Summary: The French government provides local and international NGOs with substantial financial support, in addition to its support for the Palestinian Authority.  Many of these NGOs, which claim to promote human rights, democracy, and development are in reality engaged in intense political advocacy campaigns directed against Israel, in contravention of French governmental funding guidelines. This report provides an overview of French funding mechanisms and NGO recipients in a method similar to previous NGO Monitor analyses of NGO funding by the European Union, Norway, UK, and Sweden.

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I. Background:  French Aid to the Palestinians

    • Institutional Structures
    • Budgets

II. French funding for Domestic NGOs

    • FIDH and the French League for Human Rights [1]
    • Platform of French NGOs for Palestine
    • Comite catholique contre la faim et pour le developpement  (CCDF)
    • Secours catholique – Caritas France
    • Coordination Sud

III. French Funding for International NGOs

    • Medecins sans frontieres
    • Medecins du monde
    • Association francaise de solidarite internationale
    • Palestinian Center for Human Rights

IV. Analysis and Conclusions
 
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I. Background: French Aid to the Palestinians

Institutional Structures

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversees development aid and NGO assistance for the French government.  Direct oversight is handled by the Ministry’s Directorate General for International Co-operation and Development (DGCID) .[2] The Mission for Non-Government Co-operation (MCNG), which reports directly to the DGCID, is the direct contact for NGOs, local authorities, and enterprises looking for French development co-operation funds.  The French Development Agency (AFD) implements and directs funding to NGOs for activities relating to health and education. 

Created in 1998 in order to “produce a significant effect and contribute to the harmonious development of institutions, society, and the economy” and to consolidate “the rule of law and democracy,” the Priority Zone for Solidarity (ZSP) serves as an additional conduit for MFA development funds.  The ZSP framework was recently updated to include Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

Budgets

In 2005, France devoted €8.1 billion to development co-operation.  Of this total, France’s average annual contribution to the Palestinian Authority was approximately €25 million, plus the French share of EU aid to the PA, which overall amounted to €280 million in 2005 [3] .  In addition, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a plan in 2005 to double its € 5.5 million contribution to the World Bank’s fund for the PA. 

Separately, the French Government gave €1,500,000 in 2005 to the PA for “social development” through its Development Aid Fund.  This money, given over a period of 48 months, was directly channeled to Palestinian civil society in supporting 29 projects of Palestinian NGOs and 9 projects of Palestinian municipalities.  The names of the NGOs that received these funds are not available on the French government website, reflecting a lack of transparency. [4]

In addition, the French Consulate in Jerusalem lists projects supported by the Social Development Fund in 2006 - 2008. (1) a water project in Qabatya, (2) financing of agriculture near Jéricho, (3) development of the Palestinian Farmers Union, (4) different activities in three refugees camps, and (5) three cultural projects.  (The NGOs involved in these projects and supported by the SFD –are not listed on the website of the French Consulate in Jerusalem.) [5]

The MFA’s office for non-governmental cooperation has co-financed more than 600 projects at a cost of €50 million (282 by NGOs and 323 by local authorities), and enabled 2,000 volunteers to travel abroad to work for different NGOs.  Annually, the MFA provides €9.2 million in international aid under a program called the Humanitarian Emergency Fund (FUH) and in 2003 the FUH provided the PA €3,025,000 through the International Red Cross and an anonymous Palestinian medical NGO [6].  In 2005, the PA received €653,534  from the FUH.


II. French Funding for Domestic NGOs

Some twenty French NGOs are involved in development or emergency projects in the PA. Some are supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have a very close relationship with elements of Palestinian civil society.

As will be shown below, while some MFA aid is used for development and humanitarian assistance, significant funding goes to NGOs engaged in clear anti-Israel advocacy.  Such activity contradicts the stated goal of the French Government to “promote peace, security, [and] stability,” “prevent conflicts,” “promote public order in the Territories in respect of the law,”  and to help “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and League of Human Rights (LDH)

Founded in 1922, FIDH [7] comprises 140 human rights organizations from 100 different countries.  FIDH and its related networks define themselves as non-partisan, non-confessional, and independent of any government, seeking to defend human, cultural, civil, political and economic rights. The primary mission of FIDH is to denounce violations of human rights and alert the international community.

