A Clouded EU Presidency: Swedish Funding for NGO Rejectionism
- On July 1, 2009, Sweden will assume the presidency of the European Union. This report shows that in order to have a positive impact on Arab-Israeli peace efforts, Sweden cannot continue to fund radical pro-Palestinian NGOs.
- Swedish government funding for NGO activities under the guise of human rights and humanitarian aid is biased, highly political, and the details are often hidden.
- Many NGOs receive significant Swedish support from multiple sources: directly from the SIDA aid agency, via NDC (Ramallah), and from Swedish “framework” NGOs. Some groups also receive funding from the EU’s European Commission.
- There is no evidence of a detailed study to determine whether this money given to NGOs has accomplished any of the stated objectives.
- Sweden funds Diakonia’s International Humanitarian Law project, which promotes Palestinian political goals through a distorted and misleading interpretation of international law.
- Sweden also funded Sabeel’s Nakba Memory program in 2008 “to commemorate the Nakba [Catastrophe] of 1948, examine the current struggles for freedom, equality, and identity, and confront the continuing problems of the 1948 refugees.”
- Sweden is a main supporter of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – a leader in the NGO “lawfare” strategy of exploiting the universal jurisdiction to bring cases against Israeli officials alleging “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” Such activities fuel the conflict.
- The Palme Center falsely accuses Israel of “provok[ing] the al-Aqsa rising and the ‘Second Intifada,’” and “disproportionate violence against civilians, unlawful executions and torture.” The fighting in Gaza is also blamed on “the provocative Israeli occupation.”
- Other SIDA grantees, including the Alternative Information Center (AIC), Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), and Jerusalem Center for Women (JWC), demonize Israel with the rhetoric of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “massacres.”
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has been providing substantial aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since 2000. In 2008, these areas received SEK 455 million (~$59 million, over 70% of the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] budget). In 2007, they were the 7th highest recipient of SIDA funding in the world (out of SEK 15.4 billion worldwide; complete figures for 2008 are not yet available).
Through this funding, SIDA claims “to promote democracy and respect for human rights, especially in terms of equality,” and to “create opportunities for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and contribute to a democratic Palestinian state governed by law.” Sweden also provides “expert assistance to help strengthen the PLO’s negotiating structures to enable it to be an equal partner in the peace negotiations with Israel,” clearly taking the Palestinian position in the process.
SIDA’s website also asserts that funding for joint Israeli and Palestinian human rights campaigns “has helped to increase public support for a peaceful solution in both Israel and Palestine.” However, no evidence is provided for this questionable claim.
Swedish, Israeli, Palestinian, and international NGOs are funded by the Swedish government through three mechanisms:
- Grants channeled through Swedish NGOs;
- a multi-national framework, the NGO Development Center (NDC), which includes money from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands;
- direct funding to “organizations in partner countries.”
Overlap between these schemes is not uncommon, as shown below, suggesting a lack of responsible oversight by the Swedish government. Additionally, while SIDA maintains a database on the indirect support through Swedish groups, the NDC project and direct grants to local NGOs are not included. Due to this limited transparency, the information available to members of parliament, policy makers, and others, as well as the listings below, may not be comprehensive.
Grants channeled through Swedish NGOs
“Most of the [SIDA] support to the MENA region” is channeled through 14 Swedish “framework organizations,” including Diakonia, the Swedish Mission Council (SMR), the Olof Palme International Center (OPC) and Save the Children Sweden (Radda Barnen). These groups are responsible for transferring SIDA funds to local NGOs and overseeing project implementation.
Additionally, the framework organizations provide the information contained in the SIDA database, but the material is often inconsistent or missing. For instance, the “local implementing organisation(s)” is sometimes listed anonymously as “local NGO.”
Data in this section is from the SIDA database, unless otherwise noted.
1. Diakonia funding for NGOs
In 2008 and 2009, SIDA allocated over SEK 100 million annually to Diakonia, a self-described “Christian development organization” and Sweden’s largest humanitarian NGO. Diakonia oversees four projects in “Israel/Palestine”. Two of its programs, the Children’s Literature Program (18 million SEK from 2005-07) and the Rehabilitation Program (25 million SEK from 2008-09), appear to be genuine humanitarian projects. The bulk of Diakonia’s funding from SIDA, however, is spent on Civil Society Organizations (13.5 million SEK from 2008-10) and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (46.4 million SEK from 2006-09) programs (figures provided by Diakonia). The IHL program was created to influence public opinion, and presents a distorted and misleading interpretation of international law that promotes Palestinian political goals, such as “lawfare” against Israeli officials and foreign corporations doing business with Israel. This project primarily disseminates the Palestinian narrative.
