On October 30, 2012, twenty-two NGOs released a report, “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements.” These NGOs repeat the BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare through various forms of economic sanctions on Israel.

Proposals include: “ban imports of settlement products”; “prevent financial transactions to settlements and related activities”; “discourage businesses from purchasing settlement goods and from all other commercial and investment links with settlements”; “exclude settlement products and companies from public procurements tenders and other forms of economic sanctions”; “issue guidelines for European tour operators to prevent support for settlement businesses.” Many of the recommendations are phrased in a vague and expansive manner, reflecting the facade of a “targeted boycott”.

As the following analysis demonstrates, this political advocacy NGO network, which receives massive funding from European governments, markets a selective and one-sided narrative in order to demonize Israel. This is part of the “Durban strategy” of using highly distorted versions of the conflict and allegations of “war crimes” in order to isolate Israel – a strategy that these NGOs and their allies have employed for more than a decade.

Contrary to the claims of the NGO authors of this report, a two-state solution can only be achieved around the negotiating table, and not through politicized attacks against Israel.

The destructive role of these NGOs and state funders was highlighted by Rafi Schutz, from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the Jerusalem Post, Schutz filed a protest with the UK, Denmark, Ireland and the EU. Schutz reportedly noted that some of the NGOs “such as the Irish Trocaire, were involved in the boycott and divestment movement against Israel.” Other NGOs that did not support the BDS-based labeling were excluded from EU discussions.

One-sided and selective analysis

  • Purporting to contribute to the “preservation of a two-state solution” and “Israel’s security and legitimacy,” the report alleges that “the stagnation of the peace process cannot be attributed to a single factor.” In contrast, the report then proceeds to target Israeli settlements as the “decisive” factor, ignoring history and central issues such as Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism, and intra-Palestinian conflict.
  • The NGOs criticize Israel for “banning Palestinians from importing a range of ‘dual-use’ items, including chemicals and fertilizers used in factories and agriculture” (p. 18), without explaining what “dual-use” means or the security importance of this restriction. These chemicals and fertilizers can be and have been used in bomb and rocket manufacture, while concrete is used to build weapons storage and other facilities, as demonstrated in Gaza. Similarly, the security rationale other measures, such as roadblocks and the security barrier, are absent from this strictly political report.
  • The report asserts that “A recent estimate cited by the World Bank shows that if Israeli barriers to the development of Palestinian agriculture were removed to allow the cultivation of only an additional 3.5% of Area C in the Jordan valley, the Palestinian economy could gain $1bn a year – comparable to the entire annual foreign aid budget to the PA.” However, the report does not cite to the original source for this claim, which is a highly speculative paper that contains the caveat that “large scale urban and agricultural development of the Palestinian Jordan Valley depends on new large water-supply sources, which must be imported from outside the region” (emphasis added). In other words, the situation is significantly more complex and uncertain – and dependent on regional and international cooperation, not unilateral actions and punitive interventions by governments and NGOs.
  • Similarly, due to the bias and lack of credibility of this report, it also does not mention the Palestinian leadership’s responsibility for squandering billions of foreign aid and its failure to properly manage the land and resources it does control.

Double Standards

  • While claiming to promote universal humanitarian principles, the activities of these organizations are tainted by bias and double standards.
  • A March 2012 campaign to “mark one year of violence in Syria” was supported by four of the signatories to this report: Christian Aid, Pax Christi International, FIDH, and Broederlijk Delen. They called on “Russia to back UN Security Council action to end the crisis” without providing specifics and did not recommend sanctions or boycotts against the Syrian regime.
  • At least three of the NGOs have discouraged the international community from imposing sanctions against Iran or have attempted to “reframe” the perspective towards Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.  None of these groups have campaigned to end Iranian financing, military training, and weapons smuggling to Hamas and Hezbollah, all of which are illegal under international law.

Government funding for major NGOs involved in this report

  • Cordaid: €51.4 million in government funding in 2011, including from the EU and the Netherlands.
  • Trócaire: €2.7 million from the EU and €1.3 million from the UK Department for International Development in 2010. It also reported to receive a projected grant of €116 from 2007-11 from the Irish Government through Irish Aid Multi-Annual Program Scheme (MAPS).
  • DanChurchAid: 107.3 million DKK in 2011 from the EU.
  • Christian Aid: States that governments have increased their support, but the amounts are not specified.
  • FIDH: government funders include Sweden, EU, Finland, France, Ireland, Norway, and the Netherlands.
  • MEDICO International: total budget in 2011 was € 20,234,329.46, including €5,011,074.51 in German government grants.

Information on the Biased Activities on the Part of Signatory NGOs

Cordaid, a Dutch Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid:

  • From 2003-2010 Cordaid funded one of the most radical coalitions of Palestinian and Israeli Arab NGOs, Ittijah,  which endorses BDS by calling for a global “boycott [of[ Israel, imposing sanctions and labeling it as a colonial racist state under the Motto: Zionism is Racism – Israel is an Apartheid.”  In January 2011, Ittijah’s director Ameer Makhoul was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for passing encrypted messages, recruiting spies, and providing information on the security detail of Israeli officials to Hezbollah.
  • Funded Ma’an Development Center, which published “Boycotts, Divestment& Sanctions: Lessons learned in effective solidarity” (2009), a guide to grassroots and international BDS campaigns.

Trocaire, a development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland:

  • Acting against Irish government policy, Trócaire conducts a campaign to sanction Israel (and Europe) by suspending mutually beneficial trade agreements, and attempted to block Israel’s inclusion in the OECD.
  • In 2007, Trócaire joined Badil (a Palestinian NGO whose funding from the Swiss, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish governments was frozen due to the publication of antisemtic imagery on its website) in a “40/60 Call to Action,” which advocated anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions.

DanChurchAid (Denmark):

  • Has joined with Badil to implement a “40/60 Call to Action,” which includes anti-Israel boycott and sanction campaigns; efforts to “[e]nlist journalists to organize a targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation”; and enlisting the help of anti-Israel “Jewish” NGOs to “rais[e] awareness of the . . . right of return among the Jewish public in Israel.”

Christian Aid, a relief, aid and advocacy agency:

  • In October 2007, Christian Aid supported a conference held in Cyprus that promoted BDS. The conference’s final statement called upon NGOs to turn “utmost attention to the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel and pursuing the parastata Zionist organizations worldwide.”
  • Its UK-based online youth magazine published an article labeling Israel an “apartheid state,” attacking Israeli president Shimon Peres as a “war criminal,” and calling Zionism a “racist ideology.” Following protests, the article was removed.

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), a “universal Human Rights movement” comprised of 164 member organizations: