Update: On June 2, 2017, the Danish Foreign Minister halted distribution of Danish government funding to NGOs via the Secretariat, pending a “thorough investigation of all the organizations.”  The decision came following extended criticism of Secretariat core-funding recipient Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), which helped inaugurate a youth center named after a terrorist. The Danish Foreign Minister stated: “Denmark and Danish tax money should under no circumstances be used for anything that in any way glorifies or promotes terrorism. Therefore, we now require of WATC that they pay Danish support back.”

On May 18, 2017, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen held a series of meetings in Ramallah, where he signed agreements for an additional funding cycle of $8.3 million1 to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (“the Secretariat”), which distributes funds to numerous anti-Israel organizations. The Secretariat is a joint funding mechanism of the Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Swiss governments, operating out of Bir Zeit University in Ramallah.

On the previous day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Samuelsen. Having been alerted to the additional Secretariat funding, “Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the true reason for the absence of a solution to the Palestinian issue is incitement and asked that Denmark halt assistance to Palestinian organizations that support BDS activity.”

A large portion of the Secretariat’s budget is distributed as core funding to radical Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that incite violence and terrorism; are active in global BDS campaigns against Israel; engage in legal warfare attempting to indict Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC); and employ demonizing rhetoric, such as making spurious charges of Israeli “apartheid” and “war crimes.”

In defense of the funding, Samuelsen responded to Danish journalist Allan Sørensen:

“The support for these organizations will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If something becomes too fragile compared to we can defend, then we need to reconsider it, “says Anders Samuelsen. He emphasizes, however, that the focus will not be on attitudes, but instead on the institutional building that the Palestinian organizations are part of.”

On Israeli television with Nadav Eyal (Channel 10), Samuelson stated:

“…But if any of these organizations crossed a line… if a leader of one of these organizations for example publicly announced that they want to get rid of all Jews, or kill all Jews, anything like that, of course we will immediately close down the support… If you end up in a way where you have an aggressive rhetoric, wanting to kill people or do illegal things, then of course we will immediately close down the support…”

Overall funding to the Secretariat:

  • The Danish government provided $5.7 million during the original Secretariat funding cycle (2013-2016). The current funding cycle adds an additional $8.3 million (DKK 56 million) (2017-2020).
  • Sweden, the lead donor of the Secretariat, provided $5 million (2014-2016). The “Total committed amount” is currently $9.2 million, reflecting an additional $4.2 million through 2018.
  • The Netherlands committed €2.64 million ($2.9 million) to the previous funding cycle (2013-2016), with an additional €6 million ($6.7 million) budgeted for 2018.
  • Switzerland provided CHF 3.8 million ($3.8 million) in the previous funding cycle (2013-2017). There is no information to indicate that Switzerland is joining the Secretariat’s next funding cycle.

In spite of this massive increase in funding, only Switzerland and the Netherlands are engaging in parliamentary debates and open dialogue about funding to the Secretariat. The Danish and Swedish governments transfer taxpayer funds to Secretariat-funded organizations that incite violence, glorify terror, and promote blatant antisemitism and BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel. The fact that these decisions are made without in-depth public hearings is inconsistent with due diligence, transparency, and good governance.

In the previous funding cycle, the Secretariat provided “core-funding” to 24 NGOs operating in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The upcoming cycle will fund “reduce the number of core funded CSOs from 24 to 10-15.” It is unclear which NGOs will be excluded and how much of the new budget will be devoted to core funding versus project funding.

The continuation of funding to the Secretariat by these governments undermines attempts to promote peace and a two-state solution. Critical parliamentary debate within Denmark and Sweden, and continued debate within the Netherlands and Switzerland, is crucial to ensure that taxpayers’ money is allocated to organizations that further governmental policies. In addition, the funders must ensure increased Secretariat transparency, including the public release of annual and financial reports.