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Although it happened 10,000 miles (16,000 km) away, last week’s vote in favor of a boycott against Israeli companies by Britain’s fifth-largest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, has an underlying Australian connection. The Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) is an active member of the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israel (BDS), and contributed to the campaign targeting the UK Co-operative group. UAWC officials also “called on other European supermarkets to take similar steps.”

Who funds UAWC? The Australian government, through AusAid’s funding program with World Vision Australia.

This funding raises serious concerns about oversight and supervision in Australian government development mechanisms.

Certainly the UAWC support of this boycott, which could affect £350,000 in annual trade with Israel, is entirely contradictory to Australian government policy. Indeed, World Vision International, the umbrella group for all World Visions programs, has frequently violated Australian policy by promoting crude anti-Israel propaganda in UN frameworks. These political activities, under the guise of “humanitarian aid”, are highly destructive and inconsistent with efforts to build the mutual understanding, cooperation and coexistence that is essential for peace in the region.

In this instance, the UK Co-op is ending purchases from four Israeli companies, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, that actually help Palestinian businessmen and women export their goods and make a profit. This boycott directly hurts their businesses and the Palestinian economy – the clearest example of the counterproductive and immoral nature of the global campaign to boycott Israel, whose leaders seek to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

BDS in all of its forms not only singles out Israel, but also violates the EU Working Definition of Antisemitism by 1) “Deny[ing] the Jewish people their right to self-determination, (e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor);” 2) “Us[ing] the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis;” and 3) “Draw[ing] comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Given the lack of transparency regarding the money provided to UAWC, Australian taxpayers were most likely unaware of this exploitation.  Unfortunately, this example of government-provided funding to political advocacy NGOs that work against official policies is not unique.

Substantial AusAID funding is channeled through Australian NGO intermediaries to NGOs that claim a “human rights” mandate, but in reality pursue agendas counterproductive to peace. In fact, numerous Australian-funded NGOs are active in BDS and other demonization campaigns.

For example, along with funding World Vision Australia, in 2010-2011 AusAID provided $5.5 million to APHEDA, Actionaid Australia, and CARE Australia. This funding is conducted within the framework of the Australia Middle East NGO Co-operation Program, which claims the noble goal of “improving food security and the livelihoods of Palestinians and strengthening the community organisations that provide them with basic services.”

But the humanitarian-themed mission statement belies an ideologically driven agenda that fuels the conflict and fails to promote humanitarian objectives. Along with partnering with organizations that promote boycotts and “lawfare” against Israeli officials, APHEDA campaigns for an immoral and one-sided arms embargo that would impair Israeli defence against terror attacks, repeats demonising “apartheid” language, and endorses the so-called Palestinian “right of return”, which is a façade for destroying Israel as the Jewish nation-state.

Australia, as with numerous European governments and the EU, would benefit from independent accountability and transparency mechanisms to ensure that funding is not utilized by NGOs for these purposes. This misguided support does more than provide a lifeline for groups to sustain or expand highly politicised activities; it also is a stamp of approval when they seek additional funding for other projects and from other sources.

The realization that Australian-funded UAWC played a role in the Co-Op boycott highlights the need for close examination of all such NGO expenditures. Australian taxpayers certainly do not want to fund groups whose destructive activities run entirely counter to the policies and principles of their government – and to efforts to pursue peace in the region.

Jason Edelstein is communications director of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and to encouraging civil discussion on the reports and activities of nongovernmental organizations, particularly in the Middle East.