Summary: The EU promises to fund ‘human rights and democracy projects as a means of ensuring international stability.’ Particularly generous resources have been allocated to humanitarian NGOs operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. NGO Monitor’s analysis, however, provides evidence that a large proportion of these funds have been allocated to pursue a narrow anti-Israel ideological agenda designed to delegitimize Israel.
The European Union (EU) has undertaken to fund ‘human rights and democracy projects as a means of ensuring international stability.’ Particularly generous resources have been allocated to humanitarian NGOs, Palestinian and non-Palestinian, operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1994, over fifty per cent of international assistance to the Palestinians has come from the EU — approximately $3 billion. A permanent EU representative office administers direct annual assistance of up to $80 million dollars annually. (This sum does not include EU financial assistance to non-Palestinian organizations that contribute additional tens of millions of dollars to projects in the Palestinian territories, as well as the official representations from eleven member states that also contribute funds on an individual basis).
NGO Monitor’s analysis provides evidence that a large proportion of these funds have been allocated to pursue a narrow anti-Israel ideological agenda designed to delegitimize Israel.
"This article looks at three routes by which EU aid is directed to human rights and democracy programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
1. Aid distributed to NGOs by the EIDHR
Twenty per cent of EU project funding is channelled to NGOs from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). It should be noted that there are also other EU bodies operating in the PA territories, such as the European Commission Technical Assistance Office to the West Bank & Gaza Strip and enjoys very close links with Yasser Arafat, whose influence is strongly felt."
The Technical Assistance Office website reports;
Some development projects in the social sectors (eg. education and health) are also funded through a combination of European and Palestinian NGOS, although in these cases the Commission insists that projects should complement, or at least be in line with, PA policy and provision in these areas.
In 2003, the EIDHR funded two projects in the West Bank and two within Israel. One of the Israeli organizations funded is I’lam, The Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel. This organization claims to be a ‘responsible and professional media project,’ as reflected in its mission statement,
I’LAM is an NGO that aims to develop and empower the Arab media and to give voice to Palestinian issues. This unique center contributes to the development of a plural and unbiased media landscape, which is fundamental for every democracy. I’LAM was established to serve primarily the Palestinian citizens in Israel through the improvement of their mass media system with training, documentation, advocacy, cooperation, and outreach.
However, this claim is far from the truth. In fact the NGO is a political tool that presents a distorted picture of the Israeli press and is part of a wider campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international community.
Among the distortions I’lam presents are,
…media is primarily controlled by the national government [Israel] and constitutes an important mechanism of control and manipulation. The antidemocratic features and role of the media system in Israel have their origin in governmental policies, legislative regulations, and in the self-censorship by Israeli media workers.
Israel is acknowledged in the international community, even among its critics as having a free and dynamic press. Even fierce critics of Israel, such as Robert Fisk, have publicly praised the Israeli press for allowing highly critical journalists such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy such prominence. There is also an active (but highly politicized) Arabic language press in Israel that has chosen to take a fierce anti-government line. A full report on I’lam will be published in a future edition of NGO Monitor and more information can be found in the Infofile.
Apart from EIDR, several hundred million euro from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) is given in direct funding to Caritas, Save the Children, Islamic relief worldwide, ICJ and AI — all politicized groups that have chosen to take a fierce anti-Israel political line.
The EU has also granted funding to a number of Israeli Jewish organizations, particularly in its "people to people" projects. However, the EU’s political and ideological biases are also reflected in its tendency to fund NGOs from a narrow group of vocal critics of government policy, in sharp contrast with the funding policy regarding Palestinian groups.
2. UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA)
UNRWA provides Health Care, Education and Social Assistance to Palestinian refugees and often redirects finances to NGOs, such as Ard el Atfal and Ard Al Insan.
However, UNWRA schools teach hatred of Jews and even encourage incitement and there is evidence from operation Defensive Shield, April 2002, that UNWRA staff allow suicide bomb factories to function freely in its camps . Immediately preceding a large wave of suicide bombings, the Commission supplemented 80 million Euros for 2001 and 15 million Euros to reduce UNRWA’s deficit. The EU has budgeted €237 million for UNWRA for the period 2002-2005.
3. The donor aid coordination mechanism for Relief Aid
This channel works alongside the World Bank consultative group but funds are often redirected to projects administered by NGOs. The EU website makes clear: "donor assistance is programmed according to the expressed priorities of the PA." Numerous articles deal with how members of the PA, including senior cabinet ministers have siphoned off funds to private bank accounts.
There are two possible conclusions from the evidence presented here. One is that the EU is not adequately aware where specific sections of its huge structure direct tax payer’s funds. This is unlikely because the EU has a permanent representative office with 25 full-time staff in the West Bank. Moreover, the EU Parliament’s annual report declares "resources for the EIDHR…has high priority for Parliament" and insists on the need for "[A] coherent and consistent EU strategy for human rights and democratisation".
The second possible conclusion is that those responsible for EU funding of NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict have an ideological agenda of their own to deligitimize Israel. The EU has taken on an admirable goal of furthering the fight for human rights, however, on the basis of the evidence presented in this report, in recent years it has subordinated the fight for human rights and democratization in favor of pursuing an anti-Israeli ideological agenda.
NGO Monitor believes such an approach is counterproductive to bettering human rights standards in the Middle East. The EU needs to undertake a serious review of its funding channels in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel and implement greater accountability and transparency.