Executive summary

  • The Dutch government grants hundreds of millions of euros annually to Dutch aid organizations such as ICCO and Cordaid. In turn, these groups use the funds to support some of the most radical NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • ICCO and Cordaid do not systematically provide information regarding funding to local NGOs. Full lists of partners and projects are not publically available.
  • There does not appear to be government oversight or evaluation of the indirect Dutch funding for NGOs, or of ICCO’s and Cordaid’s decision making.
  • Of the NGOs funded, several promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including BADIL, Defence for Children International –Palestine Section (DCI-PS), Electronic Intifada (EI), Holy Land Trust, Sabeel, Stop the Wall, Coalition of Women for Peace, Ma’an Development Center.
  • Examples of NGOs funded by ICCO:
  • Examples of NGOs funded by Cordaid:

Background

The Netherlands channels a significant amount of its NGO funding via “co-financing mechanisms” involving Dutch aid organizations. These organizations apply for funding from the Dutch government and, in turn, transfer the funds to NGOs.

In this complex system, funding may be channeled through numerous offices before reaching the local NGOs. One of the consequences is a lack of oversight and awareness by the Dutch government of the projects funded.

Below are examples from ICCO and Cordaid’s involvement in the Middle East and the NGOs they partner with. As demonstrated, many of these NGOs and their projects are politically radical and run contrary to the official Dutch policy of dialogue and compromise.

Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO)

In 2010, ICCO received €88.8 million in government funds, representing 85% of its €103.5 million budget. It also receives money from the Dutch postcode lottery and the European Union (€5.3 million, an additional 5%).

ICCO’s stated goals include “working for democracy and peace” and lobbying “policy makers.” However, it pursues a one-sided approach to Israel, including false accounts such as, “In Israel, human rights violations have been taking place for a long time. In 1948, when Israel was created unilaterally…” This highlights ICCO’s adoption of a rejectionist Palestinian narrative and reflects a distorted understanding of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

ICCO and BDS
In a press release (January 14, 2011) referring to BDS campaigns, ICCO claims that “ICCO itself has not endorsed this call for boycott.” But other statements by ICCO and its officials, as well as its funding practices, directly contradict this assertion.

For example, the 2009 ICCO Annual Report, under “Examples of Successes,” states clearly that “ICCO together with 170 other organizations (including Palestinian NGOs, unions and grassroot organizations) has called for boycott, sanctions and divestment.” ICCO’s 2010 Annual Report, released following criticism of the organization’s links to BDS, noted that ICCO did sign the BDS petition, but “this peaceful and legal way of trying to end it is justified.”

Similarly, ICCO’s Middle East Program Officer Mieke Zagt appeared on the radio show “This Week in Palestine” in April 2010 to discuss the “numerous successes” by the BDS movement in Europe. Zagt had previously endorsed anti-Israel boycotts.

ICCO also funds groups and projects that are active in BDS campaigns, including the Coalition of Women for Peace’s divestment and boycott website, “Who Profits?,” BADIL, EI, and DCI-PS. ICCO also works with the World Council of Churches (WCC), a leader in anti-Israel church divestment campaigns.

ICCO and Electronic Intifada (EI)
ICCO’s selection of projects to support with government funds is highly controversial and at odds with Dutch foreign policy for the Middle East. This is illustrated by the continued funding for EI.

Between 2006 and 2009, ICCO provided €150,000 to EI. In 2010, ICCO provided another €50,000 in “support from private funds.” (This amounts to “approximately one-third of (EI’s annual) funding.”) Dutch Foreign Minister Rosenthal dismissed as “disingenuous” ICCO claims that its funding of EI comes from private donations.

EI was founded in 2001 with the explicit political goal of countering Israel’s alleged “orchestrated media campaign to spin news reports to its own advantage.” EI regularly publishes articles endorsing BDS, accusing Israel of “war crimes,” advocating a “one state solution,” and using Holocaust rhetoric against Israel.

ICCO indicates that its support for EI is a project for “Israel-Palestine,” but EI is a project of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society (MECCS), which is based in the United States, not the Middle East.

In January 2011, Minister Rosenthal noted that EI’s activities are “directly contrary to Dutch government policy,” particularly EI’s leadership in BDS campaigns. (See below for more examples of EI’s delegitimization efforts.)

NGO Monitor research on ICCO has also uncovered significant conflicts of interest concerning EI. ICCO’s Mieke Zagt has published in EI, and EI contributor Adri Nieuwhof has worked at ICCO as an interim manager in the Middle East department, and as a consultant on other issues. EI co-founder Arjan El Fassed was also an ICCO staff member.

