[Opinion] Time to Talk to the EU about NGO Funding

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The disagreement between EU Vice President Federica Mogherini and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan over EU funding for Israel and Palestinian political NGOs has been a long time coming, and is likely to intensify with more charges and counter-charges. An EU program involving tens of millions of euros annually, which has continued for 20 years and involves core issues of peace, war, human rights and democracy is bound to create friction and controversy.

The angry exchange was launched with a 40-page heavily illustrated report published by Erdan’s office on extensive European Union funding for NGOs “with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel,” according to the title. Mogherini responded on July 5, asserting the allegations were “vague and unsubstantiated,” and that “of the 13 organizations listed… six do not receive EU funding of activities in Palestine, and none receives EU funds for BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] activity.”

As with most such disputes, there is some truth on both sides, in addition to spin, definitional distinctions and mistakes. The Israeli report lists 13 NGO projects linked to delegitimization that are directly funded by the EU, and four more recipients which receive substantial EU money indirectly through funds originally provided to aid and church groups and from there, channeled to the anti-Israel frameworks. Some of the claims in the Erdan report are unverified, based on outdated information, and confuse similar-sounding NGOs, while Mogherini’s allegation regarding the six is unclear and may itself be incorrect.