The cold war between Europe and Israel over the politics of nongovernmental organizations escalated sharply with the discovery of a Belgian strategic document that includes funds for “mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices.”
It is hard to imagine NGO funding objectives aimed at “mitigating the influence of pro-Palestinian voices,” or, going beyond our conflict, to “mitigate the influence of pro-European Union voices” during the United Kingdom’s intense Brexit debate. But what seems absurd in other contexts is standard policy when Israel is involved.
The specific targeting of “pro-Israeli voices” through NGO funding is part of a plan (known as the Joint Strategic Framework, or JSF) prepared for and approved by Belgium’s Ministry for Development Cooperation. It is a public document, written by five NGOs that are also major recipients of the funds – including the Catholic aid group Broederlijke Delen, Oxfam Solidarity, Solidarité Socialiste, and Viva Salud. They are leaders in anti-Israel political campaigns, using taxpayer funds from Belgian citizens. From 2017 to 2021, at least €8.6 million will have been allocated to these organizations.
The Belgian strategic plan is further evidence that European NGO funding needs fundamental reform. For many years, the EU and individual European governments have provided tens of millions of euros, kronor and pounds annually to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, under headings of development aid, human rights, international law, peace and democracy.
For many Israelis, including the actual representatives of Israeli democracy, European funding for these organizations is seen as a major source of political warfare, including boycotts, lawfare and, in some cases, antisemitism. The NGOs that produced the Belgian strategic plan are deeply involved in propaganda that singles out Israel. In addition to targeting pro-Israel voices, their planning document includes “advocacy work on the Belgian and European level” for campaigns such as “Made in Illegality… and organizing advocacy tours to Palestine and Israel for policy-makers.” “Made in Illegality” is a boycott effort led by the Belgian National Center for Cooperation Development.