Norwegian NGO Funding: Boycotts and Apartheid Rhetoric instead of Peace and Coexistence
- The Norwegian government provides tens of millions of Norwegian kroner (NOK) annually to politicized NGOs that operate in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. Some of these NGOs are involved in anti-Israel boycott campaigns and the Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway.
- Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which received NOK 49 million from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) in 2007 for its work in with the Palestinians, accused Israel of “war crimes” and “collective punishment,” is active in the Stop the Wall Campaign, uses “apartheid” rhetoric, and supported the so-called Free Gaza Movement. NPA also funds other anti-Israel NGOs and partners with them.
- The Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) receives MFA humanitarian funds for emergency medical assistance. A NORWAC representative, Dr. Mads Gilbert has engaged in radical propaganda, including justifying the 9/11 attacks and false claims on the Gaza conflict.
- The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) partnered with Palestinian “right of return” NGO Badil on a report on the security barrier. The report labels the barrier a “crime against humanity,” and does not call for a halt to the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians that led to the barrier’s construction.
- Norwegian Church Aid supports many NGOs with anti-Israel agendas, including Bat Shalom and EAPPI, and is an “important affiliate” of the Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway. NCA attacked the Norwegian government for refusing to transfer money to the “Hamas government” in Gaza.
- The MFA funds Israeli NGOs B’Tselem, PCATI, HaMoked, and Gisha. The Norwegian Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority supports extreme groups Al Haq, Al Mezan, PCHR, and Miftah. During the Gaza conflict, these NGOs condemned Israel, misrepresenting international humanitarian law to delegitimize Israeli self-defense measures.
- NORAD supports a number of NGOs active in “anti-wall” campaigns, including the Norwegian Assosiation of NGOs for Palestine, the “coordinator for the Norwegian Tear-Down the Wall Campaign and the Norwegian Boycott Israel Campaign.
Background: Norwegian Aid to the Palestinians
For more than a decade, numerous NGOs in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza have been funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), with some overlap between them.1 In terms of volume, approximately two-thirds of the total resources emanated from the MFA (funding through the Norwegian Representative Office (NRO) in the Palestinian Authority originates from the MFA), while one-third came from NORAD. MFA funding is formally intended for humanitarian work, while NORAD resources are awarded for long term-support to build Palestinian civil society. The total amount for the whole period was 606 million Norwegian kroner (NOK).
In 2006, the “Palestinian Area” was listed as the second biggest recipient (out of 114 countries; Sudan received the most) of bilateral assistance from the MFA, receiving 563 million Norwegian kroner. Of this, NOK 164 million was channeled through Norwegian NGOs, NOK 15 million through local NGOs, NOK 1.6 million through regional NGOs, and NOK 7 million through international NGOs. Figures for the specific allocation of funds to NGOs in general or individual organizations are not readily available from the MFA or from the Norwegian Representative Office (NRO), and neither the MFA nor the NRO have responded to emailed enquiries from NGO Monitor (correct to January 26, 2009), reflecting a lack of transparency. Hence, the funding information on the MFA and NRO may not be comprehensive.
Norwegian Government-Funded NGOs
Norwegian People’s Aid / Norsk Folkehjelp
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is one of the biggest and most highly regarded of Norway’s humanitarian and development NGOS. It is funded both by the MFA and by NORAD. In 2007, NPA received NOK 83 million from the MFA. According to an email from NORAD’s Assistant Director of the Civil Society Department, Gunvor W. Skancke, in 2007, NPA received NOK 29 million for emergency operations in the Palestinian Authority.
NPA describes itself as “a humanitarian organization rooted in the Norwegian Labour Movement” and clearly states that it is not a politically neutral organization. Nevertheless, it receives government funding to promote this openly biased agenda, which often fuels the conflict, rather than contributing to compromise and mutual understanding.
