The EU is the single largest donor to politicized NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, accounting for NIS 28,196,067 NIS to such Israeli NGOs in 2012-2014 alone. NGO funding is a central component of European Union (EU) foreign policy, claiming to promote peace, cooperation and human rights. Funds are allocated directly and indirectly through various and elaborate funding mechanisms and organizations including: European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), Partnership for Peace (PfP), the European Commission’s department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). These different mechanisms are often poorly coordinated and simultaneously fund the same NGOs multiple times, for similar activities.

The EU fails to abide by minimum standards of transparency and accountability. Although the EU records all direct EU grants in its Financial Transparency System, this only accounts for 20% of the EU budget, and there are numerous discrepancies with other sources. The selection process of project funding is secret. The EU does not reveal information about selection of committee members or their considerations. Moreover, project evaluations are not released, making it impossible to independently verify that projects achieve their stated goals and reflect the foreign policy objectives of the EU. (In response to requests from NGO Monitor, the EC provided a disk of documents with most details deleted.)

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EU Decision-making and NGOs

EU funding to NGOs is part of a much broader relationship, viewing NGOs as policy implementers, information providers, and partners in policy formation. Politicized NGOs regularly pressure EU decision-makers, a strategy that has proved effective on a number of occasions.

  • EU publications regularly cite NGO data and allegations, while neglecting to methodically verify the cited information. For example, the European Parliament (EP) policy briefing “Israeli settler violence in Palestine” (2012)and EP policy briefing “Area C: More than 60% of the occupied West Bank threatened by Israeli annexation”(2013) both cite a finding reported by the EU-funded NGO Yesh Din in 2011, according to which “90% of investigations of Israeli attacks against Palestinians are closed without indictments.” However, data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (tables 11.3 and 11.4) demonstrate that in 2011 the Israeli police opened a total of 364,730 files, with 38,334 indictments (10.5%) – indicating that the low indictment rate is by no means reserved to cases of violence against Palestinians.
  • In November 2015, the EU published guidelines for the labeling of Israeli products manufactured beyond the green line. The decision to label Israeli products, the justifications provided for it, as well as the language used by the EU, echo NGO publications “Trading Away Peace,” signed by 22 European NGOs, and “EU Differentiation and Israeli Settlements”- a publication of the NGO European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). These publications recommend product labeling as the first step towards full-blown economic sanctions and boycotts against Israel. More than half of the signatories to “Trading Away Peace” – such as Trocaire, Diakonia and DanChurchAid – are EU-funded (see NGO Monitor report on the subject).

Selected Examples of EU-funded NGOs

  • Grassroots Jerusalem (According to its website, 28% of its 2014 budget was from the “European Commission” and 33% from the European Endowment for Democracy, a funding mechanism founded and financed by the EU and Member States. More updated data are not available.): Its website states that “Grassroots Jerusalem strongly supports the global BDS call”; coordinates global BDS activities, including in Europe and North America. Promotes the Palestinian narrative of a “right of return,” which, if implemented, would effectually mean the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Refers to the state of “Israel” in quotation marks.
  • Adalah (€717,994 for 2013-2016): Promotes anti-Israel “lawfare,” using invented and distorted legal claims to demonize Israel, and accuses it of racism, “war crimes,” and other violations of international law. Calls for replacing the Jewish foundation of the state.
  • Baladna (€231,939 for 2014-2016 and €244,371 for Nov 2015 – Oct 2017): Promotes a 1948 agenda and a Palestinian “right of return”. Refers to the establishment of the state of Israel as a “Nakba” (“catastrophe”).