Diakonia perpetuates the conflict through a paternalistic attitude toward Palestinian responsibility, blaming Israel for the failings of the Palestinian Authority: “[due to] the occupation and lack of peace in Palestine, it is not difficult to grasp the negligence of the Palestinian Government to implement the law of Disability eight years after it has been endorsed.”
Many of Diakonia’s partner organizations – Al Mezan, Al Haq, the Alternative Information Center, Sabeel, and others – are among the most extreme anti-Israel NGOs, erasing the context of terror, and employing inflammatory and at times, even antisemitic rhetoric. (For a detailed analysis see NGO Monitor, Diakonia: Exploiting International Law to Promote the Palestinian Cause, forthcoming July 2009.)
Alternative Information Center (AIC) 2004 – 2008. SEK 295,650 in 2008. AIC refers to the “Israeli occupation-regime” and the Arab-Israeli “colonial conflict.” AIC is against normalization with Israel, claiming that the collaboration of a Palestinian NGO with the Israeli Peres Center for Peace “is politically unacceptable, and morally disgusting. Shimon Peres is definitely an enemy of the Palestinian people, of human rights and of peace.” AIC officials participate in United Nations frameworks; have accused Israel of “genocide,” a “policy of ethnic cleansing,” and “apartheid”; and have also compared Israeli military and political officials to Nazis. (See AIC Profile, NGO Monitor, June 4, 2009)
Al Haq – Received SEK 3.2 million between 2006 – 2010, as part of Diakonia’s IHL program (also funded by NDC – see below). Al Haq is a leader of the “lawfare” movement, initiating lawsuits in Canada and the UK, and preparing “ready-to-be-used case files” for use against Israeli officials in foreign courts. Al Haq lists boycotts among its goals and objectives, and lobbied the EU to annul the upgrade of EU-Israel bilateral relations. General Director Shawan Jabarin has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan on account of his alleged ties to the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group. Co-founder Charles Shamas is a member of the Middle East–North Africa advisory board of Human Rights Watch, and has “advised the PLO/PNA on IHL-related diplomacy,” and publically compares Israeli policy to “apartheid” and “genocide.”
Sabeel 2006 – 2008. One 2008 Sabeel project, “The Nakba Memory, Reality and Beyond,” used SIDA funding (SEK 540,000) “to commemorate the Nakba of 1948, examine the current struggles for freedom, equality, and identity, and confront the continuing problems of the 1948 refugees”; “create a better understanding of the history of 1948, the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe)”; and “create a stronger civil society informed and concerned about the Nakba and who will work proactively inside Israel…on…the situation of second class citizenship for Palestinians.” This rhetoric supports Palestinian rejection of compromise, and works against the peace process that the Swedish government claims to support. Sabeel is a leader of the church divestment campaign, and director Naim Ateek employs antisemitic themes and imagery in sermons promoting his “Palestinian Liberation Theology.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) 2004 – 2008. SIDA contributed SEK 462,281 in 2008 and SEK 457,200 in 2009 to a two-year PHR-I project entitled “The Occupied Palestinian Territory, Prisoners & Detainees” claiming to “Protect the right to health of Palestinian in the Occupied Territories: Protect medical neutrality and the safety of medical premises and staff in the occupied territories, [and] Protect freedom of movement (access to health) of Palestinian patients, medical personnel and medical goods and conducting local and international advocacy.” PHR-I campaigns include the unsupported claim that Israel is required to provide “free access to health services” in the Palestinian Authority, and that Israel is responsible for the PA’s decision to suspend payments for Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals. This political NGO is also lobbying against the upgrade of EU-Israel relations.
Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) 2004 – 2008. Received SEK 113,959 in 2008. WATC’s plainly stated ideology is that “the social struggle for the full emancipation of all members of the Palestinian society…must go hand in hand with the national struggle for the liberation of Palestine.” A WATC newsletter asserts that “[t]he Israeli occupation has continued building its wall of apartheid and segregation.” In a letter entitled “Stop Israeli Massacres and the Zionist aggressions on the Gaza Strip immediately,” WATC irresponsibly labeled the Gaza conflict “a war of extermination.”
Harvard’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR), “IHL in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory” – SEK 2.8 million in 2006 – 2010. SIDA, via Diakonia, funds HPCR International’s Humanitarian Policy & Law Forum, operated in conjunction with Harvard University’s School of Public Health. The IHL component was developed “in consultation” with the UN, and aims “to improve access to balanced information on international law and to promote the integration of legal and humanitarian analysis in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Roadmap framework.” In reality, this program promotes the Palestinian agenda behind an academic façade, based on a distortion and manipulation of international law. Its “web portal” contains “policy briefs” that claim to “analyze” IHL on certain aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, yet invariably conclude that Israel is violating international law. The forum is also a major promoter of the non-serious argument that Gaza remains “occupied” after the Disengagement. (For a detailed analysis, see NGO Monitor’s report on this program forthcoming July 2009.)
Other NGOs funded by SIDA-Diakonia include: B’Tselem and Al Mezan (see below), the “Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” (implemented by Health Work Committees) and “Research Study Mental Health Effects of the Apartheid Wall on Pales[tinians]” (implemented by Arab Center for Counseling and Education).
2. Swedish Mission Council (SMR) funding for NGOs
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) SEK 97,461 in 2008. PMRS uses loaded language to delegitimize Israel and perpetuate distrust. The president of the PMRS, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, referred to the Gaza conflict as a “horrendous massacre,” and used terms like “ghetto”, and “apartheid” rhetoric on a radio program. PMRS refers to the security barrier as the “apartheid Wall,” and claimed that Israel employs a “racist ideology” and inflicts “collective punishment” on the Palestinians. All of these activities in support of the Palestinian position are inconsistent with the foundations of compromise and peace.
3. Olof Palme International Center (OPC) funding for NGOs
The Palme Center, established in 1992 by the Swedish Social Democratic Party and trade unions, promotes an overwhelmingly Palestinian narrative of the conflict. The Palme Center makes the absurd statement accusing Israel of “provok[ing] the al-Aqsa rising and the “Second Intifada,” “contribut[ing] to a chaotic security situation” in Gaza following the Disengagement, and “disproportionate violence against civilians, unlawful executions and torture.” Only “Israeli attacks” are mentioned; Palestinian violence, including thousands of rocket attacks and internal violence, is ignored and accepted. The fighting in Gaza is also blamed on “the provocative Israeli occupation” alone.
Jerusalem Center for Women (JWC) 2006 – 2009. Over SEK 690,000 in 2008-9. JWC claims “to stand against to the unjust occupation, oppression, war, apartheid, humiliation, and poverty affecting Palestinian women.” A “fact sheet” refers to Israeli “illegal evict[ion]” of Palestinian families “so that settlers can take up residency,” and refers to the “Annexation wall.” JWC designed posters with provocative slogans, such as “Ethnic Cleansing in East Jerusalem,” “Stop the Apartheid Wall,” and “Stop the Judaization of Jerusalem.”
4. Save the Children Sweden – Radda Barnen (SCS) funding for NGOs
Defense for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS) 2004 – 2009. DCI-PS regularly exploits the rhetoric of children’s rights, manipulates international law, and campaigns against Israel in the UN and other international frameworks. For example, in a statement to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (September 29, 2007) DCI/PS condemned Israel for “deliberate targeting of civilians” in Lebanon, “terrorizing the civilian population” in Gaza and “collective punishment.” DCI-PS endorsed the call for BDS against Israel, and refers to Israeli “racism,” promotes the Palestinian narrative of “nakba” and the “right of return” as “a natural and legal right.” Swedish government funding for these activities fuel the conflict and constitute a major obstacle to peace.
Addameer (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) 2009. Addameer refers to the Israeli army as the “Israeli Occupying Forces,” and accuses Israel of “collective punishment” and a “policy of using Palestinian prisoners as pawns to achieve political and military gains.” Addameer endorsed the call for BDS against Israel, which calls for “[e]nding [Israel’]s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall,” and compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, in a manner consistent with the Durban Strategy of anti-Israel demonization and the use of soft-power warfare.
5. NDC funding for NGOs
In July 2008, the NGO Development Center (NDC – Ramallah) received $6 million from the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands. NDC in turn, distributed these funds to 25 Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, using tax money to support the inherently biased criteria of “organizations that monitor, document and report on violations by the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian human rights” and the potential for “lawfare” – “legal representations and litigation related to individual cases of human rights violations” (pg. 3). No information on the level of oversight (if any) by Sweden and the other donor countries could be found.
NDC “facilitated” and funded the “Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct,” a document that rejects “any normalization activities with the occupier, neither at the political-security nor the cultural or developmental levels. No endeavor would be carried out if it undermines the inalienable Palestinian rights of establishing statehood and the return of the refugees to their original homes.”
NDC funding recipients include:
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – $400,000. PCHR regularly refers to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.” Following the deaths of five children in a “work accident” (during the preparation of an explosive device) the NGO condemned “the danger of storage of explosives in residential areas by Palestinian resistance groups,” and suggested that “IOF are involving through planting a booby-trapped explosive device inside the house” (sic). PCHR is also a leader in the “lawfare” strategy of exploiting the universal jurisdiction statutes in democratic countries in order to bring cases against Israeli political and military officials for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” During the Gaza war, this NGO published accusations of Israeli “collective punishment” and “indiscriminate killing and continued systematic destruction of all the Palestinian institutions and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip,” and blamed the “international donor” community for “bankrolling the occupation” and of “complicity in Israeli violations of international law.” In 2007, PCHR listed SIDA as a funder (pg. 6), but not in 2008 when it received NDC support. There is no indication of any assessment by the Swedish government regarding the benefits resulting from the funds provided to PCHR.
Al Haq – $500,000. See above.
Al Mezan – $500,000. Al Mezan claims “[t]o protect, respect and promote the internationally accepted standards of human rights.” However, its activities and reports indicate that this NGO‘s main activities are focused on political campaigns directed against Israel, rather than on promoting universal not human rights. Al Mezan consistently refers to the Israeli army as the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF), erasing the context of Palestinian terror, and delegitimizing Israeli self-defense. Al Mezan promotes allegations of “Israeli massacres,” “slaughtering civilians,” “scandalous war crimes,” and “despicable disregard to civilian life,” and fails to condemn Hamas’ use of human shields and illegal rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
Badil –$100,000. Badil is a leading actor in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and has called for a “targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation.” Badil has also referred to “Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,” “state-sponsored racism,” and “systematic ethnic cleansing,” and claims that “[i]nstitutionalized racism and discrimination” is the “root cause…of the ongoing internal forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.”
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC – Mossada) – $165,000. JLAC claims to “[d]efend the Palestinian victims of human rights violations; with accordance to the Palestinian laws and the international law…via legal aid and legal representation”. JLAC published a report entitled, “Rats in the maze: Freedom of Movement in the OPT,” which refers to Israeli “crimes,” “apartheid,” and “collective punishment.” JLAC also wrote a 34-page report calling on the US to freeze military aid to Israel.
NDC also funds other highly political NGOs: B’Tselem ($450,000), ICAHD ($80,000), HaMoked ($500,000), and the Palestinian NGO Network ($130,000).
6. Direct SIDA funding for NGOs
SIDA also directly funds Swedish and local NGOs (12% of the MENA allocations in 2007, see pg. 42), as distinct from the various funding mechanisms examined above. As noted above, this aspect of SIDA funding lacks transparency and accountability.
Diakonia – see above.
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) – Paris-based FIDH received $813,747 from SIDA for a project in the “human rights” sector; it will either be renewed or end in August 2009. Details about the project’s connection to the Middle East are unavailable, but it should be noted that FIDH official Raji Sourani is also director of PCHR (also funded by Sweden, see above). During the Gaza war FIDH claimed that “[t]he operations of the Israeli Army constitute at the least war crimes, if not crimes against humanity.” FIDH has also joined calls for the freezing of the EU-Israel Association agreement due to Israeli “violations of human rights and IHL” and accused Israel of “collective punishment against civilians in Gaza”. FIDH published “A Step by Step Approach to the Use of Universal Jurisdiction in Western European States,” a guide for promoting “lawfare” – the use of democratic courts to bring “war crimes” cases against Israeli officials. Indeed, as noted, FIDH member PCHR is a leader in the “lawfare” movement.
