The 2020 Israel “Alternative Memorial Day Service”: NGO Partners and Government Sponsors
On April 27, the Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Parents Circle Families Forum and Combatants for Peace will host their 15th annual “Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony.” The event is marketed as a “joint ceremony” that “seeks to sow the seeds of hope among the two sides, and to bring to an end wars that have taken the lives of our cherished loved ones.” “Partners” of the event include Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights, Standing Together, Other Voice, and the Hadash political party.
“Co-sponsors” include numerous Israeli and American NGOs, including IfNotNow, Churches for Middle East Peace, New Israel Fund, J Street, Alliance for Middle East Peace, T’ruah, AGIAMONDO (former AGEH, Germany) and Civil Peace Service (ZFD, a consortium of German government-funded NGOs), as well as individual churches and synagogues. No Palestinian NGOs appear to be participating in and/or sponsoring the event.
Contrary to the image presented by the organizers, the event represents a narrow, one-sided part of Israeli civil society, and promotes a Palestinian narrative that draws an immoral equivalence between terror victims and terrorists. Many bereaved families in Israel have spoken out against the NGO sponsors and their focus on exclusive Israeli “guilt,” rejection of the legitimacy of Israeli narratives, and the political messages that are transmitted, explicitly and implicitly. While the sponsors claim to be advancing peace, there is no evidence for their claim.
This year, in contrast to previous ceremonies, there has been no public acknowledgement of foreign government funding for the event, including from Germany (see below). Despite having more than 30 “co-sponsors,” many of which are funded by European governments (see below), Parents Circle launched a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than NIS 140,000 (as of April 26). It is unclear why these funds are needed given the online format of this year’s event.
NGO Event Organizers
Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF)
- PCFF claims to advocate for “reconciliation,” “dialogue,” and “knowledge of the other.” It is widely criticized in Israel, in particular by groups of bereaved families, for exploiting the grief of families and the language of peace to promote a highly divisive, contentious, and narrow personal agendas.
- Donors have included European Union, United States (USAID and Embassy to Israel), Bread for the World (Germany), SIVMO (Netherlands), Kerk in Actie (Netherlands), ICCO (Netherlands), Swiss Government Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Christian Aid (UK), Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and New Israel Fund.
Combatants for Peace
- While claiming to “allow each side to understand the other’s narrative,” Combatants for Peace activities reflect a strong affiliation with the Palestinian agenda and narrative, placing most of the blame for the conflict on “the occupation.”
- Donors have included: Switzerland, Bread for the World/EED (Germany), Rosa Luxemberg Stiftung (Germany), ZFD-Germany, New Israel Fund, and SIVMO.
Previous German Government Funding
Over the years, the “Alternative Memorial Ceremony” has been carried out with German government funds.
In 2018 (latest available), according to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, Combatants for Peace received NIS 42,343 from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (affiliated with the far-left Die Linke political party), NIS 48,937 from ZFD (Civil Peace Service), and NIS 44,876 from AGEH to “support the Memorial Day ceremony.” The Rosa Luxemburg grant was specially earmarked for “funding the hall for the Memorial Day Ceremony.” Since 2015, Rosa Luxemburg has granted approximately NIS 175,000 for the sole purpose of the Ceremony. Rosa Luxemburg’s office in Israel also notes that it has supported the Ceremony since 2011.
In addition to providing funds, German government foundations have also been involved in a number of other capacities:
- On April 24, 2020, Civil Peace Service (ZFD) advertised the event.
- In 2018, Heinrich Boell Foundation (affiliated with the German Green Party) staff participated in the event and described Combatants for Peace as a “grantee” of the Foundation. Heinrich Boell Foundation has in the past provided a platform in Germany for a live screening in one of its educational facilities.
- In 2019, 2018, and 2017, Rosa Luxemburg staff in Israel participated in the event.