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This is an update to NGO Monitor’s report “Exploiting Justice: How the UK, EU, & Norway Fund NGO Lawfare vs. Israel” (February 2014). The update will provide new information on UK funding to NRC’s legal and advocacy project (“ICLA”) and the NGO’s implementing partners.
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) describes itself as “an independent, humanitarian, non-profit, non-governmental organization, [which] provide[s] assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide.”
- NRC’s objectives vis-à-vis Israel are inherently and overtly political, including “Legal advocacy on legal issues and public interest cases.”
- One of NRC’s principal projects in Israel, “Information, counseling, and legal assistance (ICLA),” exploits judicial frameworks to manipulate Israeli policy, bypassing democratic frameworks. NRC’s legal projects are funded mainly by Norway, the EU, and the UK; in 2014–2015 EU provided $13,070,506; UK, $5,224,441; and Norway, $2,408,050.
- There are serious questions about the legitimacy and sincerity of NRC’s legal work vis-à-vis Israel.
- According to a report by a Dutch national who attended a presentation by a lawyer apparently affiliated with this NRC program, cases in Israeli courts are an attempt to “try every possible legal measure to disrupt the Israeli judicial system… as many cases as possible are registered and that as many cases as possible are appealed to increase the workload of the courts and the Supreme Court to such an extent that there will be a blockage” (emphasis added, translation from original Dutch by NGO Monitor).
- A number of NRC’s partners are very active in anti-Israel legal campaigns, calling for a “Legal Intifada” against Israel, “expand[ing] and deepen[ing] the global BDS movement,” and “an international action to combat the impunity enjoyed by Israel.”
- According to the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs, NRC has Humanitarian Visa status, allowing it to maintain an official office and its representatives to work legally in Israel.
Legal Advocacy Targeting Israel: ICLA – Information, counseling, and legal assistance project
- NRC’s project plan for ICLA in 2016 includes “Litigation of public interest cases …through Israeli courts and international mechanisms…. …..”
- Although the NRC has a declared a “Low Visibility” policy regarding its legal advocacy, it nevertheless has issued “several public statements during the Gaza conflict,…[and] organised diplomatic attendance at the August 2014 hearing at the Supreme Court on the Cremisan Wall case and a September diplomatic briefing on the risk of forcible transfer of Bedouin.”
- NRC’s partners, which “provided…legal representation in court for 4,069 cases” from June 2009 until August 2014, included the political NGOs St Yves, JLAC, HaMoked, Yesh Din, Community Action Centre, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR),as well as “private lawyers providing legal aid services.”
- NRC demonstrates a lack of transparency and inadequate accountability. It does not provide information regarding amounts transferred to implementing partners. In addition, some of these NGOs are highly active in anti-Israel legal campaigns, including Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), which refers to “victims of Gaza holocaust,” accuses Israel of “state terrorism,” and signed (together with Al-Mezan) on a Joint Call to Action: July 2014 – Month against the Apartheid Wall stating: “….it is time for a ‘legal intifada’, an intensified popular struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions….We ask you to expand and deepen the global BDS movement for justice…” Another NGO partner, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), regularly accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “war crimes,” and refers to indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.” On October 14, 2014, officials from PCHR met NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland and “called for an international action to combat the impunity enjoyed by Israel.”
Overall Funding (2014)
- In 2014, NRC’s income was NOK 2.4 billion (~$400 million). According to its annual report from that year, “The organization’s turnover has been increasing steadily, and has more than doubled over the past four years.”
- Almost all of its income is from institutional donors, i.e. governments and inter-governmental organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations.
- Main donors in 2014 include Norway (more than $90 million via Ministry of Foreign Affairs – 24% of total donations), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (~$60 million –16%), European Union (~$60 million – 16%), UK (~$40 million–11%), Sweden ($28 million – 7%), and the United States ($13.5 million).
- According to an NRC financial statement from 2014 (see Appendix 1), NRC funded projects in 28 countries in the amount of NOK 2.36 billion. Jordan received 11% of the total budget, followed by Lebanon and Somalia, which constituted 8% each. The Palestinian Territories received 3%, ranked twelfth.
NRC programs in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem
- In 2014–2015, NRC spent about $27 million (NOK 188 million) on projects in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The main donors were Norway, Sweden, EU, and the UK.
- Total government donations in 2014 for NRC projects in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza was ~$11M. DFID UK donated $3.9 million, ECHO EU $2.4 million, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs $1.45 million, SIDA Sweden $1.3 million (See Appendix 2 for full list of donors).
