The central role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Arab-Israeli conflict is facilitated by substantial financial support, primarily from donor governments. The following analysis demonstrates the trail of funding leading from foreign governments to self-proclaimed Palestinian human rights NGOs. Some of these groups also have alleged ties to terrorist organizations. Some recipients are involved in the whitewashing of violence and terrorism, legal warfare (“lawfare”) against Israeli officials, BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, and even promoting antisemitic propaganda.
This analysis will present the details of funding to 36 Palestinian NGOs, including the identities of the donors (government or private), the grant’s time frame, and the source of the data. The report utilizes two primary data sources: NGO annual reports and websites and information published by donor governments.
There are two unique challenges in researching funding to Palestinian NGOs, compared to Israeli grantees:
- NGO Transparency: NGOs registered in the Palestinian Authority are bound by an “NGO Law,” instituted in 2000. According to Article 13 of the law, “No later than four months following the end of the fiscal year, an NGO must present to the relevant ministry… a financial report approved by an accountant and includes detailed income and expenditures of the organization, relative to the property listed in its name.” (NGO Monitor translation). Not included is reference to any requirement that these reports be made available to the general public.
- Donor Government Transparency: The level of reporting and transparency differs by country. Many states do not publish exact grant amounts or details regarding their grantees.
NGO Reporting (See Appendix I)
- Out of the 36 Palestinian NGOs included in this report, only eight publish complete data on donations. The rest of these groups only partially cite or fully omit the names of funders in various documents and on their websites. The lack of transparency for the overwhelming majority of these NGOs makes it difficult to identify funding.
- The following table is based on NGO reporting:1
Government Reporting (See Appendix II)
Government support generally flows through two main channels: direct funding from state mechanisms (including ministries and embassies) to local NGOs; and indirect funding to NGOs, which occurs in the following ways:
- Indirect-marked: The government designates funds for a local Palestinian NGO and uses a third party to transfer the money.
- Indirect-general: Churches, humanitarian organizations, and foundations that are partially funded by the government fund local Palestinian NGOs. In this case, it is unclear if and how much government money has been passed to the local NGO.
NGO Monitor research found that:
- The amounts reported in Appendix II total approximately $120 million and represent only part of the aid budgets for those organizations.
- The most transparent countries are Norway and Sweden, as they provide details on the size of grants, the grantees, and projects.
- The least transparent country, in terms of access to grant details and information on grantees, is Germany. Germany does not maintain a publically available project database, making it challenging for the general public to understand where money is transferred.
- A large portion of EU, UK, and Norwegian funding is distributed through the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to local Palestinian NGOs. On the UK’s Department for International Development’s UK Development Tracker website, funds transferred to local organizations through NRC are listed as “supplier name withheld” without the final recipient being listed.
- Another governmental funding mechanism is the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, a joint NGO funding mechanism of the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, based out of Birzeit University in Ramallah. According to Secretariat reports, between 2014-2017, more than 9.6 million dollars were transferred to NGOs, most of which are involved in anti-Israel campaigns.
- According to donor reports, many grants to Palestinian NGOs is in the form of multi-year grants and many grants are distributed to NGOs for collaborative projects. This phenomenon, combined with the lack of transparency, makes it difficult to determine how much money each individual organization receives (See Appendix III).
- European governments also fund local NGOs through the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarians Affairs (OCHA oPt). It is unclear if these are additional grants or are the same as grants that appear in official government documents (For more information on OCHA oPt, see NGO Monitor’s report).