In 2003, the French Government gave FIDH €1,720,000 over a period of 36 months for work involving “democracy and human rights.” [8]

Despite some valuable projects documenting intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, FIDH routinely omits the context of terrorism and exploits and distorts international legal terminology from its reports on Israel and in its advocacy in international forums such as the UN.  A recent example of FIDH’s politicized approach is an article published in October 2006 entitled “Asphyxiating the Palestinian State, punishing its people; the impact of the economic asphyxiation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories on human rights.”  The unnecessarily emotive language employed by FIDH in this title and throughout the report betrays the organization’s self-proclaimed “non-partisanship” and invites questions about its continued funding from the MFA [9].

The League of Human Rights (LDH), one of the most important members of FIDH, claims to be “fighting against every form of violation of human rights, in all the fields of civilian, political and social life.”However, the LDH provides frequent one-sided condemnations of Israeli responses to terror and is active in publicizing calls for political action to be taken against Israel, in direct contradiction of EU funding guidelines.
 
In November 2006, two members of the LDH executive committee left the organization, linking their resignations to numerous examples of bias and a consistent failure to speak out against certain human rights violations, including those committed against Israeli civilians. According to the former officials, the LDH often makes one-sided condemnations of Israel, “but forgot the Israeli civilian victims of bombardment.” They also commented that the LDH says “almost anything concerning Darfur or Chechnya, and keeps silent in face of the anti-Semitic speeches and Holocaust denial of the Iranian president.”

On November 9, 2006, LDH published an article entitled “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict:  massacre in Gaza,” which condemns Israel for “war crimes” and accuses Israel of a “veritable strategy of terror that includes the economic asphyxia of Gaza and the West Bank.”  The article asserts that the Israeli Government refuses any peaceful solutions, instead choosing to use “indiscriminate force”. Finally, LDH demands that “the French authorities qualify as it deserves the Israeli operations against the civilian Palestinian population and, as requested by the Palestinian President, to refer the matter to the Security Council as soon as possible.”[10]

LDH’s selective use of emotive terminology such as “war crimes,” “collective punishment,” and “violations of international law” when referring to Israel reflects the NGO’s political and ideological bias.  Not only does the subjective application of these terms constitute a violation of LDH’s mandate as a French government funded human rights network, but is evidence of the NGO’s prevailing double standards.  

Platform of French NGOs for Palestine

One of the biggest and most highly regarded of France’s humanitarian and development NGOs is the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine [11] (the Platform). Created in 1994, the Platform has 40 member associations and claims to work for the defense of human rights, as well as awareness and exchange between different French, Palestinian and Israeli actors.  Members of the platform include LDH, Amnesty International, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde, Caritas France as well as the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON).  The Platform also maintains ties with the politicized NGOs Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Ittijah

Supported financially by the French MFA, the Platform organizes campaigns against the “Wall” and the “Occupation,” also publishing a variety of booklets on Palestinian refugees and the right of return. While condemning Israeli defensive actions, the Platform fails to call for an end to Palestinian violence or for the dismantling of terrorist organizations. The Platform also demands the end of agreements between the EU and Israel, devoting an entire section of its website to providing “evidence” supporting this campaign [12].  

In a web document from July 21, 2006 entitled “Special Israeli attacks in Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip,” [13] the Platform provides a list of articles condemning “Israel's war crimes against Lebanon and Gaza,”  On June 10, 2007, the Platform organized an “International Day for a fair peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” in which it repeatedly condemned “40 years of the occupation of the Palestinian territories” and declared “that the world says ‘NO’ to the Israeli occupation.” [14] These activities omitted the context of Palestinian terrorism, factional infighting, and corruption.

Another document of the Platform, entitled “Elections 2007:  The position of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine,” [15] calls for sanctions against Israel, Israeli respect of international law, the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the PA, and the destruction of the “Wall.”  Additionally, the document states that the “cycle of violence imposed by Israel since the election of the Hamas…requests action by the International Community.”