- Most of these funds are spent on NRC’s ICLA project and legal projects, which as mentioned above, have a massive presence in Israeli courts.
Annual budget for projects in West Bank East Jerusalem and Gaza:
|USD*||~10M (5.6)||~11M (6.1)||~16.5M (7.4)||~18.5M (8.7)
*The amount in UD dollars is based on the conversion rate for January at the beginning of the year.
NRC Donations to ICLA Projects (2014-2015)
|EU (ECHO)||2,849,389||ICLA - for the Protection of Palestinians Affected by or at Risk of Displacement
|5,892,256||Humanitarian Support to Contribute to the Protection of Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Forcible Transfer.
|1,178,451||Support to IDPs and those at risk of displacement in the Gaza Strip
|EU (EuropeAid)||827,990||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|1,659,290||Legal AID Programme
|EU (European Commission)||663,130||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|Norway ||1,707,437||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|700,613||ICLA West Bank and Jerusalem & Legal aid programmes
|Sweden||280,000||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|232,585||Humanitarian assistance - ICLA Legal AID
|Switzerland||441,379||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|United Kingdom ||2,265,861||ICLA- for increased protection and access to justice for Palestinians affected by forced displacement in Palestine
|2,958,580||Legal aid programmes
|Luxembourg||216,685||Protection of Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)from forcible transfer
|UN (Emergency Response Fund - OCHA)||241,514||ICLA- to protect the rights of Palestinians affected by the October 2015 conflict in East Jerusalem
UK Funding of Legal and Political Advocacy
- According to UK Development Tracker, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) funds NRC in order to provide legal aid to Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. During fiscal years 2014-2016, the UK government provided GBP 5.5 million for those aims.
- UK funding is expressly geared toward legal and political advocacy – DFID “recommended that NRC broaden its advocacy efforts to focus on a greater diversity of power holders, providing specific information that can be used to lobby for changes in policy and legislation.” According to DFID, “Advocacy is built into the programme to leverage international pressure on the housing, land, property rights of vulnerable Palestinians” and in response to “the political priorities of the new Israeli government” that makes it “more difficult to positively influence policy change.”
- NRC has developed a close coordination plan with the PA on legal and advocacy issues related to Israel, such as ” the forcible transfer of the Bedouin.” According to DFID, this includes “increased dialogue with Palestinian authorities on planning and increased coordination with the Ministry of Justice to assist beneficiaries who do not have ownership titles in seeking documents that prove their connection to the land.”
- Inadequate Accountability: Many of the legal aid and legal training activities are “carried out by downstream partners who have direct agreements with NRC,” not with the British government. This results in inadequate accountability, as, according to DFID, “It is therefore not possible for DFID to directly monitor all aspects of NRC’s work….” This is reflected on the British government Development Tracker website, which lists disbursements via NRC as “Aid to civil society organisations / NGOs,” but the final recipients of the funds are “withheld” and unidentified.
- Advocacy: Lobbying in Europe includes a January 2015 seminar on the “10 year anniversary of the ICJ Wall decision at SOAS University in London and  briefings with DFID.” From January to March 2015 “briefings were provided to a large number of agencies on Palestine issues from the NRC office in Brussels. These included several EU institutions and EU member states.” “In 2013….. Verbal briefings have included a field trip for the UK Parliamentary under Secretary of State on the Middle East and other diplomatic briefings.”
EU Funding – Transparency Problems
- According to UN-OCHA’s financial tracking system, NRC received three separate grants in 2014 – from EuropeAid, ECHO, and the European Commission – all designated for its ICLA project (see funding chart above) and totaling $4,340,509. (The designation “European Commission” is meaningless, as all EuropeAid and ECHO are subdivisions of the Commission.) In contrast, the EU’s Financial Transparency System (FTS) only reports the ECHO grant (€2,100,000).
- UN-OCHA’s financial tracking service also reports three EU grants to NRC in 2015, none of which is explicitly designated for the ICLA project (see funding chart). However, an EU grant to NRC’s ICLA project is listed in a document of “ongoing projects” published in June 2015 by the EU Delegation to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This grant, amounting to €1,449,988, is also not reported in the EU’s FTS.
- This funding is consistent with an ongoing pattern of duplicated EU funding for the same NRC project via multiple channels. For example, according to the FTS, in 2012 NRC received €1,400,000 designated for ICLA in the West Bank via ECHO, as well as €284,797 designated for ICLA in the Gaza Strip via EIDHR.
- Such duplications disregard the stated objectives and mandates of the respective funding channels. In this case, ECHO is designated for humanitarian aid (provision of basic needs in emergencies), while EIDHR is designated for democracy and human rights.
