BDS IN THE PEWS
European Government Funding for Zochrot’s “Return of Palestinian Refugees” Conference
September 17, 2013
- On September 29-30, 2013, Zochrot, an Israeli NGO that promotes the Palestinian narrative of “Nakba” and “return,” has scheduled a conference in Tel Aviv titled “From Truth to Redress: Realizing the Return of Palestinian Refugees.”
- Zochrot seeks to “raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba…The memory and responsibility that the Jewish public should take on the Palestinian Nakba are basic conditions to peace between people, but it is not enough. Along with it, the rights of the refugees to return must be accepted.” This agenda is equivalent to calling for the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
- Also accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” using the rhetoric of the 2001 Durban Conference demonization strategy.
- According to the conference program, “The conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of: Misereor, Christian Aid, HEKS-EPER, CCFD, Finn Church Aid, Broederlijk Delen, AFSC, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Mennonite Central Committee, Trocaire, St. Het Solidariteitsfonds, Oxfam GB and private donors.”
- These foundations are primarily funded by European governments (see table below). Funding for Zochrot contradicts the foreign policies of these governments. For instance, last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a German newspaper, “For those who share my view that the Jews as a people have a right to self-determination, Zionism as a national movement of the Jewish people is the embodiment of this very right which its opponents want to deny.”
- Lack of transparency: The sponsors receive government funds, and are subject to democratic transparency principles on allocations of taxpayer funds. Nevertheless, the donor responses invent excuses such as “privacy” to hide the amounts given to Zochrot.
- Responses from foundational funders: Following inquiries from NGO Monitor, four foundations sent very similar responses (identical in one instance), suggesting coordination – perhaps including Zochrot:
- Misereor and CCFD: “[Name of group] is a funding partner of Zochrot. As an organization engaging in development and peace-building, refugee issues and refugee rights all over the world are of utmost importance to us. They deserve earnest, even controversial, intellectual and political debate. Our privacy policies do not allow to disclose (sic) the amount and specifics of grants given” (emphasis added).
- HEKS: “Zochrot is a partner organization of HEKS. We are a development organisation engaged in conflict transformation. That's why refugee issues and refugee rights are an important concern in many of our focus countries, including the Middle East. The unresolved issue of refugees in the Middle East deserves attention and public debate in all concerned societies as well as on international level.”
- Broederlijk Delen: “Broederlijk Delen is a funding partner of Zochrot. As a development organization, Broederlijk Delen supports rights-based development worldwide. As part of this work, we support local partners in their plans to raise awareness and debate about human rights. We support the work of Zochrot as we believe refugee rights are important in any context and should be openly discussed. With regard to details on funding, we wish to respect our partners’ privacy.” (The official who responded apparently did not read her own 2012 annual report, which lists a grant of €50,000 to Zochrot, €40,000 from Belgian government funds.)
- Oxfam-Great Britain tweeted, “We haven’t sponsored this conference.” It did not respond to inquiries as to whether it would demand that its name be removed from the program.
- Rosa Luxemburg Foundation wrote, “The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and its Israel Office has not sponsored the conference … The program only mentions the RLS as a principal cooperation partner what is correct (sic).”
- The last available detailed information on Zochrot funding is its 2011 financial report. Mandatory quarterly reports on funding received from “foreign government entities” (a category that includes some of the funders listed on the program) do not appear on file at the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits website.
- A previous funder of Zochrot, the German EVZ foundation, discontinued its support in 2012 because “EVZ supports educational projects but does not support organizations that also have a political agenda. Since Zochrot supports the right of return, the foundation cannot extend its cooperation with it.”
||Funding to Zochrot
|Funding to Zochrot
|Government Funding to Foundation
||Germany €113.8 mil (2012)
||Catholic; German Catholic Bishops Organization for Development Cooperation
||UK £76,000,000 mil (2011/2012)
Ireland £4,500,000 (2011/2012)
N. Ireland £3,000,000 (2011/2012)
|Multidenominational Christian; sponsored by multiple churches in the UK and Ireland
||€50,000 (€40,000 from Belgian government)
||Belgium €6,891,347 (2012)
||Catholic NGO “that specializes in development cooperation”
|Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
||Germany €42,111,310 (2011)
||German foundation “officially recognized as a nationwide affiliated trust of the Party of Democratic Socialism”
||Ireland €18,500,000 (2012)
UK €5,200,000 (2012)
|Catholic; official overseas development agency of the Catholic church of Ireland
||Switzerland CHF 11,780,000 (2012)
||Protestant; their name officially translates as “aid organization for the Protestant churches of Switzerland”
||EU €1,105,000 (2012)
France €368,000 (2012)
|Catholic; a grouping of 29 French Catholic organizations and churches
|Finn Church Aid
||Finland €12,791,213 (2012)
||Associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland