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NGO Monitor Analysis (Vol. 2 No. 7) 15 March 2004

European NGO Funding Promotes Conflict in Hebron

In previous editions, NGO Monitor has analyzed European funding of Palestinian organizations that pursue anti-Israel ideological agendas, including Habitat International Coalition, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel. In this article, NGO Monitor will examine how the impact of funding from several European governments, including Sweden, Norway, and Germany furthers the politicized agenda of the Hebron Restoration Committee (HRC).

The HRC was established in 1996 "to preserve the city's cultural heritage, to revive the Old City by reclaiming abandoned buildings, and to contain and encircle," Jewish neighborhoods inside the Old City. (http://www.cpt.org/hebron/HebRCBrochure.htm). While the preservation of Hebron's cultural heritage is certainly legitimate, actions taken to contain Jewish neighborhoods inside the Old City by "increasing the Palestinian population density between them," are clearly political objectives. These objectives are also inconsistent with formal legal obligations such as the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron.

Funding the HRC and actions contravenes foreign policy principles espoused by these governments. During an introduction to a February 2003 foreign policy debate, the late Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, declared that, "Sweden will continue to be an active force for human rights, international law and democracy throughout the world," and noted that her government was "making efforts to reinvigorate" the Middle East peace process.

However, supporting the HRC and other organizations that flagrantly violate international agreements and exploit humanitarian principles is irreconcilable with Sweden's goal to act as an "active force for human rights, international law and democracy." The Swedish government should also be cognizant of the fact that the HRC 's agenda is not conducive to a renewal of the Middle East peace process - and only perpetuates the hatred and violence in the region.

Similarly, Norway, the largest per capita donor to the development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, purports to have placed a priority on human rights awareness in the Palestinian territories. However, the Norwegian political leadership appears to be unaware that funding the HRC and other NGO's, which endorse provocative and unlawful activity, inhibits the fulfillment of this objective.

The German government has also expressed objectives comparable to those expounded by Norway and Sweden - as it professes to promote a "culture of prevention and dialogue," via the elimination of "hostile preconceptions." Yet, Germany seems to be oblivious to the fact that granting financial backing to an NGO that asserts the need to "save the Old City [of Hebron] from the greed of Jewish settlers," does little to eradicate hateful "preconceptions." Germany should be particularly attentive to the implications of providing funding for an organization that distorts a deep historical and territorial dispute through imagery and terms that emphasize clear anti-Semitic themes, such as "Jewish greed."

In order to remedy this systematic distortion of funding for human rights NGOs, an effective monitoring mechanism is necessary to prevent the disbursement of funds to Palestinian NGO's following politicized and ideological agendas that, in fact, damage the causes of human rights and the promotion of peace. European institutions and governments must undertake a thorough review of their financial aid recipients in the Palestinian territories and implement greater accountability and transparency. As part of this review, these governments should freeze funding to the HRC unless or until this organization ends its overt and covert political activities.

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