As a result of the Platform’s repeated one-sided advocacy, French Senator Roger Karoutchi informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that “a certain number of MFA-supported associations [i.e. the Platform] under the cover of ‘NGO’ are in reality involved in political activities against the ‘Wall’ and in support of boycotts against Israel.” [16] During a 2005 interview with then Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Douste-Blazy on this topic, Senator Karoutchi asked a number of questions concerning continued French funding of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine. In response, Douste Blazy stated that “...the Platform of French NGOs makes useful work of coordination of part of non governmental French aid to Palestinian  and to Palestinian associations” also stating that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not finance any political activity of any other association.” [17] (Karoutchi is a member of newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party.)

 

Comite Catholique Contre La Faim Et Pour Le Developpement (CCFD)

Describing itself as the first French NGO focused on international development issues, the CCFD is composed of 28 movements and church groups. A recipient of €1,072,615.08 from the French Government in 2003, the CCFD supports projects in different countries where the “population faces intolerable situations”and “focuses on stopping the denial of the Other.” [18]

However, the CCFD’s response to the 2006 Lebanon war clearly demonstrates the politicized stance this NGO adopts with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.   During the war, CCFD chose to focus exclusively on Israeli actions, virtually ignoring the numerous internally displaced citizens in Israel and Hezbollah’s deliberate targeting of civilians.  The emotive language of the following titles indicates CCFD’s bias: August 12, “Lebanon under the bombs;” August 5, “Ravaged Lebanon, fragile Lebanon and fearsome projects;” August 3, “Days of darkness;” August 1, “Lebanon, let's pray for Peace and Justice;” July 27, 2006, “Lebanon, if an  immediate end of hostilities is possible, it is then a duty;” July 27, 2006 “Middle East: let's stop violence, fear and hate;” July 19, Lebanon-Gaza, “The two faces of a same war;” July 15, 2006, “The real aim of the war in Lebanon;” July 15, 2006, “Hostage taking, Lebanese arrested in Israel and Israeli strikes in Lebanon;” July 13, Peace in the Middle East, “Stop violence, protect civilians and ending warring speeches.”

 

Secours Catho lique - Caritas France

Founded in 1987, Caritas International [19] is “a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations working to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed, in over 200 countries and territories.”  Caritas pledges “to steward those resources entrusted to us in an efficient and effective manner, being aware that we have an obligation to behave at all times in a transparent and accountable way - to the poor, to the Church and to one another.”  Secours Catholique is the French branch of Caritas.

With an annual budget of €30 to €35 million, Secours Catholique gets 10 % from public sources, receiving €1,834,790.02 from the French Government in 2003.[20]  Described as a “national partner” on the MFA’s website on issues of emergency aid, Secours Catholique liaises with the highly politicized Platform of French NGOs for Palestine and supports international campaigns against Israel’s separation barrier.  The NGO organized a petition against “the Wall” and stated that “the Israeli government has ignored the request of the United Nations to demolish the Wall…develops colonization, [and] plans the annexation of new land, all in violation of international law.”  

 

Coordination Sud

Since its creation in 1994, Coordination SUD [21]has amassed a membership of roughly one hundred NGOs, including the politicized CCFD and Care France.  Coordination SUD has two central missions: (1) helping French NGOs to be more involved in international debates through better work with French public authorities and (2) strengthening French NGOs and facilitating their access to funding.  In 2003, Coordination SUD received 423,300 euros for “public development” from the MFA. [22]

In November 2006, Coordination SUD published an article called “Stop the massacre of the Palestinian people,” which stated that “the brutality of Israeli aggression against Lebanon has traumatized the international community.” The article also described Gaza “as a real prison where the inhabitants are always under a pitiless blockade and ceaseless raids of the Israelis.” Also in November 2006, Coordination SUD published an article called “Massacre in Gaza,” which discussed the “disproportionality of Israeli attacks” and the “strategy of asphyxiating Gaza.”[23]


III. French Funding for International NGOs

In addition to the mainly French-language NGOs it funds, the MFA provides significant financial support to France-based organizations with strong international mandates.  Furthermore, the MFA’s website indicates clearly the close relationship it has with politicized Palestinian NGOs such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.


Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) [24]
Founded in 1971, MSF is an international humanitarian aid organization that “offers assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation.”

MSF’s financial reports reveal that the NGO received large amounts from the French government in 2004 and 2005 respectively.  In addition, MSF received €30 million in 2004 and €24 million in 2005 from French municipalities and regional councils.  [25]

MSF is active in working with Palestinian children in different areas.  However, MSF officials sometimes depart from their humanitarian aid mandate by using highly politicized and biased language, such as “the violence of Israeli occupation,” “the daily humiliation,” “the fear of reprisal by the Israeli army and the Jewish settlers.”

 

Medecins du Monde (MdM) [26]

MdM is a humanitarian medical NGO founded in 1986, with the motto “There are no right or wrong victims.”  Funded by the MFA, MdM’s 2005 budget was nearly €40 million, 72% of which came from private sources. 

Holding observer status with the biased Platform of French NGOs for Palestine, MdM often ignores the context of terror and makes claims that lack credibility, as previously demonstrated by NGO Monitor.  In December 2006, MdM published a report “Gaza Strip/ Impact of the international embargo and of the attacks of the Israeli army on the health of the population,” which provides a clear indication of the organization’s bias.  MdM’s report chronicles the psychologically traumatic impact on the Palestinian population due to the occupation, the sonic booms, and Israeli attacks, but fails to mention the effects of terrorism on the Israeli people.[27]

Additionally, MdM joined 21 other politicized NGOs including Christian Aid, Oxfam, and World Vision Jerusalem, in signing a statement “expressing…alarm at the continuing construction of the Wall in occupied Palestinian territory and the misery it is causing the Palestinian people.”  The statement included emotive descriptions of the security barrier, the “irreparable damage to the economy and living standards of Palestinians” and the “irreversible trends to the social fabric of the West Bank.”  However, the statement made no mention of the separation barrier’s role in preventing terrorist attacks or of Hamas-led PA’s continued refusal to renounce violence or recognize Israel.   

Funding Palestinian NGOs

The MFA’s direct relationship with Palestinian NGOs can be best illustrated by a statement on the MFA’s website indicating that the expertise of the biased Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) “will be systematically requested to adapt the strategy of the Social Funds of Development to the changing needs of Palestinian society.” (link has expired)  As previously documented by NGO Monitor, PNGO, composed of 92 Palestinian NGOs, was an active participant in the 2001 Durban conference, which called for boycotts and embargoes of Israel and has utilized Holocaust imagery in criticizing Israeli military actions.   

By funding NGOs that promote radical anti-Israel political positions, rather than structural change within the Palestinian framework, the MFA undermines its humanitarian goals.  In addition to the close relationship between the MFA and PNGO, the politicized Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is supported financially by the MFA through the General Consulate of France in Jerusalem, having received $78,460 in 2004.  PCHR was founded in 1995 as “an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”  While PCHR is active in criticizing the Palestinian Authority’s failure to protect human rights, NGO Monitor reports have demonstrated the extent of PCHR’s political activities and propagation of an anti-Israel agenda in the media and international organizations. In its publications, PCHR routinely accuses Israel of committing war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and collective punishment, while also actively participating in boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel.

IV. Analysis and Conclusion

By supporting numerous NGOs engaged in vigorous anti-Israel advocacy, the government of France contravenes its stated goals of seeking to  “promote peace, security, [and] stability,” “prevent conflicts,” “promote public order in the Territories in respect of the law,” and to help “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  Many NGOs supported by the MFA actively contribute to the Durban Strategy of demonizing Israel by taking an active role in boycott and divestment campaigns and manipulating human rights rhetoric. 

The French government should seek greater accountability of the NGO recipients of MFA development funds to ensure that its NGO partners are utilizing their funding in conjunction with the aims of the MFA.  The creation of new guidelines to prevent misuse of French governmental funds would help to remedy this situation.   

 

Endnotes:

17. Complete text in French: http://www.senat.fr/