Analysis of Dutch Government Funding for Israeli and Palestinian Political Advocacy NGOs
The section of this report on Breaking the Silence (BtS) was expanded on November 1, 2011 to reflect correspondence from the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv (May 3, 2011).
- The Dutch government funds numerous Israeli and Palestinian NGOs through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy in Tel Aviv, and Representative Office in Ramallah (RO), and indirectly by outsourcing to Dutch aid organizations such as ICCO and Oxfam NOVIB. Many of the NGOs are actively promoting the Durban strategy in attacking Israel.
- In response to this report, the Dutch government emphasized that BDS and incitement against Israel are contrary to Dutch policy, and that failure to end these activities may result in a cessation of funding from the Dutch government.
- In 2009, direct Dutch government funding alone amounted to €10 million, transferred by the Embassy and the RO to local NGOs. The amount of Dutch government funds allocated to political NGOs indirectly is not available.
- NGOs funded by the Dutch government in 2009 that specifically promote boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns:
- Funded directly: Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS), Machsom Watch, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC).
- Funded via the NGO Development Center (NDC) (see below): Addameer, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, BADIL, DCI-PS, Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Ma’an Development Center, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).
- Funded via aid organizations: Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), BADIL, DCI-PS, Democracy and Worker’s Rights Center, Electronic Intifada (EI), Holy Land Trust, ICAHD, Ma’an Development Center, Miftah, Sabeel, Stop the Wall, Coalition of Women for Peace.
- NGOs receiving Dutch government funding, directly or indirectly, include:
- The NGO Development Center (NDC) in Ramallah – approximately $24 million between 2008 and 2013 to distribute to local NGOs on behalf of the Dutch government and three other donor countries. The NDC encourages grantees to adopt the “Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct,” which rejects “any normalization activities with the occupier” (emphasis added).
- Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) – €7,643,368 in 2009 from the RO for the project “The Early Recovery Program II” (2010-2012.) This very large allocation allows PARC to engage in intensive political advocacy activities. PARC falsely accuses Israel of “savage… massacres” in Jenin and Nablus, and “war crime[s].” The organization has also signed petitions calling for BDS against Israel and the boycott of Israeli academia.
- BADIL – funded indirectly through aid frameworks supported by the Dutch government. BADIL has published antisemitic cartoons on its website, and uses inflammatory rhetoric, referring to “Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,” “state sponsored racism,” and “systematic ethnic cleansing.” It also promotes the so-called “Palestinian right of return,” and explicitly rejects the “Roadmap for Peace” and the Arab Peace Initiative.
- Al-Haq – received approx. $800,000 in 2009 from three different channels. Al-Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin is allegedly active in the PFLP terror group. In June 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court labeled him “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” – a human rights worker by day and a terrorist by night.
- Breaking the Silence (BtS) – obtained a grant of €19,999 from the Embassy in Tel Aviv in 2008. (The grant was one euro less than the €20,000 threshold requiring formal approval from The Hague.)
- Electronic Intifada (EI) – €150,000 from Dutch aid organization ICCO between 2006 and 2009. EI regularly publishes articles endorsing BDS, accusing Israel of “war crimes,” advocating a “one state solution,” and using Holocaust rhetoric against Israel. ICCO has defended its support for EI despite severe criticism from the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2011.
- Ittijah – funded by Dutch aid organization Cordaid from 2003 (or earlier) until 2010. It is one of the most radical Israeli Arab groups. In 2011, ICCO and Cordaid defended the Ittijah Director Ameer Makhoul following his conviction as a Hezbollah spy, falsely claiming that his “conviction was based solely on a statement by Makhoul under pressure.”
- Many NGOs receive Dutch Government funding from multiple frameworks, indicating a lack of oversight and transparency in the system. For example, the Israeli NGO, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), receives funding from: the Netherlands Embassy, Dutch aid organizations (ICCO, Cordaid), and the NDC. Similarly, the Palestinian NGO, Al-Haq, is funded via the RO, Dutch aid organizations (ICCO, Kerk in Actie), and the NDC.
- Subsequent to completion of this report, the Dutch government released funding details regarding direct 2010 grants. Al Haq, Al Mezan, PCHR, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, and Breaking the Silence were not funded in 2010. DCI-PS’ and PCATI’s grants were reduced significantly relative to 2009.
The Netherlands provides millions of euros annually to Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in political advocacy and politicized attacks. Support for Palestinian civil society is one of the goals of Netherlands’ development aid, to achieve “the realization of a viable and democratic Palestinian state, as part of a two-state solution based on the Roadmap for Peace.” In this context, the Dutch MFA stresses the “promotion of human rights and democracy” and “good governance.”
However, many of these groups actively counter the Dutch foreign policy commitment to a two-state solution, with a “Jewish State of Israel” and a Palestinian state co-existing in peace. Some NGOs also promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, which is also explicitly rejected by the Dutch government.
As detailed below, many of the NGO grantees use demonizing rhetoric, falsely accusing Israel of “apartheid,” “war crimes,” and “genocide.” Some grantees also lead “lawfare” cases against Israeli officials and companies that do business with Israel.
Dutch government funds are distributed to local NGOs via the Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Representative Office in Ramallah. Additionally, a significant amount of indirect government funding is channeled through Dutch civil society organizations, whose projects are supposed to advance the Dutch foreign policy, and the NGO Development Center (NDC) in Ramallah.
Many of the same NGOs receive Dutch government funding from multiple frameworks. For example, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) receives funding from: the Netherlands Embassy, the Netherlands Representative Office, three Dutch aid organizations, and the NDC. Due to a lack of transparency, it cannot be determined which projects and activities are funded with the various grants.
NGOs that receive direct Netherlands funding include the Al Haq, Al Mezan, Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-PS), Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI), Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, Bimkom, HaMoked, and Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Indirect Dutch government support is channeled through Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Oxfam Novib, Kerk in Actie (KIA – Church in Action), and Cordaid. These groups, in turn, fund NGOs including the Coalition of Women for Peace, BADIL, and EI (via ICCO); Sabeel and Al-Mezan (KIA); and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Adalah (Oxfam Novib).
The problematic nature of indirect funding was highlighted in November 2010, when NGO Monitor revealed that the ICCO supported EI using Dutch government funds. In response, Foreign Minister Rosenthal stated that, due to this funding, “[ICCO] will have a serious problem with me.”
The Netherlands, together with Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark, established the Human Rights and Good Governance Secretariat run by the NDC in Ramallah. The 2010-2013 Dutch contribution to the NDC is $4.5 million. The program funds “41 NGOs from the West Bank/Gaza and Israel,” including: B’Tselem ($680,000), HaMoked ($680,000), BADIL ($575,000), Adalah ($170,000), Miftah ($110,000), Al-Haq ($134,000), ICAHD ($76,000) and PCHR ($425,000).
Direct Dutch funding
(Information on direct funding by the Dutch Government was not available online until January 2011, and at the time of preparing this report, the MFA had not published figures for 2010.)
In correspondence with NGO Monitor (December 15, 2010), the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Representative Office in Ramallah reported that Israeli NGOs received €597,111 and Palestinian NGOs €1,890,876 in 2008. In 2009, the funding for Israeli NGOs decreased to €222,326, but support for Palestinian NGOs was €9,625,944, including a €7,643,638 grant for PARC (see below).
Some of the directly-funded NGOs focus on human rights and development. However, a significant number of groups promote radical agendas and politicized campaigns that are inconsistent with Dutch policy of supporting a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict.
Direct Funding for Israeli and Palestinian Political Advocacy NGOs
In 2008 and 2009, politicized Israeli NGOs receiving direct Dutch Government funding included: Machsom Watch, BtS, Yesh Din, PHRI, Bimkom, PCATI, and ACRI. In the same period, Palestinian NGOs PARC, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, and DCI-PS were also directly funded.
Funding for NGOs that do not appear to engage in delegitimization included: Adam Institute (€15,148 in 2008, €3,787 in 2009), Isha l’Isha (€16,000 in 2009), the Jaffa Institute (€19,584), Beit Hagefen (€2,000 in 2008), Merchavim (€60,000 in 2008, €15,000 in 2009), Israel Tennis Center (€3,650 in 2008), Peres Center for Peace (two grants in 2008: €4,350 and €154,087, in 2009 €4,800) and Lamitnedev (€8,000 in 2008).
Whereas the Israeli NGOs, with one exception, receive funding for specific programs, a number of the Palestinian NGOs are funded for their “core programs.” The Dutch support, therefore, serves mainly to bolster these NGOs and their political campaigns, as detailed below.
Israeli political advocacy NGOs – current and recently funded
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
PCATI received funding (€19,500 in 2009) for “Integrating Israeli Peripheries, the Struggle Against Torture and a Discourse of Democratic Values.” No additional information regarding the project and its purpose, implementation, or progress is available.
PCATI engages in highly political activities, including supporting the arrest and prosecution of Israeli officials in European courts. PCATI has lobbied the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open investigations against Israeli officials. PCATI also signed a petition to the Spanish Government opposing the “resolution that limits the exercise of universal jurisdiction of the Spanish courts” – a law that had been exploited against Israeli officials. CEO Ishai Menuchin is a vocal proponent of these politicized cases, writing, “it is appropriate that they be investigated and that justice be served with their perpetrators in different courts.”
An official from the NGO testified in Geneva before the Goldstone Committee, where they referred to Israel’s “unacceptable collective punishment” and to Palestinian “martyrs.” Similarly, PCATI’s submission to the UN’s Committee Against Torture accused Israel of “deliberate and indiscriminate” attacks on “civilians and civilian objects,” even though the organization openly admitted that these topics “do not per se fall under the [Torture] Convention.”
Yesh Din received several grants (€139,000 and €6,658 in 2008; €28,000 in 2009) for a “West Bank Law Enforcement” project. This project may also be related to a Yesh Din strategy document entitled, “Law enforcement against security forces: Concept 2011-2012.” Leaked to Yisrael Hayom, Israel’s most widely-read daily, the document details a project to “encourage the entry of the topic of war criminals into the legal discourse relating to the actions of security forces in the occupied territories.”
Yesh Din claims to protect human rights by issuing reports on human rights abuses in the West Bank and petitioning the Israeli High Court of Justice, particularly on security issues. In December 2010, internal documents from Yesh Din revealed efforts to file police complaints against Israelis knowingly without proper evidence. Other documents expose Yesh Din’s plans to advance “war crimes” accusations against Israeli soldiers. Other tactics include plans to “turn to foreign courts” to sue the Israeli Government on behalf of Palestinians.
Machsom Watch received funding (€47,250 in 2008; €7,750 in 2009) for a project called “Court Watch.”1 According to founding member Ronnie Yaeger, the aim is to “watch the proceedings at Israeli military courts.” The NGO claims that “the courts bestow a semblance of legality on the brutality of the occupation.”
A report published as part of the “court vigil” alleges that Israel and its “security apparatus has coerced four children from the village to become denouncers in its persistence to break the non-violent struggle against the Separation Fence,” drawing a false analogy that “[u]sing children to incriminate people resembles the recruitment of child soldiers.”
The organization also uses demonizing rhetoric such as “apartheid roads” and “racism and militarism spread like an epidemic.”
Breaking the Silence (BtS)
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, an “internal investigation” by the Dutch Foreign Ministry “showed that the embassy in Israel gave Breaking the Silence 19,995 euros to help put together its 2009 report, which discusses Operation Cast Lead and was released earlier this month. Had this figure been five euros higher, it would have required approval from The Hague.” (The booklet lists the EU and Spain as funders for the specific project, but includes the phrase, “The content and opinions expressed in this booklet do not represent… the Government of the Netherlands.”) The anonymous claims in the book have been used uncritically, including by the Goldstone Report, to condemn and accuse Israel of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” According to the Ha’aretz article, “Sources say [Dutch FM] Verhagen reproached senior figures in the Dutch Foreign Ministry upon learning this.”
In contrast, the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv provided a different amount and denied the claims of the Ha’aretz article. According to the embassy, “media reports have erroneously made mention of the existence of [a threshold requiring approval from The Hague] at €25,000 , based on the fact that, in 2008, this embassy has supported a project of Breaking the Silence (BTS) at €24,999. It was insinuated that the embassy willingly supported the project with an amount that was €1 lower than the alleged threshold, in order to avoid having to obtain prior approval from the ministry. The truth is that no ministerial approval is required for the allocation of delegated funds” (emphasis added). The BtS grant was for a project called “Education for Change: Reducing Human Rights Violations in Hebron by Raising Awareness and Empowerment.”
BtS publishes what it claims are testimonies from Israeli soldiers. These testimonies, stripped of context, are anonymous and often based on hearsay. BtS officials travel widely to address European parliamentary groups, church organizations and university campuses in the United States to promote their allegations.
NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of the December 2010 BtS compilation shows that only 30 of 183 testimonies could potentially be independently verified based on the details provided. Claims of “war crimes” are widely used in attempts to criminalize Israeli self-defense, press for foreign prosecution of Israeli officials, and impose sanctions against Israel. The group also conducts political “tours” in the highly sensitive environment of Hebron to support their claim that there exists “a reality of Apartheid and a kind of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”
Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
ACRI received funding (€43,000 in 2008) for a project on “The Right to Water.” The project aims to influence Israeli policy: “Through legal efforts, public outreach initiatives and advocacy among decision makers, ACRI strives to bring about the enforcement of Israel’s legal obligations to ensure that Palestinians have access to an adequate water supply in their current places of residence.”
ACRI claims to monitor Israel’s human rights “by addressing violations committed by the Israeli authorities in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or elsewhere”. Through political and ideological advocacy, ACRI accuses Israel of “collective punishment,” and claims that the security barrier is a “clear violation of international law.” It makes accusations of racism, even in cases where policies are not discriminatory, such as random checks by the Israeli tax authority. ACRI contends that “defining the State of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ in a binding article in the constitution is problematic, on the theoretical and practical levels.” Supreme Court Chief Justice Beinisch rebuked ACRI for falsely employing “apartheid” rhetoric in a petition challenging a security measure.
Bimkom received funding (€6,353 in 2008) for “Promoting Human Rights in Planning Through Education and Public Outreach.” No information about this specific project is available, though it seems to be part of Bimkom’s core program.
Bimkom seeks to “strengthen democracy and human rights in the field of planning,” which has encompassed criticizing Israel’s planning procedures, and trying to “retroactively legalize illegal construction in Arab neighborhoods” of Jerusalem. Although it claims to work with both Jewish and Arab populations, all campaigns and key projects address Palestinian and Arab communities. Bimkom regularly responds to events outside its stated mission and participates in political action unrelated to planning rights, such as petitioning against “collective punishment” in Gaza, and accusing the Israeli army of targeting Palestinian medical teams and ambulances. The organization was part of an NGO-coalition that submitted several statements to the Goldstone Report.
Palestinian political advocacy NGOs – current and recently funded
Al-Haq received €183,747 in 2008 and €25,500 in 2009 for “Al Haq core programme 2006-2008” (it is unclear how funding in 2009 was granted for projects in 2008). Israel has repeatedly denied Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin exit visas because of his alleged ties to the PFLP terror group. He was convicted in 1985 of recruiting members on behalf of the PFLP, and served nine months in an Israeli prison for arranging PFLP training outside Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court in June 2007 referred to him as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a human rights worker by day and a terrorist by night. Subsequent decisions by the Court in 2008, 2009, and 2010 have reiterated this conclusion.
Al-Haq, in a publication entitled “Racial Discrimination and Apartheid in the Israeli-Palestinian Context,” falsely claims that “Israel’s practices and policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians constitute apartheid” and that “this can be legally argued.”
As one of the leaders of “lawfare” campaigns, Al-Haq, together with Al-Mezan (see below) attempted to have Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrested in the UK in September 2009. The petition, which alleged that “Barak committed and/or ordered, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,” was rejected by the British court the same day it was filed.
Al-Haq also used a Dutch court to file a criminal complaint against the Dutch corporation, Riwal in March 2010. The criminal complaint alleged that the company was complicit “in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity through its construction of the Annexation Wall, ‘the Wall,’ and illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank”. The lawsuit is another attempt by the NGO to judicially “enforce” the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Israel’s security barrier, even though that decision was a highly controversial political pronouncement that has no binding effect.
Al-Haq is also an active participant in BDS campaigns to isolate Israel internationally.
Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
The largest single grant to an NGO went to PARC: €7,643,368 in 2009. The program – The Early Recovery Program II – runs from June 2010–May 2012. According to PARC, it aims “to respond to the early recovery needs and enhancing the livelihood for poor families and agricultural lands in the Gaza strip.”
PARC operates a range of agricultural, economic and social projects in the West Bank and Gaza, primarily devoted to rural development. However, it is also involved in political advocacy campaigns utilizing demonizing rhetoric, including referring to the IDF as the “occupation army” and using “apartheid” and other racially charged language: “The occupation continued its aggression, settlement policies, building of the Apartheid Wall, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the siege and restriction of the entire Palestinian people movements on the checkpoints that aim to penetrate and disrupt the unity of collective, national and liberal consciences.” It falsely accuses Israel of “war crime[s],” and erases the context of terror which necessitates security measures: “The creation of the so-called ‘buffer zone’ land is considered one of the most Israeli practices in violation of the provisions of international law that constitutes war crime [sic].”
In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian terror campaign, PARC made false and inflammatory claims of Israeli “savage…massacres” in Jenin and Nablus. Israeli security measures following several massive suicide bombings killing hundreds and injuring thousands were labeled “aggressive policies… to force the Palestinians to accept the Israeli solution of the political problem, and to undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian’s establishing an independent state.” PARC also accused Israel of a “policy of killing, wounding, and detaining thousands of Palestinians,” while erasing the context of terrorism.
PARC publicly supports BDS: “PARC salutes all activists and international supporters for the BDS campaign and especially our French friends and partners who were able to frustrate the Agrexco attempt to conduct a joint press conference with a few exploited Palestinian producers.” PARC has also signed petitions calling for BDS against Israel and in support of the campaign for boycotting Israeli academia.
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS)
DCI-PS (€97,515 in 2008 and €124,100 in 2009 for “core funding… 2007-09”), claims to be dedicated to “promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children.” Like other NGOs, they use the language of demonization, including falsely accusing Israel of “targeting unarmed children.”
The NGO advocates for issues beyond children’s rights, including promoting the return of Palestinian refugees into Israel, lobbying for international sanctions against Israel, and accusing Israel of “war crimes” at the United Nations Human Rights Council. DCI-PS published a poster referring to Israeli security measurements as “a central pillar of the Apartheid-like system of discrimination in place in these areas.” DCI-PS is also active in BDS campaigns.
During and after the Gaza War, DCI-PS was part of the network of political advocacy NGOs promoting the unsupported allegation that the vast majority of Palestinian casualties were civilians. On April 14, 2010, DCI-PS published a list alleging that 352 children died “as a direct result of Israel’s military offensive” even though several of these individuals were actually involved in combat. DCI-PS’s figures were further discredited in November 2010, when Hamas Interior Minister Fathi admitted that 600-700 Hamas members were killed in the Gaza fighting – more than double the number of combatants published by the NGOs.
Al-Mezan received €129,113 in 2008 and €9,725 in 2009 for “core programme 2006-2008” (it is unclear how funding in 2009 was granted for projects in 2008). Al-Mezan pursues a radical anti-Israel agenda, including promoting claims of “Israeli war crimes,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “aggression against civilians,” “Israeli massacres,” and “slaughtering civilians.” The organization also offensively employs Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric (a violation of EU antisemitism guidelines), referring to Israel “inciting a holocaust (genocide).” Al-Mezan refers to the security barrier as the “Apartheid Wall.”
Together with Al-Haq (see above), the organization leads “lawfare” attacks against Israel.
Al-Mezan is a signatory to the 2005 call for BDS against Israel as a member of the PNGO network.
Indirect Dutch Government funding
The Netherlands channels a significant amount of its NGO funding via “co-financing mechanisms” involving Dutch aid organizations. For 2011, a total of €3.5 billion was available via co-financing. The Dutch government announced that in 2012 it will reduce this budget to €1.6 billion.
Co-financing is intended to advance Dutch government policy on “Good governance, human rights and peace building.”
As part of this co-financing program, Dutch aid organizations apply for funding from the Dutch government. The aid organizations, in turn, support their projects and transfer the funds to partner NGOs.
In this complex system, funding may be channeled through numerous offices before reaching the local NGOs. One of the consequences is a lack of oversight and awareness by the Dutch government of the projects funded.
A recent example is ICCO’s use of government funds to support the Electronic Intifada website (EI). Between 2006 and 2009, ICCO provided €150,000 in Dutch government funding to EI. When NGO Monitor exposed this funding, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal responded that he “will monitor ICCO’s activities,” and will “consider this as a minus when he makes up the balance when ICCO applies again in new a subsidies-round.” (See below for more information on this grant).
Below are examples of some of the Dutch aid organizations and the NGOs they partner with. As demonstrated, many the aid organizations are active in anti-Israel lobbying and advocacy. Their local partners share this agenda, which is contrary to the official Dutch policy of dialogue and compromise.
Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO)
In 2008, ICCO received €124 million in government funds, representing 90% of its €139 million budget. It also receives money from the Dutch postcode lottery and the European Union. ICCO applies for governmental funding as part of an “alliance,” of which Kerk in Actie (see below) is a member. The alliance “has requested the maximum amount of 106 million euros per year for the period 2011-2015.”
ICCO’s stated goals include “working for democracy and peace” and lobbying “policy makers.” However, it pursues a one-sided approach to Israel, including false accounts such as, “In Israel, human rights violations have been taking place for a long time. In 1948, when Israel was created unilaterally…” This highlights ICCO’s adoption of a rejectionist Palestinian narrative and reflects a distorted understanding of the history of the Middle-East.
ICCO and BDS
In a press release (January 14, 2011) referring to BDS campaigns, ICCO claims that “ICCO itself has not endorsed this call for boycott.” But other statements by ICCO and its officials, as well as its funding practices, directly contradict this assertion.
For example, the 2009 ICCO Annual Report, under “Examples of Successes,” states clearly that “ICCO together with 170 other organizations (including Palestinian NGOs, unions and grassroot organizations) has called for boycott, sanctions and divestment.”
Similarly, ICCO’s Middle East Program Officer Mieke Zagt appeared on the radio show “This Week in Palestine” in April 2010 to discuss the “numerous successes” by the BDS movement in Europe. Zagt had previously endorsed anti-Israel boycotts.
ICCO also funds groups and projects that are active in BDS campaigns, including the Coalition of Women for Peace’s divestment and boycott website “Who Profits,” BADIL, EI, and DCI-PS. ICCO also works with the World Council of Churches (WCC), a leader in anti-Israel church divestment campaigns.
ICCO and EI
ICCO’s selection of projects to support with government funds is highly controversial and at odds with Dutch foreign policy for the Middle East. This is illustrated by the continued funding for EI.
Between 2006 and 2009, ICCO provided €150,000 to EI. In 2010, ICCO provided another €50,000 in “support from private funds.” (This amounts to “approximately one-third of (EI’s annual) funding.”) Dutch Foreign Minister Rosenthal dismissed as “disingenuous” ICCO claims that its funding of EI comes from private donations.
EI was founded in 2001 with the explicit political goal to counter Israel’s “orchestrated media campaign to spin news reports to its own advantage.” EI regularly publishes articles endorsing BDS, accusing Israel of “war crimes,” advocating a “one state solution,” and using Holocaust rhetoric against Israel.
ICCO indicates that its support for EI is a project for “Israel-Palestine,” but EI is a project of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society (MECCS), which is based in the United States, not the Middle East.
In January 2011, Minister Rosenthal noted that EI’s activities are “directly contrary to Dutch government policy,” particularly EI’s leadership in BDS campaigns. (See below for more examples of EI’s delegitimization efforts.)
NGO Monitor research on ICCO has also uncovered significant conflicts of interest concerning EI. ICCO’s Mieke Zagt has also published in EI, and EI contributor Adri Nieuwhof has worked at ICCO as an interim manager in the Middle East department, and as a consultant on other issues. EI co-founder Arjan El Fassed was also an ICCO staff member.
ICCO’s NGO funding
The ICCO website is neither consistent nor transparent. The English and Dutch sites present different lists of partner NGOs and projects, and, with one exception, there is no information on how much is provided to local NGOs. (Following criticism, the ICCO also revealed the scope of its funding for EI.)
Among ICCO’s partners and projects in Israel are:
- Ittijah – one of the most radical Israeli-Arab groups. It was an ICCO-partner until the end of 2010. In 2003-2004, the ICCO provided the group with over €125,000. Due to the ICCO’s lack of transparency and Ittijah’s failure to file required annual reports with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, further details are publically unavailable.
The organization’s rhetoric and activities are characterized by demonization and hate-speech. It was a leader in attacks against Israel during the 2001 Durban Conference NGO Forum. During the Gaza war, an Ittijah email claimed, “the IDF is turning Gaza into kind of an extermination camp, in the full sense of the word and with the full historical relativity.”
Ittijah Director Ameer Makhoul was sentenced to nine years in prison in January 2011 for being a Hezbollah spy. In a joint press release, the ICCO, Oxfam Novib and Cordaid attacked the legitimacy of the Israeli justice system for convicting Makhoul, despite substantial physical evidence, and even though he “took responsibility for his actions.”
- Alternative Information Center (AIC) for a “Democratization and conflict transformation” project. ICCO declares that AIC has been a partner for many years and “will remain so.” Co-founder of AIC, Michael Warschawski asserts that “one has to unequivocally reject the very idea (and existence) of a Jewish state, whatever will be its borders.” (The Haifa Conference for the Right of Return, June 2008). AIC has accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and has published articles minimizing the actions of convicted Hezbollah terrorist and child murderer Samir Kuntar (freed in the 2008 exchange with Hezbollah).
- Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) for its “Who Profits From the Occupation” BDS project. This anti-Israel website, which was “initiated in response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel,” identifies corporations to target with anti-Israel divestment. CWP regularly uses demonization rhetoric, such as referring to the security barrier as “The Apartheid Wall.”
- Zochrot for its Nakba Project. Zochrot is fringe and radical Israeli NGO that campaigns for the Palestinian “right of return” and to “raise awareness” about “the Nakba (catastrophe),” rejecting the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel. A statement on the Zochrot website explainss: “Allowing the right of return will change the demographic balance in Israel and the Israeli state would not continue to exist in its current form. I believe that in this new state life would be better for both Palestinians and Israelis living in this land.” ICCO awarded Zochrot with a three-year grant; the exact amount is not disclosed.
- Breaking the Silence (BtS) – for “Preserving Freedom of Expression for Breaking the Silence.” ICCO does not provide details about this funding, but NGO Monitor research shows that BtS received €67,100 in 2008 and 2009.
- Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), for an “emergency relief” fund: “In this specific emergency aid project they [PCATI] want to assist the Palestinians who have been captured during the war for Gaza. They are a vulnerable group, because they are defined as Hamas fighters, and maybe they are” (emphasis added). The project received €15,000 from ICCO and KIA and an additional €15,000 solely from ICCO. No information about this project is available on PCATI’s website.
ICCO lists fifteen projects and partners in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” including:
- Addameer for “legal aid”. ICCO has supported Addameer for the “past five years.” This NGO 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.” Without providing a source for its information, Addameer told the Goldstone Commission that, since 1967, 750,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel (or 18,000 unique detainees each year – a statistically absurd claim).
- BADIL for a project for “recognition of Palestinian refugees’ rights”, falsely claiming that “BADIL’s work is thus based upon international law.” As noted above, this NGO has been involved with antisemitic incidents, as well as demonizing language, such as: “Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,” “state-sponsored racism,” and “systematic ethnic cleansing.” In 2010, BADIL rejected the “Roadmap for Peace”.
- EI is funded by ICCO despite criticism from the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. As noted above, EI supports BDS and repeatedly uses rhetoric that demonizes Israel. While the group is based in the United States, it is listed by the ICCO website under the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
- DCI-PS (see above) for a project to “promote children’s rights.”
- Sabeel for a project that is only mentioned on ICCO’s English website. It is aimed at “building communities” and “to reflect in a theological manner on the Palestinian situation in terms of Israeli occupation.” Sabeel plays a major role in extreme Christian anti-Israel activism, advocating for a “one-state” solution to the conflict. Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, has said: “It has taken me years to accept the establishment of the State of Israel and its need – although not its right – to exist.” Ateek’s “Palestinian Liberation Theology” echoes classical antisemitic theological themes, stating that “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him,” and “Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”
- Stop the Wall (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign) – is receiving a three-year grant from 2009-2011. This NGO makes inflammatory accusations of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.” It distributes maps under racially charged headlines, such as “Judaizing Jerusalem – the Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinian Capital.”
- B’Tselem, which is based in Israel, received funding for “human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory.” B’Tselem aims to change Israeli government policy in the West Bank and Gaza, using accusations of Israeli human rights violations of Palestinians. Increasingly, B’Tselem’s target audience is European and US government officials (including an office in Washington D.C.) and media outlets. In an interview with “From Occupied Palestine,” CEO Jessica Montel defended the use of the word apartheid as “useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power.” The NGO has been criticized for inaccurate research, skewed statistics, and misrepresentations of international law.
In addition to NGO programs, ICCO also supports various individual “campaigns”. One of these is “Plant an Olive Tree”, run by the Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA Palestine, which are organizations that promote BDS and have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of Israel. The program’s original goal was to plant trees, but has been changed to a political campaign to “maximize the individual sponsor’s opportunity to be involved in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
Kerk in Actie (Church in Action) (KIA)
KIA consists of eleven Dutch church-groups. KIA claims that it not “dependent” on “funding from the Dutch government,” though its 2009 annual report states that its projects are co-subsidized by the government. Additionally, KIA is in an “alliance” with ICCO; KIA’s work in Israel and the PA is in partnership with ICCO. KIA’s and the ICCO’s individual financial contributions to this partnership, as well as the role of government funding, are unknown.
Advocacy and influencing policy are central to KIA’s “humanitarian work,” and “Israel/Palestine” is singled out – along with the Netherlands – as an area where this is particularly important.
KIA is a member of the World Council of Churches and thereby part of the BDS campaign. KIA supports the “Plant an Olive Tree” (see above), together with the ICCO and Cordaid.
In 2010, KIA ran nine projects in Israel and 11 projects in the Palestinian Authority, most of them in cooperation with highly politicized NGOs, including:
- Mossawa, for “Equal Rights for Everyone,” with a €70,000 budget. Mossawa regularly makes blanket charges of racism and other inflammatory accusations against Israel. Mossawa also removes or minimizes the context of terrorism to delegitimize Israeli security measures. In May 2007, Mossawa proposed a constitution based on the premise that “[t]he State of Israel was established on the ruins of the Palestinian people, for whom the event was a national tragedy – the Nakba.” The paper rejects Israel as a Jewish state and the “state symbols: for Jews only” (the flag and national anthem).
- Sabeel (see above), for two initiatives: a theological project with a €50,000 budget, and a (theological) dialogue project with a €70,000 budget. According to ICCO’s website, “Kerk in Actie supports [Sabeel’s] programme on building communities.” It is unclear whether KIA’s funding includes ICCO’s support for Sabeel, or whether the program is receiving funding from two different channels, both originating in the Dutch government.
- Zochrot, for its “Remembering the Palestinian history of Israel,” with a €50,000 budget. It is unclear whether this is identical to ICCO’s project (see above).
- Al-Mezan (see above), for a project associated with a “human rights center in Gaza” with a €50,000 budget.
- ACRI (see above), for a €30,000 project on “Humans Rights Compliance in Israel.”
Oxfam Novib received more than €129 million from the Dutch government in 2009 (65% of its budget). It also distributes more than €1 million annually on behalf of the national postal lottery. In 2009, Oxfam Novib spent €3.7 million for projects in Gaza.
Oxfam Novib, like ICCO and KIA, is active in promoting an anti-Israel agenda. Its 2009 monitoring report states that Oxfam Novib has “taken the lead in campaigning on Palestinian issues” within the Oxfam International network. For instance, the NGO lists its call for “an end to the blockade” of Gaza as an example of advocacy work.
Similarly, trainers from Oxfam Novib conducted workshops as part of the 2008 “Arab Advocacy Project.” One of the results of the project was the documentary, “the Effect of the Apartheid Wall on Essential Services in Palestine,” which was later screened in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
In 2009, Oxfam Novib sponsored Electronic Intifada Executive Director Ali Abunimah’s participation in an event organized by the Nederlands Palestina Komitee (the Palestine Committee of the Netherlands). In his presentation, Abunimah repeatedly advanced allegations of “ethnical cleaning” and “colonization,” employed terms such as “apartheid,” and advocated BDS.
Oxfam Novib claims to work closely with the Representative Office in Ramallah and the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv. Oxfam Novib’s 2009 Monitoring Report also mentions that the Representative Office finances “several other” Oxfam Novib partners via the NDC (see below).
In 2009, Oxfam Novib spent €3.7 million in Gaza. However, on its website, Oxfam Novib only lists three projects in Israel and three in the Palestinian Authority. They include:
- Adalah: €576,000 in 2008-2010 for “emergency relief.” No further details are provided, and the recipients of the “emergency relief” distributed by Adalah remain unidentified.
- PARC (listed under Israel): €620,000 for a project on nutrition for 2008-10. The details of the project are opaque, and it is unclear why a project with a Palestinian NGO is listed as Israeli.
- Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS): €670,000. The organization has employed demonizing language in attacks against Israel. The PMRS President Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi referred to the Gaza conflict as a “horrendous massacre,” and used the terms “ghetto” and “apartheid” on a radio program. PMRS refers to the security barrier as the “apartheid Wall.”
- Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center: €390,000 to work on “labour rights” in 2008-2010. DWRC has a rejectionist agenda, including signing a petition protesting the EU-Israel upgrade and calling for the suspension of the EU Association Agreement. In 2010, the Jerusalem Post reported that the group participated in a pro-BDS event hosted by the Irish trade-union.
According to Oxfam Novib’s 2009 Monitoring Report and NGO Monitor research, Oxfam Novib partners with a variety of projects not listed on its website. One of these is a three-year project run by PCHR entitled “Improving Awareness and Respect for Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which received €964,680 from Oxfam Novib. The project is co-financed by the European Union; it is unclear whether Oxfam Novib is also using Netherlands-based funding for this grant.