NRC Funding to Political NGOs
- A number of NGOs serve as NRC’s Implementing Partners, including: Jersualem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC), Society of St Yves, HaMoked, Community Action Centre, Yesh Din, Bimkom, Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and Al Mezan.
- Due to a lack of transparency, there is limited information regarding amounts disbursed to NRC’s implementing partners. Details on Israeli NGOs are available based on financial documents submitted by the recipients to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits. Details on Palestinian NGOs are based on independent research.
- HaMoked – (2012-2014: NIS 3,901,317). In 2015, NRC provided Hamoked with NIS 200,456 for “Protection of residency for Palestinians in East Jerusalem” and NIS 285,581 for “Protection of the freedom of movement for Palestinians.”
- Bimkom – (2012-2014 :NIS628,105). In 2015 Bimkom received NIS 40,180 for “Filing objections regarding planning in Area C.”
- Yesh Din – (2012-2014 :NIS1,904,763) In 2015 Yesh Din received NIS 735,493 for projects on Jerusalem, law enforcement, and land issues.
- Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) – according to JLAC annual report, it received $527,284 from NRC in 2013 and $517,552 in 2014. NRC has renewed its two project agreements with JLAC “entitled: ‘Legal Assistance for the protection of Palestinians Affected by Forced Displacement,’ and ‘Providing Legal Representation on House Demolition in East Jerusalem’” respectively. According to JLAC financial statements, NRC provided $22,396 (2013) and $15,205 (2014) for “High court expenses,” with most of the funds earmarked for “Salaries and staff related benefits.”
- NRC employs pro-BDS, anti-Israel activists to compose some of its reports on the region:
- Shir Hever authored the NRC report “The Economic impact of Displacement” (April 2015). Hever is an economic researcher at the Alternative Information Center, which accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid-like discrimination,” of being a “settler colonialist… intransigent, racist and militarized… regime,” and implementing a “multi-tiered system of oppression.” Hever is a pro-BDS political activist, and accuses Israel of being “a colonialist regime, in which there’s apartheid.” He also participated in the 2010 London Session of the Russell Tribunal of Palestine.
- Diana Buttu authored a December 2015 NRC publication about “Restrictions on Residency Rights and Family Reunification in Occupied Palestine.” Buttu is the former spokesperson for the Negotiations Support Unit for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and was also involved in promoting the discredited advisory opinion against Israel’s security barrier at the International Court of Justice. Buttu has accused Israel of “war crimes,” “ethnically cleans[ing] 75% of the Palestinian population, ” “a massacre against Palestinian civilians,” and promotes BDS campaigns. She also participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York (2012).
- Society of St Yves (amount unknown) – Accuses Israel of “discriminatory policies” and “breach[ing] international law,” and claims that “[Palestinian] land [is] swallowed up by the Israeli armed forces.” Issued a joint statement (May 15, 2013) commemorating the 65th anniversary of “the Nakba” and claiming that the “Israeli colonization, occupation and apartheid” regime had “targeted the indigenous presence of Palestinians.”
- Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR – amount unknown) – Regularly accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “war crimes,” and the “Judaization of Jerusalem;” refers to indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance” and rockets that fall short of their Israeli civilian targets and cause injuries to Palestinians as “misuse of weapons.” Calls upon the international community to “bring suspected Israeli war criminals before justice” and “preparing all necessary information, documents and evidence for any future investigations that may be conducted by the International Criminal Court in crimes committed by Israel in the oPt.” On October 14, 2014, officials from PCHR met Secretary General of NRC Jan Egeland and “called for an international action to combat the impunity enjoyed by Israel.”
- Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR) – Refers to Palestinians as “victims of Gaza holocaust,” accuses Israel of “state terrorism,” and participates in discriminatory campaigns such as “Love in the Time of Apartheid Campaign: The Palestinian Campaign for Repealing Israel’s Racist Law Denying Family Reunification.” (JLAC and Society of St Yves also participated in that campaign.) PCDCR, together with Al-Mezan, signed on a Joint Call to Action: July 2014 – Month against the Apartheid Wall, stating: “….it is time for a ‘legal intifada’, an intensified popular struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions. It is time for accountability…. to overcome Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation. We ask you to expand and deepen the global BDS movement for justice…”
- Al-Mezan – Highly active in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns, exploiting courts and international legal bodies to seek arrest warrants against Israeli government officials; files lawsuits against companies and governments doing business with Israel, and lobbies for cases against Israelis at the International Criminal Court (ICC).