "Israel is killing unarmed women, children and old men…" and adding the grossly unethical statement that "Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers are victims of Sharon's policy." MADRE's amoral equivalence between Israeli victims and Palestinian perpetrators is demonstrated in its view that "[state] terrorism is the essence of Sharon's policy."
Despite MADRE's claim to be a human rights organization, there is no mention of Palestinian violation of Israeli rights through terror or encouragement of childhood martyrdom and official incitement. Violence and terror are excused as part of Palestinian culture and nationalist struggle. MADRE's only mention of human rights violations within the Palestinian Authority is in a short letter of December 10, 1999 asking "honored President Arafat" to reassess his incarceration of twenty political opponents.
In summary, MADRE's radical political agenda and demonization of Israel are in direct contrast to its claimed objective "to develop a long term solution to the crisis". Women's rights issues are discarded in favor of carrying out a blatant anti-Israel politicized agenda. If it continues to fund this organization, the Ford Foundation is ignoring its own guidelines.