Oxfam Novib previously partnered with PCHR on a 36-month (2005-2008), €298,339 grant from the European Union, under the auspices of a program to “[c]ontribute to the abolition of the death penalty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, applied by the Palestinian National Authority via judicial death sentences and via extrajudicial executions” by the Israeli military. With this funding, PCHR and Oxfam Novib hosted several conferences promoting the use of universal jurisdiction statutes against Israeli officials. Ultimately, these activities were used as strategy sessions to bolster war crimes cases (“lawfare”) against Israeli officials throughout the world.
Israeli NGO Yesh Din (see above) claims that Oxfam Novib is a donor, but it is not listed on Oxfam Novib’s website.
Cordaid – the Catholic Organisation for Relief & Development Aid – received €421,830,126 from the Dutch government in 2007-2010.
Together with a coalition of international NGOs – including Amnesty-UK, Trocaire (Ireland), Diakonia (Sweden), Oxfam, Oxfam Novib (see above), and Christian Aid (UK) – Cordaid published a report “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses” (December 2009). These NGOs perpetuate the unsupported legal claim that Gaza remains occupied and the false allegation of “collective punishment” in order to “prove” their central thesis: “primary responsibility [for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza] lies with Israel.” These NGOs also promoted the widely discredited Goldstone Report.
In 2009, Cordaid spent €1.7 million in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. No lists of partners and projects are available on Cordaid’s website. However, NGO Monitor research has identified a number of NGOs receiving Cordaid funding. These include:
- Ma’an Development Center, which published, “Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions: Lessons learned in effective solidarity” (2009), a guide to grassroots and international BDS campaigns. The security barrier is consistently referred to as the “Apartheid Wall,” and one section of the barrier is described as “a control mechanism,” which “takes on the form of an enclosed cage in this area, transforming it into an open-air prison.”
- Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), which received grants of more than €220,000 from Cordaid in 2009. It calls for the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “collective punishment,” and other tendentious charges. COHRE has worked together with BADIL (see above), including a May 2005 joint publication that accused Israel of “the calculated theft of Palestinian land… through military aggression… the imposition of apartheid-like laws… a cruel form of ethnic cleansing.”
- Ittijah (see above), funded by Cordaid from at least 2004 to 2010.
- Holy Land Trust (HLT): Active in BDS, HLT conducts politicized tours targeting church leaders and the international community, claiming to provide “cross cultural and experimental learning opportunities in both Palestine and Israel.” Director Sami Awad employs inflammatory rhetoric, referring to demolition of illegally-built homes as “ethnic cleansing.”
- Al-Quds Underground (AQU), which claims “to create a secret space for artistic expression.” On October 30, 2009, the group reportedly refused to allow Israelis to attend one of its events. This was confirmed by Cordaid officials, who claimed that “the organizers of the festival felt forced…to ask Israeli participants to withdraw from the tour.”
NGO Development Center (NDC)
The Human Rights and Good Governance Secretariat (HR/GG Secretariat), a joint project of the governments of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, provides funding to NGOs via the Palestinian NGO Development Center (NDC) in Ramallah. The exact relationship between the governments and the NDC is unclear: In one place on its website, NDC states, “The final decision on all matters relating to the Secretariat lies with the donors” (emphasis added). Elsewhere, however, NDC appears to assume the leadership role, “(T)he donors entrusted NDC again to manage the second phase of the HR/GG Secretariat for the period May 2010 to June 2013” (emphasis added).
From July 2008 through December 2009, the HR/GG Secretariat and NDC distributed $6 million to 25 NGOs on behalf of the four governments. An additional $16 million (approximately) has been pledged to NDC for 2010-2013 from the same governments, and more than $8 million has already been earmarked for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs in 2010-2012.
NDC “facilitated,” funded, and encourages its NGO grantees to adopt the “Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct,” which demands that Palestinian groups reject “any normalization activities with the occupier, neither at the political-security nor the cultural or developmental levels” (emphasis added). This rejectionist stance is incompatible with the Netherlands’ Middle East policy, as discussed above.
NGO Monitor’s report “Promoting Israel´s Isolation: Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands Funding for NDC and NGOs” details the radical political agendas of many of the NDC-funded Palestinian NGOs.
BADIL is one such example. As noted above, its inflammatory rhetoric, promotion of the so-called “right of return,” and rejection of the “Roadmap for Peace” and the Arab Peace Initiative stand in direct contrast to the stated foreign policy of the Dutch government.
A significant number of NDC’s 2010-12 NGO grantees advance BDS campaigns, including: PCHR ($425,000), Al-Haq ($134,000), DCI-PS, Al-Mezan ($425,000), ARIJ ($40,000), BADIL, Miftah ($110,000) and ICAHD.
Israeli NGOs receiving funding from NDC include: B’Tselem, HaMoked, Bimkom ($160,000), ICAHD ($76,000), PCATI ($33,000), Adalah, Gisha, ACRI ($50,000), and Rabbis for Human Rights ($50,000).