ICCO’s NGO funding
The ICCO website is neither consistent nor transparent. The English and Dutch sites present different lists of partner NGOs and projects and, with one exception, there is no information on how much is provided to local NGOs. (Following criticism, the ICCO also revealed the scope of its funding for EI.)

Among ICCO’s partners and projects in Israel are:

  • Ittijah – one of the most radical Israeli-Arab groups. It was an ICCO partner until the end of 2010. In 2003-2004, ICCO provided the group with over €125,000. Due to ICCO’s lack of transparency and Ittijah’s failure to file required annual reports with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, further details are unavailable.

The organization’s rhetoric and activities are characterized by demonization and hate-speech. It was a leader in attacks against Israel at the 2001 Durban Conference NGO Forum. During the Gaza war, an Ittijah email claimed, “the IDF is turning Gaza into kind of an extermination camp, in the full sense of the word and with the full historical relativity.”

In January 2011, Ittijah Director Ameer Makhoul was sentenced to nine years in prison for spying on behalf of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. In a joint press release, ICCO, Oxfam Novib and Cordaid attacked the legitimacy of the Israeli justice system for convicting Makhoul, despite substantial physical evidence, and even though he “took responsibility for his actions.”

  • Alternative Information Center (AIC) – funded for a “Democratization and conflict transformation” project. ICCO declares that AIC has been a partner for many years and “will remain so.” Co-founder of AIC, Michael Warschawski asserts that “one has to unequivocally reject the very idea (and existence) of a Jewish state, whatever will be its borders” (the Haifa Conference for the Right of Return, June 2008). AIC has accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and has published articles minimizing the actions of convicted Hezbollah terrorist and child murderer Samir Kuntar (freed in a 2008 exchange with Hezbollah).
  • Coalition of Women for Peace  (CWP) – funded for its “Who Profits From the Occupation” BDS project. This anti-Israel website identifies corporations to target with anti-Israel divestment and boycotts. CWP regularly uses demonization rhetoric, such as referring to the security barrier as “The Apartheid Wall.”
  • Zochrot – funded for its Nakba Project. Zochrot is a fringe and radical Israeli NGO that campaigns for the so-called Palestinian “right of return” and to “raise awareness” about “the Nakba (catastrophe),” rejecting the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel. A statement on the Zochrot website explains: “Allowing the right of return will change the demographic balance in Israel and the Israeli state would not continue to exist in its current form. I believe that in this new state life would be better for both Palestinians and Israelis living in this land.” ICCO awarded Zochrot with a three-year grant; the exact amount is not disclosed.
  • Breaking the Silence (BtS) – funded for “Preserving freedom of expression for Breaking the Silence.” ICCO does not provide details about this funding, but NGO Monitor research shows that BtS received €67,100 in 2008 and 2009. BtS publishes what it claims are testimonies from Israeli soldiers that, stripped of context, are anonymous and often based on hearsay. BtS officials travel widely to address European parliamentary groups, church organizations and university campuses in the United States to promote their allegations. NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of the December 2010 BtS compilation shows that only 30 of 183 testimonies could potentially be independently verified based on the details provided. Claims of “war crimes” are widely used in attempts to criminalize Israeli self-defense, press for foreign prosecution of Israeli officials, and impose sanctions against Israel. The group also conducts political “tours” in the highly sensitive environment of Hebron to support its claim that there is “a reality of Apartheid and a kind of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”
  • Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) – funded for an “emergency relief” fund: “In this specific emergency aid project they [PCATI] want to assist the Palestinians who have been captured during the war for Gaza. They are a vulnerable group, because they are defined as Hamas fighters, and maybe they are” (emphasis added). The project received €15,000 from ICCO and Kerk In Actie and an additional €15,000 solely from ICCO. No information about this project is available on PCATI’s website.

ICCO lists fifteen projects and partners in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” including:

