For almost 20 years, the European Union and individual states have together pumped more than one billion euros ($1.3 billion Cdn) into a small group of Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, with a few million more from the United States, Canada (before Stephen Harper became prime minister) and elsewhere.
The nature and scale of this outside interference is unique, and the impact is magnified by the use of this money primarily to oppose government policies and promote boycotts of Israel. Instead of representing “civil society” in the democratic process, these organizations are waging a dangerous war of demonization, using terms such as “war crimes” and “apartheid” under the façade of human rights.
The issue has recently dominated headlines in the Israeli media and urgent Knesset sessions, including the introduction of legislation that, if passed, would require NGO recipients to register as foreign agents. In response, the NGO officials and their allies at the New Israel Fund, Ha’aretz and among left-wing politicians attacked the critics as McCarthyite fascists intent on destroying democracy.
Europe’s money, and the contrast between high moral rhetoric and less-than-moral behaviour, ensures that this issue will remain high on Israel’s agenda. The fight will be long and bitter, but after 20 years of unlimited access to money and influence, the central role of unelected and radical NGOs inside Israeli politics, and in waging war outside the country, is likely to fade.