NPA’s activities in support of demonization:
- Accusations of “Collective Punishment” and “War Crimes”: On January 6, 2009, NPA’s Secretary General, Petter Eide, accused Israel of subjecting the Palestinian population in Gaza to “collective punishment.” The organization has also issued a petition entitled “Stop Israel’s War Crimes!,” which refers to Israel’s alleged “disproportionate use violence” and “clear violations of international humanitarian law.”
- Support for the Free Gaza Movement: In August, 2008, NPA expressed “appreciation and congratulations” to the Free Gaza Movement for “breaking the siege” in the provocative “Gaza boat” campaign in support of the Hamas leadership. Under the façade of “humanitarian aid,” these fringe activists, promoted their campaign by referring to Israel as “Palestine,” its creation as the “Nakba” (catastrophe), and accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
- Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway: NPA’s website promotes the Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway, and displays an illustration of the separation barrier and the text, “Riv muren i Palestina. Trodde du Apartheid var historie?” – translated: “Tear the Wall in Palestine. Did you think Apartheid was history?” The use of the false apartheid analogy is a central part of the Durban strategy of demonization and political warfare against Israel’s legitimacy.
Examples of NPA support for politicized NGOs
- NPA is listed as member of the Norwegian Association of NGOs for Palestine (Fellesutvalget for Palestina, further discussed below), which is the coordinator for the Norwegian Tear-Down the Wall Campaign and the Norwegian Boycott Israel Campaign.
- The Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway lists NPA as one of its affiliates.
- The Ma’an Development Center lists NPA among its “past and present international contributors and partners.”
- According to its website, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) is supported by NPA.
- NPA also funds the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE), a signatory to a petition which calls for the academic boycott of Israel. PACE also partners with PARC, and is a member of the Palestinian Environment NGOs Network, PENGON, which includes a number of highly politicized NGOs.
- NPA co-operates with several local partners, among them Badil.
MFA Funding for Emergency Relief to Gaza (NORWAC)
The MFA allocates funds to several humanitarian organizations which provide emergency medical aid and assistance to the wounded and injured in Gaza. The funds are channeled primarily through the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Financial support is also provided to the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) ostensibly to provide health care services in partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Health. However, since arriving in Gaza, a NORWAC representative, Dr Mads Gilbert, has repeatedly and falsely accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and invoked a comparison with the 1982 events in Sabra and Shatila. Another NORWAC representative publicly voiced his suspicion that Israel used white phosphorous and DIME weaponry in Gaza and claimed “the war launched by Israel has been targeting civilians in particular.”
Norwegian Refugee Council
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) describes itself as “an independent humanitarian organization whose task is to assist and protect people who have been forced to flee their countries, or their homes within their country, due to war or conflict.” NRC “has been active in the Palestinian Territories since 2006,” “providing protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons.” In 2007, NRC allocated NOK 11 million to this region. According to the NRC 2007 Annual Report, the Norwegian MFA provided the vast majority of this sum, NOK 9.5 million.
NRC is a member of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), whose members in 2006-7 included American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), Caritas, Diakonia, Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), Ford Foundation, Oxfam (Great Britain, Quebec), Save the Children (Sweden, UK, US), and World Vision. Many of these NGOs have an anti-Israeli political bias. Together with 28 other AIDA members, NRC was a signatory to a statement [date not specified], which “urge[s] all responsible parties including the State of Israel which remains the occupying power with ‘effective control’ of Gaza, to refrain from actions that collectively punish civilians.”
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council) reported that it received $541,361 from the Norwegian MFA in 2007, which made up more than 21% of its budget. NRC claims that it funded a research project in 2007 through the IDMC on the effects of the separation wall on internal displacement in the Jerusalem area. In 2008, the IDMC apparently received and executed projects for UNRWA in the West Bank and in Gaza.
IDMC regularly erases Israel’s right to security in its human rights analyses, as is the case with a recent news alert on the recent Gaza operation, where the context of Hamas’ rocket firing into Israeli territory was completely ignored.
In 2006, IDMC, together with NRC and Badil, co-published a study on the Security Barrier entitled “Displaced by the Wall: Pilot Study on Forced Displacement Caused by the Construction of the West Bank Wall and its Associated Regimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Badil is a radical Palestinian NGO which promotes the “Right of Return” and provides active support to divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel.
Much of the report is taken up by emotive accounts of Palestinian children and their objection to the Separation Barrier. It labels the construction of the barrier “a crime against humanity” and a “war crime” but fails to weigh the context of widespread Palestinian terrorism that led to the construction of the barrier. While the report calls on the UN to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, on Israel to “dismantle the Wall,” and on the PA to advocate for the rights of Palestinian IDPs; it does not call for a halt to the violence against Israeli civilians.
Norwegian Church Aid / Kirkens Nødhjelp
Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) states on its website that it receives money from MFA and from NORAD. In 2007, NCA received NOK 178.5 million from the MFA and NOK 119.9 million from NORAD.
Following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2006, NCA, along with NRC (see above) and Norwegian People’s Aid (see below), criticized the Norwegian government for “withdrawing economic support” to the “Hamas government.” These groups claimed that “[i]t is difficult to see that Hamas in government position has acted in a way that should lead to the economic sanctions against the Palestinian government that these cuts in reality are.”
NCA’s partner organizations in Israel:
- Bat Shalom (a member of Coalition of Women for Peace), which calls for the Palestinian “right of return” and holds an annual “Alternative Independence/Nakbah day.”
- Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) – a “joint reconciliation mission” comprised of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families.
- Rabbis for Human Rights
NCA’s Palestinian partner organizations (NCA only lists groups with websites):
- Middle East Council of Churches / Department of Service of Palestinian Refugees (MECC/DSPR)
- Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL)
- World Council of Churches/ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC/EAPPI)
- Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW)
- Center for Applied Research and Education (CARE)
- The Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC) – has, among else, referred to Israel’s “Apartheid Wall which is designed to strangle Palestinian life in general.”
NCA is a member of Action by Churches Together International (ACT International)2. Additionally, the Stop the Wall Campaign in Norway lists NCA as one of its most important affiliates in the country.
Médecins Sans Frontières
The MFA and NORAD both provide substantial funding to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The MFA donated €7,695,000 to MSF in 2007. According to Assistant Director of the Civil Society Department in NORAD, Gunvor W. Skancke, MFA funding for MSF’s Palestinian operations was only in place until 2005. This is a welcome development, as while MSF is active in the Palestinian Authority and works with children affected by traumatic stress, the organization sometimes departs from its humanitarian aid mandate. For example, in a press release titled “Temporary halt to Gaza bombing a paltry response as extreme violence victimizes civilians” of January 7, 2009, MSF makes no mention of Hamas’ role in the conflict whatsoever. Instead, it focuses on condemning Israel’s operation against Hamas as “affecting civilians indiscriminately” and its toll as “indicative of extreme violence indiscriminately affecting civilians.”
B’Tselem lists the MFA as a donor. Research has shown that B’Tselem’s methodology is problematic, often inconsistent, and reflects the organization’s political agenda. As with the global campaign against Israel’s security barrier, B’Tselem was at the forefront of labeling Israeli responses to terror from Gaza as “collective punishment.” B’Tselem also claimed that Israel violated international humanitarian law in Gaza in 2008, including “excessive and disproportionate force,” a lack of distinction between civilians and combatants, and the use of “prohibited weapons.” A number of independent reports have seriously questioned B’Tselem’s credibility, and leveled charges of “deception” and distortions.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, PCATI, listed the Norwegian MFA as a supporter in 2006 (Israel’s Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations), and the organization’s website still lists The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway and the Royal Norwegian Embassy as donors. PCATI’s activities are highly political, and its campaigns extend far beyond the specifics of its mission statement. In December 2006, the Israeli High Court rejected PCATI’s petition on targeted killings, on the grounds of legitimate self-defense against terror. During the recent Gaza operation, PCATI accused Israel of having inflicted “indiscriminate damage” on “innocent Palestinian civilians” and even petitioned the Supreme Court, accusing the IDF of deliberately targeting medical personnel and ambulances.
