This report details how a number of European Union (EU) funded Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, persistently campaign against Israel in international forums, employ biased rhetoric aimed at de-legitimizing Israeli security policies and are fundamentally politicized organizations. Specifically, support for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, War on Want, MIFTAH and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions contradicts stated EU policies of supporting "less politicized, more practical activities which will promote communication and understanding."
The European Union (EU), a major NGO supporter, funds international development, aid for humanitarian disasters and human rights advocacy. It is the largest single donor to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is particularly active in supporting Palestinian NGOs. Many recipient NGOs may well be vital and worthwhile — this report does not attempt to assess or address the efficiency or impact of such aid programs. In keeping with NGO Monitor’s mission, this report focuses on the politicization of certain EU-funded NGOs, especially those claiming to promote human rights. As will be demonstrated below, many of these NGOs display a clear political bias, lobby against Israel and promote Palestinian positions in keeping with the 2001 Durban strategy. This violates the EU’s own guidelines for NGO funding which stipulate "less politicized, more practical activities which will promote communication and understanding." Some of these groups actively oppose official EU policy and regularly refer euphemistically to terrorism.
EU-funded NGOs and related frameworks examined in this report include, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), MIFTAH, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), War on Want, the East Jerusalem YMCA, Adalah, the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), HaMoked and Machsom Watch.
EU funding for Palestinian NGOs must meet certain guidelines, as specified in the National Financing Plan 2004 for the West Bank and Gaza. This document states that the EU should support "local and international civil society initiatives which promote peace, tolerance and non-violence" and "ideas…for achieving the two-state solution." Crucially, it goes on to state that the program aims to promote initiatives which entail "less politicized, more practical activities which will promote communication and understanding." As illustrated below, these guidelines are breached by the EU’s support of a number of Palestinian and Israeli NGOs.
EU Funding Channels
In 2005, EU external aid totaled €10.4 billion. Of this, €7.5 billion was disbursed through the Europe Aid Cooperation Office (AIDCO) which is an office of the European Commission. In 2005, the EU gave €279 million to the Palestinian Authority, making it the largest single contributor of international aid to the Palestinians. A significant proportion of this money is channeled through NGOs, humanitarian aid and development organizations as well as groups claiming to promote human rights.
There are several different bodies which disburse the EU’s humanitarian and development funds. The structure and organization of the various programs is complex and non-transparent, and there were considerable problems accessing funding information from before 2004.
One of the principal EU agencies responsible for financing Israeli and Palestinian NGOs is the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). EIDHR is an important branch of AIDCO and aims to "promote and support human rights and democracy." In 2004, EIDHR had a budget of €125 million and a number of the NGOs mentioned in this report are funded from this program. The details of EIDHR’s funding programs for 2005 and 2006 are not yet available as the funding allocations for both years were combined and the details will only be made available in 2007.
The other main source of EU funding to NGOs in the region is the Partnership for Peace Programme (PfPP) which is part of the MEDA framework. MEDA is a major branch of AIDCO and its funds are used to implement the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, (also known as the Barcelona Process) which is a framework of political, economic and social relations between the member states of the EU and the countries of the southern Mediterranean. Between 2000 and 2006, MEDA disbursed €5.35 billion for the fulfillment of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership program. In 2003 specifically, MEDA committed €600million for its various regional programs.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) received over €293,000 from EIDHR in 2004. Despite some valuable projects documenting intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, including a campaign to abolish the death penalty in the PA, PCHR routinely erases context to demonize Israel in its publications and lobbies against the country in international forums such as the UN.
For example, PCHR has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and has used this platform to attack Israel. PCHR provided two written statements to the Commission on Human Rights Fifty-Eighth session held in March and April 2002. The submissions of January 2002 and February 2002 accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing", denounced Israeli policy as "apartheid" and "extreme racism." and called for the suspension of the Euro-Israeli Association Agreement. Both statements concluded by calling on the International Community to impose "comprehensive arms, oil, economic and trade sanctions and embargoes" and "downgrade diplomatic relations including sports, education, academic, cultural and other initiatives", policies which the EU does not endorse. PCHR has also signed the petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel.
PCHR regularly describes Israel’s policies as "apartheid" (Link has expired) and accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment. In a press release of April 24, 2006, PCHR described Palestinian terrorists as "activists", and in a "special report" of September 2006 talked of Israeli army operations against "Palestinian resistance activists."
NGO Monitor reported that in a press release of March 2004, PCHR described the killing of Hamas founder and leader Ahmed Yassin as "state-sponsored terrorism", despite Yassin’s culpability in the deaths of scores of Israeli civilians.
The objectives of the EIDHR program state that the project aims at "reinforcing the engagement of civil society in conflict prevention and resolution", goals which are not furthered by support for PCHR.
In 2004, MIFTAH received $37,750 through Keshev, an organization which is funded by the EU. All organizations which will be indirect recipients of EU funds are listed in the contract between the EU and the directly funded NGO.
MIFTAH is a political lobbying group which claims to increase "global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities by providing policy analysis, strategic briefings and position papers." However, despite claiming to be non-partisan, MIFTAH is extremely politicized, uses Durban strategy rhetoric, characterizes terrorists as "activists" and "freedom fighters," and promotes political campaigns.
MIFTAH’s politicization is evinced by the membership of its Board of Trustees. Hanan Ashrawi, is the head of the Executive Committee, founder and first Secretary-General of Miftah. She is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC – the Palestinian parliament) and is a prominent Palestinian spokesperson. Other members of Miftah’s board who are also current PLC legislators include Mustafa Barghouti who is also a former Palestinian Presidential candidate and Ziad Abu-Amr.
MIFTAH took an active part in the Durban Conference on Racism, participating in steering committees and workshops while Ashrawi addressed the conference denouncing the "brutal Israeli military occupation" and Israel’s "persistent colonialism, apartheid, racism, and victimization."
In December 2004, MidEastWeb sent a letter to MIFTAH, based on research by CAMERA that exposed some of MIFTAH’s work as fabrications. MIFTAH invented interviews with Ariel Sharon and quoted him as saying "I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area… I wanted to encourage my soldiers by raping Arabic girls as the Palestinian woman is a slave for Jews." These and numerous other "quotations" were found to be completely false. Other quotations attributed to Sharon were found to be misattributed and taken out of context.
MIFTAH routinely describes Israel as an apartheid state and characterizes Palestinian terrorists as "activists." In an op-ed on the MIFTAH website on August 2, 2006, the author claimed that Israel was deliberately targeting Lebanese civilians. The author wrote that Lebanese civilian deaths "are part of a systematic policy carried out by the Israeli military establishment, approved by the highest political echelons, aimed at squashing, silencing and obliterating any voice of rebellion, anyone who dares stand up to the beast." In an editorial of June 9, 2006 MIFTAH described Jamal Abu Samhadana, the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), as a "Palestinian freedom-fighter." PRC is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including missile attacks aimed at Israeli cities, and is suspected of having carried out an attack on a US convoy in Gaza in October 2003 which killed three security guards and severely wounded a US diplomat.
MIFTAH has also described suicide bombings against civilians as "resistance." An article of July 5, 2006 about Palestinian women during the last six years of violence stated that "several young women also decided to join the ranks of the resistance movement", went on to describe the first Palestinian female suicide bombing and commented that "this marked the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause."
MIFTAH’s extremely politicized activities are in direct violation of the explicit EU funding guidelines.
War on Want
War on Want (WoW) states that it receives funds from the EU although no further details of this funding are supplied by either WoW itself or the EU. WoW is a British NGO supposedly devoted to alleviating poverty in developing countries. However, it also runs a particularly virulent political campaign against Israel and has called for sanctions against Israel, lobbied against its security barrier and participated in the Israel divestment campaign.
In a briefing paper entitled "Time for Sanctions Against Israel", WoW stated that "War on Want calls on the UK government to press for an immediate suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. WoW also provides a downloadable petition form to send to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that "We call on the Prime Minister to state his support for sanctions against Israel now, and to ensure their introduction as an immediate priority."
WoW campaigned for the Church of England to divest its investments in Caterpillar and also called on the Methodist Church of Great Britain to "divest from companies supporting Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine." WoW has also directly lobbied the large U.K. chain of department-stores, John Lewis, to stop selling Caterpillar products.
The UK Charity Commission warned WoW in August 2005 about its political activities posing a threat to its charitable status. A new investigation of WoW was launched by the Commission in July 2006 and as of October 16, 2006, has yet to be completed.
WoW also uses politically charged rhetoric when discussing Israeli policies. The terms "war crimes" and "collective punishment" are frequently used in WoW’s reports, petitions and press releases and War on Want consistently labels Israeli policy as apartheid, especially in relation to Israel’s security barrier. Numerous articles talk of a "campaign of apartheid", "the apartheid nature of the West Bank", and the "apartheid wall." In WoW’s documentation it invariably fails to mention Palestinian terrorism and argues that Israel’s security concerns do not justify the infringement of Palestinian human rights.
The EU’s funding for this NGO is particularly troubling and the EU should pressure WoW to abandon its political activism against Israel if it wishes to continue receiving public European funds.
Under the Partnership for Peace Programme, the EU gave the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) €472,000 in 2005. ICAHD states that its goal is "to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories" but the scope of its advocacy and lobbying extends much further.
ICHAD campaigns for boycott divestment and sanctions against Israel and has consistently labeled Israel an "apartheid" state. As reported by NGO Monitor, Jeff Halper, ICAHD’s Director, asserted in a June 2004 statement that "the Palestinians’ need to resort to terrorism raises questions of fundamental fairness. One cannot expect a people to suffer oppression forever, to abrogate their own human rights in favor of those of others." ICAHD has also endorsed a solution that would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Halper said in a paper given at the "United Nations International Conference on Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People" in New York in September, 2003, that "the stage is thus set for the next phase of the struggle for a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: an international campaign for a single state." As in the case of EMHRN, the EU’s financial support for this NGO actively undermines its own foreign policy objectives as well as violating its NGO funding guidelines, which mandate that EU funding must support "achieving the two-state solution in accordance with the Road Map."
The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) received €1million from EIDHR in 2004. EMHRN is an umbrella organization for NGOs in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It frequently calls for political action to be taken against Israel and issues one-sided condemnations of Israeli responses to terrorism. EMHRN provides a platform for and promotes the views of its partner NGOs, which include the extremely politicized Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (discussed above) and Al Mezan, which repeatedly condemn Israel army (IDF) operations, while ignoring the context of terrorism. The politically active NGO, Al Haq, is also an EMHRN partner.
EMHRN’s political lobbying is well illustrated by its persistent call for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides for trade concessions in certain markets. In a letter of October 2002 to Javier Solana, then EU Foreign Affairs Minister, EMHRN called on the EU to suspend the Agreement, due to "Israel’s indiscriminate, excessive and disproportionate use of force….Willful killings, arbitrary executions and targeted assassinations." In November 2003, EMHRN again wrote to Solana and EU foreign ministers calling for a suspension.
In August 2005, EMHRN issued a report entitled "Israel’s Human Rights Behaviour, 2004-2005." The report condemned Israel’s construction of its security barrier and its security policies in the West Bank and Gaza. The report specifically censured the restrictions on movement in the West Bank but failed to mention the Palestinian terrorism which is the cause of these measures. It also stated that "the provision and extension of economic privileges and trade agreements should be made dependent on Israel’s human rights behaviour", with the implication from the report that such trade privileges should be suspended, in line with EMHRN’s consistent call for such action.
In October 2000, an EMHRN mission to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza issued a report on the outbreak of violence in late September 2000. The report stated that the Palestinians are "victims of a form of apartheid" and blamed Israel for the failure of the Oslo Peace Process, claiming that "structural economic, social and cultural rights violations…continue to be perpetrated against the Palestinians." The report failed to mention the increased Palestinian terrorism in the years after the Oslo Accords and the continued incitement in Palestinian media and education.
In addition, EMHRN issued a press release on April 12, 2006 entitled "Should the Palestinians be Punished?", which stated that the EU decision to freeze international aid to the Palestinian Authority after the election of Hamas "displayed a permanent double reasoning as, at the same time, it tolerates the multiple violations of Human Rights which the Israeli government is guilty of committing." EMHRN said nothing about the violence and terrorism employed by Hamas nor did it call on Hamas to adopt the demands of the Quartet to renounce violence and recognize Israel. The statement called on the "European Union [to] re-establish its financial aid" to the PA, in effect creating a situation where an EU-funded NGO is using that funding to lobby against stated EU policy.
East Jerusalem YMCA
In 2005, the Europe Aid Cooperation Office (AIDCO) provided €500,000 to the East Jerusalem YMCA for its Vocational Training Program. Such support is problematic as money is fungible, and all EU funds contribute to the status and financial capacity of this extremely politicized NGO that promotes the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign against Israel and has also signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of Israel.
The Vocational Training Program provides education in various fields including construction, plumbing, auto-mechanics and computing. However the East Jerusalem YMCA also runs an Advocacy program, which conducts, among others, the "Free Palestine Campaign. This campaign aims, on an international level, to "raise awareness among organizations and individuals concerning the injustice and oppression to which Palestinians are subjected" so that they "participate actively in the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine."
The Advocacy program also operates a number of political activities such as organized tours to the Palestinian territories for international YMCA branches and visits abroad by Palestinian youth, "to communicate first-hand experience of Palestinian life under occupation … ongoing oppression and injustice." The "explanation" of the program’s "theological roots" employs classic anti-Semitic themes. The program’s description says that "Jesus was crucified with the people who were branded as ‘terrorists’ by the authorities of his time. The Palestinians are currently crucified, humiliated, and denied their human rights and dignity." The promotion of such theories contradicts the YMCA’s alleged commitment to "universal values of human dignity, peace, and justice."
The Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) is also a program of the East Jerusalem YMCA. It undertakes specifically political activities against Israel. It helps coordinate a weekly demonstration in the West Bank town of Al Khader and distributes t-shirts saying "Isolate the Israeli Apartheid." The JAI also publishes a weekly e-newsletter and a bi-annual magazine. JAI coordinates an annual tour of Palestinian territories for international YMCA branches called "Journey for Justice." A highly contentious research paper was published by the JAI entitled "Palestinian Christians in Struggle" which claims that "the decline of this [Christian] population [in Israel and the Palestinian territories] is a highly political phenomenon in that the Israeli state considers Palestinian Christians to be a threat to their continued occupation of Palestine." There was no mention of the ongoing oppression of Christians under the PA
In 2004, EIDHR allocated €513,000 to Adalah. The EU has consistently funded Adalah, a group which provides legal advocacy for Arab citizens of Israel, but frequently attacks Israel on a political basis and participates in political campaigning.
In a newsletter of May 2004, Adalah compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and denounced Israeli security policies while failing to mention the Palestinian terror which prompted those security measures.
Adalah also accused Israel of war-crimes in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield, a claim incongruent with the facts and discounted by numerous commentators. On August 13, 2006, Adalah sent a letter to the Attorney General of Israel, Menachem Mazuz, arguing that Israel’s military operations in Lebanon were war crimes and compared the IDF actions aimed at destroying the Hezbollah terrorist organization with war crimes committed during the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The EU is a major donor to Adalah, and is therefore well-placed to pressure the NGO to abandon its politicization or cease any further funding for it.
Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture
In 2004, EIDHR gave the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRCVT) €996,000. TRCVT says that it was established to "to provide psychosocial services to survivors of politically-motivated torture and violence" but also undertakes political advocacy and campaigning.
In an extremely biased and historically inaccurate statement of June/July 2006, TRCVT called for the release of Palestinian politicians who were arrested after Hamas’ abduction of an Israeli soldier from sovereign Israeli territory on June 25, 2006. In the document, TRCVT states that "the Palestinian people have been suffering under the Israeli occupation for more than 58 years", a statement implying that all of Israel, not just territory captured in the 1967 War, is "occupied" territory. The statement alleges that the arrested politicians "most probably will become a victim of torture." In another statement of July/August 2006, TRCVT characterizes Israeli actions in the Lebanon War as "random bombing of the Lebanese infrastructure and killing of tens of Lebanese citizens," in response to "a military action carried out by the Lebanese resistance of Hezbollah."
HRA – Arab Association for Human Rights
The Partnership for Peace Programme provided the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) with €95,000 in 2005. The HRA states that "our mandate is the protection and promotion of international human-rights standards of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel." However, HRA often exceeds this mandate, addressing wider political concerns of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, using inflammatory language to vilify Israel.
For example, on July 31, 2006, HRA issued a press statement entitled "Israel’s war crimes, massacres and blatant breaches of international law continue unhindered in Lebanon and Gaza." The press release talks of "violent massacres" and "collective punishment" and states that "more than 60 civilians" were killed by an Israeli Air-force attack on the Lebanese village of Qana. The figures provided by the Red Cross on July 30 stated that 28 people had been killed, but HRA has not issued a correction. The Press release also attacked the EU stating that it should use the Association Agreement between the two states to pressure Israel for a ceasefire in Lebanon.
Another HRA press release of March 15, 2006 condemned Israel’s seizure of Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is suspected by Israel of having ordered the assassination of Cabinet Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001. HRA makes no mention that the arrest was prompted by Hamas threats to release Saadat from prison. HRA called the seizure "illegal", accused the U.S. and U.K. of complicity in the operation and called on the international community to "put pressure on Israel to retract from this illegal action and to return the prisoners to PA jurisdiction."
Under the Partnership for Peace Programme, HaMoked was given €93,000 in 2005. HaMoked’s aims, as registered with Israel’s Registrar of Non-profit Organizations, are to "provide assistance to persons who have fallen victim to acts of violence, abuse or deprivation of basic rights by governmental authorities (including local government)." Hamoked’s website specifies more directly that its aim is to "assist Palestinians whose rights are violated by the Israeli authorities or as a result of Israeli policy."
Its 2002 report "Human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians in the course of 2002" runs to nearly one hundred pages but fails to mention the widespread Palestinian terrorism of this period which led to the death of hundreds of Israelis. By divorcing this crucial context of Israel’s counter-terrorist measures from its human rights analysis, HaMoked illustrates its disregard for the right of Israelis to live without the threat of violence.
HaMoked has also participated in political campaigning. In September 2004, HaMoked took part in the "United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People." This was a conference of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a highly politicized body of the U.N. which lobbies exclusively for "Palestinian rights" in the U.N. At the conference, the Committee resolved to "pressure Israel and our own Governments to move towards strict enforcement of the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ" which called for Israel’s security barrier to be removed. The conference also resolved to "promote a sporting, cultural and economic boycott" of Israel.
In July 2006, HaMoked demanded that Israel open the Karni goods crossing into Gaza but did not acknowledge the severe security risks involved in operating the crossing. Since 2000 Palestinian terrorist groups have persistently attacked this crossing causing numerous deaths and injuries. On January 14, 2005, Palestinian terrorists blew a whole in the wall of the crossing, shot and killed six Israeli civilians and wounded five. On March 14 2004, the crossing was used to smuggle terrorists out of Gaza who then blew themselves up in the Israeli city of Ashdod, killing ten people and wounding sixteen. HaMoked’s failure to appreciate or even mention Israeli security concerns when applying pressure to the Israeli government illustrates the political bias of the group.
Given the EU’s influence as a donor and in order to maintain the EUs neutrality, the Partnership for Peace program must pressure HaMoked to avoid such political lobbying.
In 2005, under the Partnership for Peace program, the EU gave Machsom Watch €60,000. Machsom Watch states that its goals are "to monitor the behaviour of [Israeli] soldiers and police at checkpoints" and that "the group is politically pluralistic within the context of opposition to the occupation." Machsom Watch reports are often emotive and politically charged, and the reliability of its claims is questionable.
A notable example of the group’s political stance against Israeli policy occurred on November 9, 2004 when a Palestinian arrived at a checkpoint with a violin case and was filmed playing his violin. Machsom Watch alleged that he had been forced to play by the soldiers manning the checkpoint to humiliate him. The IDF denied this, stating that the man was only asked to open his violin-case and started playing of his own accord. Members of Machsom Watch present at the incident admitted later that they did not hear what the soldier in question said to the violinist.
The NGOs mentioned in this report are all compromised by their politicization, which puts them at odds with EU funding guidelines. MIFTAH, PCHR, ICAHD and War on Want actively promote the Durban Strategy of demonizing Israel through manipulation of human rights rhetoric, and boycott and divestment campaigns. Combined with their intense political activity, extremely partisan approach to the conflict and euphemistic references to terrorism, they should be excluded from any future EU funding programs.
The EU should also pressure the other organizations mentioned in this report, particularly, HRA and the East Jerusalem YMCA, to adopt a more neutral stance to the conflict, which acknowledges internal Palestinian responsibility and Israeli security needs in any human rights analysis. In order to better advance the EU’s goals of promoting tolerance and peace, a reconsideration of the goals of EMHRN is also necessary. This network’s agenda is pre-determined by its partner NGOs, whose activities often contradict the stated goals of EMHRN and the EU.
4. The legal implications of EMHRN’s advocacy role is discussed further in "NGOs in the European Framework: EMHRN and the anti-Israel Campaign," October 9, 2006