  • Addameer – funded by ICCO for the “past five years” for “legal aid”. This NGO refers to the Israeli army as the “Israeli Occupying Forces,” and accuses Israel of “collective punishment” and a “policy of using Palestinian prisoners as pawns to achieve political and military gains.” Without providing a source for its information, Addameer told the Goldstone Commission that, since 1967, 750,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel (or 18,000 unique detainees each year – a statistically absurd claim).
  • BADIL – funded for a project for “recognition of Palestinian refugees’ rights”, falsely claiming that “BADIL’s work is thus based upon international law.” This NGO has been involved with antisemitic incidents, as well as demonizing language, such as: “Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,” “state-sponsored racism,” and “systematic ethnic cleansing.” In 2010, BADIL rejected the “Roadmap for Peace”.
  • Electronic Intifada (EI) is funded by ICCO despite criticism from the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. As noted above, EI supports BDS and repeatedly uses rhetoric that demonizes Israel. While the group is based in the United States, it is listed by the ICCO website under the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
  • Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS) – funded for a project to “promote children’s rights.” The NGO advocates for issues beyond children’s rights, including promoting a return of descendants of Palestinian refugees into Israel, lobbying for international sanctions against Israel, and accusing Israel of “war crimes” at the United Nations Human Rights Council. DCI-PS published a poster referring to Israeli security measurements as “a central pillar of the Apartheid-like system of discrimination in place in these areas.” DCI-PS is also active in BDS campaigns.
  • Sabeel – funded for a project that is only mentioned on ICCO’s English website aimed at “building communities” and “to reflect in a theological manner on the Palestinian situation in terms of Israeli occupation.” Sabeel plays a major role in extreme Christian anti-Israel activism, advocating for a “one-state” solution to the conflict. Founder Rev. Naim Ateek has said: “It has taken me years to accept the establishment of the State of Israel and its need – although not its right – to exist.” Ateek’s “Palestinian Liberation Theology” echoes classical antisemitic theological themes, stating that “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him,” and “Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”
  • Stop the Wall (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign) – receiving a three-year grant from 2009-2011. This NGO makes inflammatory accusations of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” and distributes maps under racially charged headlines, such as “Judaizing Jerusalem – the Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinian Capital.”
  • B’Tselem, which is based in Israel, received funding for “human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory.” B’Tselem aims to change Israeli government policy in the West Bank and Gaza, using accusations of Israeli human rights violations of Palestinians. Increasingly, B’Tselem’s target audience is European and US government officials and media outlets. In an interview with “From Occupied Palestine,” CEO Jessica Montel defended the use of the word apartheid as “useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power.” The NGO has been criticized for inaccurate research, skewed statistics, and misrepresentations of international law.

In addition to NGO programs, ICCO also supports various individual “campaigns”. One of these is “Plant an Olive Tree”, run by the Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA Palestine, which are organizations that promote BDS and have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of Israel. The program’s original goal was to plant trees, but has been changed to a political campaign to “maximize the individual sponsor’s opportunity to be involved in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Cordaid

Cordaid – the Catholic Organisation for Relief & Development Aid – received €421,830,126 from the Dutch government in 2007-2010.

Together with a coalition of international NGOs – including Amnesty-UK, Trocaire (Ireland), Diakonia (Sweden), Oxfam, Oxfam Novib (see above), and Christian Aid (UK) – Cordaid published a report “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses” (December 2009). These NGOs perpetuate the unsupported legal claim that Gaza remains occupied and the false allegation of “collective punishment” in order to “prove” their central thesis: “primary responsibility [for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza] lies with Israel.” These NGOs also promoted the widely discredited Goldstone Report.

In 2009, Cordaid spent €1.7 million in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. No lists of partners and projects are available on Cordaid’s website. However, NGO Monitor research has identified a number of NGOs receiving Cordaid funding. These include:

Cordaid sponsored a number of tendentious advocacy projects, including “Network, Advocate, Resist” (NAR), which “aims at consolidating and assisting the popular committees against the Apartheid Wall efforts in resisting the Wall.” As part of NAR, Ma’an published “Apartheid Roads: Promoting Settlements, Punishing Palestinians,” a report that falsely portrays the Arab-Israeli conflict as a dispute based on alleged Jewish race-hatred of Arabs and containing misleading details about roads in and near the West Bank.

Cordaid also funded the Ma’an report “Eye on the Jordan Valley,” alleging that “Israel has continually coveted the Jordan Valley since the 1967 war” and that “the Jordan Valley is suffering from serious social, environmental and economic devastation as a consequence of Israel’s apartheid policies.”

  • Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), which received grants of more than €220,000 from Cordaid in 2009. It calls for the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “collective punishment,” and other tendentious charges. COHRE has worked together with BADIL (see above), including a May 2005 joint publication that accused Israel of “the calculated theft of Palestinian land... through military aggression... the imposition of apartheid-like laws... a cruel form of ethnic cleansing.”
  • Ittijah (see above), funded by Cordaid from at least 2004 to 2010.
  • Holy Land Trust (HLT): Active in BDS, HLT conducts politicized tours targeting church leaders and the international community, claiming to provide “cross cultural and experimental learning opportunities in both Palestine and Israel.” Director Sami Awad employs inflammatory rhetoric, referring to demolition of illegally-built homes as “ethnic cleansing.”
  • Al-Quds Underground (AQU), which claims “to create a secret space for artistic expression.” On October 30, 2009, the group reportedly refused to allow Israelis to attend one of its events. This was confirmed by Cordaid officials, who claimed that “the organizers of the festival felt forced...to ask Israeli participants to withdraw from the tour.”