The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency’s (SIDA) overall goal is "to contribute to making it possible for poor people to improve their living conditions". In the West Bank and Gaza, SIDA’s aim is: "To promote peace and the development of a democratic Palestinian state by mitigating the effects of the ongoing conflict, promoting the peace talks, facilitating democratic, economic and social development." However, significant funding is channeled through Diakonia and highly politicized NGOs, such as Al-Haq, the Palestinian Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS) the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights (PICCR) and ICJ-Sweden. Their activities and publications abuse human rights rhetoric to deligitimize Israel, and as a result, undermine efforts towards a peaceful end to the conflict.
SIDA is the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ primary agency for global development and cooperation. It administered approximately SEK 14 billion ($1.8b) in 2005, 63% of Sweden’s total contribution to international development cooperation. In 2004, SIDA invested a total of SEK 273 million ($34 million) in the West Bank and Gaza. Of that total, SEK 72m ($9.1m) went towards "human rights and democratization" programs, SEK 147m ($19m) towards the social sectors and SEK 42.5m ($5.5m) towards infrastructure, commerce and urban development. SIDA channels substantial funds through local NGOs, thereby providing significant support for their agendas.
SIDA’s projects in the West Bank and Gaza aim to improve the situation of the Palestinian people. However its approach is highly unbalanced and its promotion of the Palestinian narrative contributes to the conflict. SIDA’s website states, "Palestinian society is in a deep crisis and the conflict is leaving deep scars: human rights are being violated every day, unemployment is rife and the destruction of the infrastructure continues." Following the standard Palestinian narrative, SIDA’s attributes this situation entirely to Israeli policy: "The Israeli blockades and the prolonged curfews have severely restricted people’s chances of earning a living and their access to schools and hospitals. The wall, or ‘separation barrier’, that Israel has built on the West Bank prevents Palestinians from moving freely, even within and between the Palestinian controlled areas on the West Bank and in Gaza. Israel’s military air and ground operations have had a devastating effect on people’s physical and mental health as well as on crops, buildings and roads in the Palestinian areas." In explaining the causes of Palestinian poverty, it fails to mention the history of the conflict, the terrorism that these measures seek to prevent, and the widespread corruption within the Palestinian Authority that explains the ineffectiveness of international aid.
Since 2000, SIDA has increased its humanitarian aid to the West Bank and Gaza from SEK 20m ($2.5m) to almost SEK 100m ($13m) per year. The stated objective is to ease suffering caused by the conflict through food aid, job creation, repairing homes, support for the health sector, transport and promoting dialogue and peace. However, some of its activities and the organizations through which it channels funding are systematically political in nature, and promote external agendas (against Israel) rather than critically necessary internal Palestinian development.
In 2005, as part of the ongoing support for specific Palestinian human rights NGOs, SIDA donated $58,734 to the Palestinian group, Al-Haq. Al-Haq, an active participant at the 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban, frequently distorts international law in its publications and regularly submits politically motivated reports to UNCHR. For example, in a submission to the UNCHR on February 13th 2006, Al-Haq reports that "Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Palestinian civilians has continued unabated. …Such killings fly in the face of the fundamental right to life and other associated rights such as that to due process, as upheld in international human rights and humanitarian law." In its analysis of Israel’s international legal obligations, Al-Haq completely erases the context of terrorism and the need for defence against it.
Together with the Danish International Development Agency (Danida) and the Ford Foundation, SIDA also funds the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN); while EMHRN provides money, legitimacy and publicity for the work of NGOs such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al-Mezan, that selectively exploit human rights terminology for partisan political objectives.
SIDA’s development program also aims to address the health needs of the Palestinian people through its support for the Palestinian Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS). PGS, which describes itself as "a politically and religiously independent non-profit and non-governmental organization," supports the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and programs run by the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC). UPMRC’s systematic condemnation of Israeli actions ignores the context of Palestinian terrorism. For example, on 25 February 2004, its website reported that Israeli armed forces had entered Ramallah city centre in order to "raid" and "attack" specific banks, holding staff hostage, and clearing the surrounding buildings while doing so. It failed to explain that the purpose of the operation was to dismantle the financial infrastructure of terrorism and that over $2 million was confiscated from fictitious accounts used to funnel funding to Hamas directly from Hezbollah and the Iranian, Syrian and Libyan governments.
SIDA also channels donations through the Swedish group, Diakonia, which describes itself as "a Christian development organization working together with local partners for a sustainable change for the most exposed people of the world." Since April 2004, Diakonia has focused on a new program for international humanitarian law, which aims "to improve respect for, and implementation of, international humanitarian law in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip." However, Diakonia’s support for highly political NGOs such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) undermines its credibility as an NGO committed to promoting the universal application of international law. PHR-I’s examination of the impact of the separation barrier in February 2005 ignored the context of Palestinian terror, and Diakonia’s 2004 annual report reflected this theme by neglecting to mention the barrier’s role in preventing suicide bombers from entering Israel. Christian Lagerlof, the Regional Representative of Diakonia, participated in a conference organized by the Palestinian Counseling Center (PCC), held on September 26, 2005, which discussed "the psychological implications of the construction of Israel’s Annexation and Expansion Wall on the residents in five villages in the Qalqilya district." The conference report failed to mention the close proximity of Qalqilya to the Israeli town of Kfar Saba and the terrorist attacks emanating from Qalqilya which claimed the lives of 28 Israelis before the barrier’s construction. Despite PCC’s involvement in rejectionist political activities including boycott and divestment campaigns, it has been one of Diakonia’s strategic partners for the past eight years.
Support is also channeled to NGOs through the Swedish section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-S), whose Palestinian affiliates include extreme anti-Israel groups Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. This organization’s website does not list any Israeli affiliates.
Other human rights support is given to the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights (PICCR), an organization established by Yasser Arafat in 1993 "to follow up and ensure that the different Palestinian laws, by-laws and regulations, and the work of the various departments, agencies and institutions of the State of Palestine and the Palestine Liberation Organization meet the requirements for safeguarding human rights". While the PICCR provides an important check on the Palestinian Authority, it frequently digresses from its mandate, using human rights rhetoric to engage in one-sided criticism of Israeli actions. For example, in its 2004 annual report, it documents Israel’s targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin and Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, without mentioning their role in organizing terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Similarly, in its account of the construction of Israel’s separation barrier, it lists the effects on the wall on Palestinian education, health, water resources and social life without mentioning the context of terror.
SIDA’s funding for the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit (NSU) is also highly problematic. The NSU is a political framework established in 1998 to "provide highly professional legal, policy and communications advice to the [Palestinian] Negotiations Affairs Department and Palestinian negotiators in preparation for, and during Permanent Status negotiations with Israel". However, since the cessation of formal peace talks, the NSU has focused its energies on advocacy activities. The NSU was instrumental in bringing the issue of the security barrier to the International Court of Justice at The Hague and it is an integral part of Palestinian propaganda. The extreme bias and vilification of Israel on the NSU website demonstrates that SIDA’s overall contribution of SEK 20m ($2.7 million) is being spent on political campaigning to promote demonization, rather than development and compromise.
In summary, the evidence in this report demonstrates use of SIDA funding for groups that fuel the political conflict and fail to meet SIDA’s declared goals of promoting development. This agenda is also apparent within SIDA’s own statements and publications. In order to achieve its stated objective of facilitating democratic, economic and social development in the West Bank and Gaza, SIDA should establish and implement guidelines designed to ensure that it only funds NGOs which comply strictly with this mandate.
This report was sent to the following people for comment, but as of 16th February, no response was received: SIDA, the Swedish Ambassador in Tel Aviv, the Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Swedish General Conslulate in Jerusalem; and Staffan Duhs, Erika Ferrer and Charlotta Sparre at the Swedish foreign ministry.
10. "EMHRNExecutive Committee Meeting," London,February 4-06, 2005 (Word Document)
20. http://www.diakonia.se/main_eng.htm,2004 Annual Report, p.42-45
28. http://www.piccr.org/newsletter/june04-eng.pdf (Link has expired)
30. http://www.piccr.org/report/annual04/chapter4ea.pdf, p.180-183 (Link has expired)