Without a doubt, Germany is one of the key European players in supporting and empowering civil society throughout the world, and more specifically in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A newly released NGO Monitor report shows, however, that significant funds are allocated to organizations that do not promote peace but advance BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and “lawfare” campaigns; anti-Zionism; and promotion of a “one-state” vision, antisemitism and violence.
According to submissions by NGOs to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, in 2012-2015 alone, €4 million of German taxpayer money was allocated to 15 Israeli NGOs (this may be a partial amount, as not all Israel NGOs adhere to the submission requirements). 42% of which went to organizations that promote BDS and/or “one-state” visions. Funding to Palestinian groups is not known.
This NGO funding is exacerbated by the unique involvement, both in its extent and its nature, of civil society in government-level policymaking and implementation in the Federal Republic of Germany. Actors with openly political agendas are granted millions of euros by the federal government, which are in turn redistributed to local civil society. For example, the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) consults with and funds a select group of German NGOs and church groups that are heavily involved in federal-level decision making and enjoy considerable flexibility and independence with the funds entrusted to them. Many of these organizations – such as Brot fuer die Welt/EED, Kurve Wustrow and Weltfriedensdienst (WFD) – are members of multiple BMZ frameworks and enjoy inflated representation.
German commitment (expressed amongst others through support to the civil society) to the region, peace and Israel is praiseworthy. As part of this commitment, more efforts should be made to ensure greater transparency and accountability to the official Berlin priorities. More attention should be paid to the selection processes, project evaluations, and choosing partner organizations so as to avoid misuse of taxpayers’ money and misrepresentation of German goals in the region. Like in any good relationship, Bundestag and Knesset should be able to directly raise issues of concern and discuss funding to civil society and its ramifications.