The Norwegian MFA is listed as a funder on the Gisha website. Gisha is an Israeli NGO, which issues pseudo-legal briefs to attack Israeli policies. In December 2008, Gisha issued a twelve page “position paper,” “Gaza Closure Defined: Collective Punishment, Position Paper on the International Law Definition of Israeli Restrictions.” It promotes the false claims that Israel is responsible for “occupied” Gaza under international law, and that Israel is under a legal obligation to grant “freedom of movement” to Gaza residents. The NGO also claims that responses to Hamas attacks aimed at civilians lack a “concrete military objective,” while discounting the tons of humanitarian aid provided by Israel to Gaza and ignoring Israel’s legal obligations under international anti-terror treaties. A report issued by Israeli lawyers Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell details some of the fallacies in Gisha’s legal arguments.
HaMoked, which lists the Norwegian MFA as a funder in 2007 (according to documents received from the Israeli Registry for Non-Profits, in 2006 Norway provided $210,000), is an Israeli NGO which claims to assist Palestinians who are “subjected to the Israeli occupation which causes severe and ongoing violation of their rights.” A 2007 HaMoked report utilized “questionable methodology” and a “lack of verifiable sources.” In 2006, State Prosecutor Nira Mashraki argued that HaMoked’s work to defend human rights was seriously compromised by its one-sided approach, arguing that “the organization’s self-presentation as ‘a human rights organization’ has no basis in reality and is designed to mislead.”
MFA funding through NRO
In addition to the above mentioned funding from the MFA, all funding given through The Norwegian Representative Office (NRO) originates from the MFA. NGOs listing NRO – and hence the MFA – as a donor include:
- Al Mezan – The Norwegian Representative Office is listed as one of the core donors of Al Mezan. Al Mezan’s activities reflect a radical anti-Israel agenda, including promoting claims of “Israeli war crimes.” During the January 2009 Gaza operation, Al Mezan published numerous press releases, including allegations of “Israeli massacres,” “slaughtering civilians,” “scandalous war crimes,” and “despicable disregard to civilian life.”
- Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – The Representative Office of Norway is listed as a funder in PCHR‘s annual report from 2007 (page 6), and is still listed on the NGO’s website. PCHR regularly describes Israel’s policies as “apartheid” and accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment. PCHR referred to the abduction of Gilad Shalit and attack against an IDF outpost at Kerem Shalom as “resistance.” PCHR is also a leader in the anti-Israel “lawfare” movement and has worked to bring cases in England, New Zealand, the US, Spain, and Switzerland. During the Gaza war, PCHR’s anti-Israel campaigning included accusations of Israeli “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” “human holocaust,” “collective punishment,” “indiscriminate killing and continued systematic destruction of all the Palestinian institutions and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip.”
- Miftah – The NRO is listed as a supporter in Miftah’s 2007 annual report. Miftah has described Israel as an apartheid state, has referred to suicide bombers as “resistance fighters” and was active in the 2001 Durban Conference. During the Gaza war, Miftah made false claims of an Israeli “massacre,” invoking the strategy used in Jenin in 2002.
- Al-Haq – The Representative Office of Norway granted $133,671 to the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq in 2007. Al-Haq was an active participant in the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001, regularly submits politically motivated reports to the UN Human Rights Council and is a leader in the anti-Israel “lawfare” movement, bringing lawsuits against Israel in Europe and North America. Its General Director, Shawan Jabarin, has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan on account of his alleged ties to the PFLP. On July 7, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the visa denial because it examined reliable evidence that Jabarin is “among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization.” During the Gaza operation, Al-Haq lobbied in the UN Human Rights Council, accusing Israel of “war crimes,” “the willful killing of civilians and the extensive destruction of civilian property” and “widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population bringing them to the level of crimes against humanity.”
