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Prime Minister Netanyahu & Canadian Prime Minister Harper Photo by Reuters
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Is the Foreign Ministry lobbying international research institutions to stop funding Israeli Arab nonprofit organizations and research centers? Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, thinks the answer is yes.

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC ) recently canceled two research grants, totaling $700,000, that it had earlier agreed to give the Haifa-based center. But after Mada al-Carmel protested, a special IDRC committee will reconsider the cancelation later this month, and the issue may well end up in the Canadian courts.

Mada al-Carmel is an independent research center founded in 2000. One of its founders was former Knesset member Azmi Bishara; its director is Prof. Nadim Rouhana.

The center conducts theoretical and applied research on Israeli society, focusing on the social, educational and financial needs of Israeli Arabs. The center's other main areas of study include the future of Israel's Palestinian citizens as a community and their relations with Israeli Jews, the rest of the Palestinian people and the Arab world.

Mada al-Carmel, like other Arab Israeli nonprofits, does not receive any government funding. Most of its money comes from the European Union and from research centers and foundations based in Europe and North America. Without support from such institutions, it is doubtful that these organizations could survive.

The IDRC grants that were canceled were originally authorized to fund two projects, Mada al-Carmel said: "Arab political participation in Israel and the future of Israeli democracy" and "Palestinian women in Israel and the political economy."

In its cancelation letter, the IDRC said its decision stemmed from a review of its planning strategy, and in no way reflected negatively on the quality of the center's work. But Mada al-Carmel claims the cancelation was the result of a campaign conducted by extreme right-wing Israeli pressure groups, as well as pressure exerted by the Foreign Ministry through the Israeli embassy in Canada.

The center bases this claim on an inquiry it conducted this June, in which the IDRC's president, David M. Malone, admitted that the organization had never before canceled a grant for any reason except poor execution of a project, and that he had met with Israel's ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv, two weeks before the cancelation.

"If it becomes clear that the Israeli government pressured the IDRC through the Canadian government, this will be a real scandal," said Rouhana. "The Israeli government is wrong in its assumption that by reducing the extent of our academic and civic activities, it will make us cease our academic research, which examines the contradictions of the Jewish state and lays the intellectual foundations for a truly democratic state."

In the wake of the cancelation, and in preparation for the IDRC review committee's meeting, Arab Knesset members and Israeli Arab organizations sent letters to the Canadian embassy protesting what they termed Israeli government interference aimed at halting the organization's funding for political reasons.

In response, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Israeli government and its emissaries abroad do not interfere in foreign governments' decisions about grants to Israeli organizations or individuals. The Israeli ambassador to Canada did meet with IDRC's president, but did not make arguments for or against funding any particular Israeli organization.

The ministry also cited Malone's statements to the Canadian media that his decision to cancel the grants was an internal IDRC matter.