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) – PCATI lists SIDA as a donor on its website; it also received a $240,000 grant from the NDC. PCATI claims to lobby for prisoner rights and against torture. While it extensively criticizes alleged Israeli abuses, the group has done virtually no campaigning to uphold the rights of Gilad Shalit – held incommunicado by Hamas for three years. PCATI often lobbies in international forums to promote its one-sided, politicized agenda. For instance, in a report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture, PCATI accuses Israel of attacks on “civilians and civilian objects” during the Gaza fighting, though the NGO openly admits that these topics “do not per se fall under the [Torture] Convention.”
Overlap between different frameworks for Swedish NGO funding
In 2008 and 2009, many NGOs received funds from different frameworks within the Swedish government. For politicized NGOs that contravene the claimed Swedish goals of “creat[ing] opportunities for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” this raises questions of government oversight in funding processes. For genuine humanitarian projects, this phenomenon increases the bureaucratic overhead and waste that does not reach the organizations and suffering people who need the aid. Efficiency, accountability and transparency should be required of all publically-funded NGOs.
It is noteworthy that the Palestinian NGOs listed here are also members of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO – see above), which means that they benefit from Swedish funding in yet an additional way.
|NGO||Direct Gov't/SIDA||NGO Development Center (NDC)||SIDA via Swedish NGO (from database)|
|Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW)||$30,000||SEK 31,296(2009) via OPC
SEK 374,373 (2008) via OPC (2 separate grants)
|Defense for Children International- Palestinian Section (DCI-PS)||$450,000||SEK 2,161,000(2009) via SCS*
SEK 1,144,000(2009) via SCS**
SEK 740,000 (2008) via SCS (2 separate grants)
|Addameer||$250,000||SEK2,161,000(2009) via SCS*|
|Al-Haq||$500,000||$158,000(pg.10) (2008) via Diakonia|
|Al-Mezan||$500,000||SEK 1.1 million (2007-9) via Diakonia|
|B'Tselem||$450,000||SEK 4.4 million (2006-8) via Diakonia|
|Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I)||$125,000||SEK 457, 200(2009) via Diakonia
SEK 462,281(2008) via Diakonia
|Women's Affairs Technical Committee (WATC)||$100,000||SEK 113,959(2008) via Diakonia|
|Public Committee against Torture (PCATI)||PCATI Website+||$240,000(and PCATI Website)|
|Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)||SIDA Website++||SEK 97,461(2008) via SMR|
*grant shared with several other NGOs, breakdown not provided
**grant shared with International Bureau for Children’s Rights, breakdown not provided
+SIDA is listed as a donor; no details on years or amounts are available.
++ “Sida supports the health programme run by the Palestinian Medical Relief Service (PMRS).” No details on years or amounts are available on this webpage. It is unclear whether this refers to the funding via SMR or a separate grant.
On July 1, 2009 Sweden assumes the presidency of the European Union. As this detailed report indicates, Sweden’s role in funding numerous highly politicized NGOs fuels the conflict, rather than advancing the stated goals of promoting peace, democracy and development. The lack of independent oversight in the use of taxpayer funds, as shown in this analysis, is especially troubling at a time when accountability is receiving increasing emphasis. In addition, these NGO funding policies are not consistent with the efforts by the EU and member states to play a more central and constructive role in promoting peace negotiations based on compromise, and addressing the concerns of all the parties to the conflict.
As NGO Monitor’s analysis reveals, the Swedish government funds NGOs that pursue Palestinian political goals under the guise of “human rights” and “international law,” and demonize Israel with the inflammatory rhetoric of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “massacres.” In addition to compounding Israeli mistrust of the role of the EU, which stems in part from support for NGOs that exclusively promote a Palestinian agenda and engage in biased anti-Israel activities, the delegitimization of Israel contradicts Sweden’s stated goals for the region. In order to play a positive role as a European leader in assisting the constructive change necessary to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, Sweden’s NGO funding practices and priorities will need to change.
Correspondence with the Swedish government
As of publication, NGO Monitor was still awaiting SIDA’s response.
The Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv elected not to comment on a draft of this report.