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation / Direktoratet for utviklingssamarbeid (NORAD) is the main actor in Norwegian development policy and “politically and technically responsible for Norwegian development cooperation.” Its stated functions are “to advise the aid administration, provide funding for Norwegian and international development NGOs, and carry out quality assurance and evaluation of Norway’s development co-operation activities.”
Norwegian development assistance totaled NOK 21.8 billion in 2007. Of this amount, bilateral assistance (including multi-bilateral assistance) accounted for NOK 15.7 billion. NORAD lists the “Palestinian Administered Areas” as the third biggest “recipient country” of Norwegian bilateral assistance in 2007, having received NOK 622 million. Of the bilateral assistance given to the PA in 2007, NOK 3 million were given through international NGOs, NOK 23 million through local NGOs, NOK 139 million through Norwegian NGOs and NOK 1.5 million through regional NGOs.
In an email from a NORAD official, NGO Monitor received “an overview of NORAD support to NGO projects in Palestinian areas in 2008.”
Norwegian People’s Aid
The NPA, as mentioned above, is funded by both the Norwegian MFA and by NORAD; however the organization claims that its work in “Palestine” is financed mainly by NORAD. In an email, NORAD official Gunvor W. Skancke explained that MFA funding is intended for emergency operations and NORAD support is for long term development work with Palestinian partners. In 2007, NPA received NOK 122,290,000 from NORAD for its global work. Skancke claimed that in 2007 NORAD provided NOK 20 million for Palestinian projects.
Other NORAD projects
NORAD’s partner base lists its partners in the Palestinian administered Authority, including Norwegian Church Aid (NOK 3,299,000 in 2008) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NOK 9,465,000 in 2008). In addition to development and humanitarian projects in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, NORAD provided support to organizations that are involved with “anti-wall” campaigns:
- Delta International KFUK-KFUM / Delta Internasjonalt KFUK-KFUM. KFUK-KFUM is listed as member of the Norwegian “Riv Muren kampanjen” (“Tear-Down the Wall campaign”).
- The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions / Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO) receives NORAD funding. LO is listed as an affiliate of the Norwegian Stop the Wall Campaign. On January 8, 2009 LO condemned Israel’s “rocket attacks on Gaza and its invasion by land forces” and stated that “[a]ssaults and the killing of civilians cannot be defended.”
- Union of Education Norway / Utdanningsforbundet is still listed among member organizations of the Norwegian “Riv Muren kampanjen” (“Tear-Down the Wall campaign”). In 2008, the Union of Education Norway received NOK 582,000 from NORAD
Other organizations are listed on the 2008 overview of NGO projects in Palestinian areas obtained from NORAD, yet they are not included in NORAD’s partner base. For instance, NOK 240,000 was granted to the Norwegian Assosiation of NGOs for Palestine (Fellesutvalget for Palestina), which defines itself as is “an umbrella for Norwegian non-govermental organizations working for the rights and freedom of the Palestinian People” and is “the coordinator for the Norwegian Tear-Down the Wall Campaign and the Norwegian Boycott Israel Campaign.”
Unfortunately, Norwegian money continues to be channeled from the MFA and NORAD to many politicized Norwegian, Palestinian and international NGOs. The radical political campaigns promoted by some of these NGOs continue to contradict objectives which the Norwegian government sets out for its development aid, such as the establishment of a Palestinian state through a two-state solution and laying the foundation for resuming peace negotiations. The promotion of democracy, human rights and good governance is also hindered by the financing of NGO campaigns that focus on one-sidedly attacking Israel, while ignoring Palestinian human rights abuses, corruption, and factional violence.
- According to NGO Monitor’s email correspondence with Assistant Director of the Civil Society Department of NORAD, Gunvor W. Skancke, in the period 1999-2005, 18 organizations received funding from NORAD only, 14 organizations received MFA funding only, while 7 organizations received funding from both sources.
- ACT International’s members are drawn from the membership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). ACT International members operating in Israel/the Palestinian Territories include Christian Aid (CA), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Young Men’s Christian Association-East Jerusalem (YMCA).