On 15 December 2015, Israeli political advocacy organization B’Tselem received a grant from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) for “[C]ombating anti-democratic laws aiming to silence opposition.” EED’s website did not provide an amount for this grant, but B’Tselem revelaed to the media that it was for €30,000.
The funding was allocated amid a heated internal Israeli debate over the role that foreign government-funded NGOs play in Israeli democracy. The nature of the grant, openly aiming at influencing Israeli legislation, again highlights the infringement on sovereignty and the manipulative intent of European government funding in the context of Israeli democracy.
The EED framework was established in 2013 by the EU and its Member States, with the objective of providing “support political and civic actors striving for democratic change in the European Neighbourhood.” It is financed by the EU and EU member states, and managed by European officials and representatives. Juan Jose Escobar, a member of EED’s seven person Executive Committee, also currently serves as the Spanish Consul General in Jerusalem (Head of Mission).
The EED’s website notes that it is also mandated to “add[s] value to existing democracy support”, and “focus[es] on the ‘unsupported’, who are not eligible for EU or other funding.” In contrast, B’tselem enjoys large-scale funding from both the EU individual states, as well as many other sources. Furthermore, the claim that lobbying against the Israeli legislative process is a form of “democracy support” is highly problematic.
The EED also lacks the basic transparency requirements of a governmental body: details of grants including the amounts are not published, and there is no consolidated database that allows an overview or public scrutiny.