One of the major points of friction in the relationship between Israel and the European Union centers on the millions of euros provided by EU taxpayers to non-governmental organizations active in demonizing Israel and opposing peace. Therefore, the efforts made by EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen to engage with Israelis on this issue (“Setting the record straight on EU funding of NGOs in Israel,” The Jerusalem Post, 12 March) are important in resolving this troubling conflict.
In responding directly to my detailed criticism of such EU policies (“Why does the EU continue to fund anti-peace NGOs?” The Jerusalem Post, February 11) the ambassador points to a number of positive elements, including “the closest and broadest set of relations between the EU and any third country in the world.” He refers correctly to high levels of mutually beneficial trade and cooperation programs, as well as the EU’s promise of a Special Privileged Partnership (SPP) “if the peace talks are crowned with success.”
Similarly, as I was repeatedly told in meetings with high-level officials in Brussels, the EU’s official policy opposes BDS – boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
BDS is a form of political warfare that exploits the language of human rights and international law to promote the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Opposing BDS is consistent with the wider European rejection of expressions of discrimination, including anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen, like his predecessors, failed to address the particulars of EU funding for radical NGOs that promote precisely this agenda of hatred and discrimination by exploiting human rights, peace and democracy.
My article, which was based on NGO Monitor’s detailed and fully sourced research, referred explicitly to four cases of such EU funding that went directly to groups leading BDS and demonization campaigns. And there are many more examples in which EU project grants are provided to fringe political groups that lack any visible capacity or competence in promoting peace and cooperation.
THE AMBASSADOR’S response does not name a single NGO funded by the EU, out of the dozens that receive major grants every year. Instead, his op-ed repeats official mantras, such as: “The EU actively monitors all projects supported by us and ensures that independent audits guarantee that all EU funds are used correctly...
.” Apparently EU officials expect that Israelis as well as critical Members of the European Parliament and taxpayers will accept these claims on faith.
Indeed, evidence has and continues to be a major weak point in the EU’s defense – the absence of transparency creates the impression that some officials are working overtime to hide something. If the EU money (€602,798) provided to the “research” arm of the BDS movement, “Coalition of Women for Peace,” was in fact provided after due diligence, and “used correctly” to promote peace and non-violence, (despite the Facebook pictures of CWP members at violent demonstrations holding flags of the terrorist PFLP group), why is the EU going to great lengths to avoid compliance with freedom of information requests on the funding process? And similar questions arise regarding many more EU-funded NGOs.
On this, EU officials who are directly involved in the funding process remain silent.
The only details in the ambassador’s effort to “set the record straight” related to the flagship EIDHR program (the “European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights”), which, according to the most recent public data, disproportionately funded NGOs targeting Israel, instead of Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, etc. Rejecting the detailed calculation of €11 million for Israel-related funds in the 2007-2010 period, or 57 percent of EIDHR funding for the region, the ambassador wrote that the “correct figure is around onethird of that. In fact, the annual funding provided to Israel (€1.2m.) is on a par with what Croatia was receiving.” Since, again, no documentation was provided, the EU claim is unverifiable, but if EIDHR’s policy has changed, releasing the evidence would be advisable.
Another EU mantra claims to fund projects, and not NGOs, so that if an NGO actually has the capacity to implement the project, entirely contrary activities (such as promoting BDS, “one state” formulas, and anti-Semitism) are deemed irrelevant. In reality, core salaries for NGO officials, travel costs, office space and many other core items come from “project” grants; and EU and government donors often provide most of the NGOs’ annual budgets, making the distinction moot.
Instead of acknowledging these facts, the ambassador offered another slogan: “The EU cannot, and should not, be held responsible for other activities in which these NGOs are engaged or the views which they express.”
Having heard Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen speak eloquently, and after meeting with him on a number of occasions, I doubt that he actually accepts the slogans regarding the abuse of taxpayer funds for the political warfare that contradicts the EU’s official policies. As he learns the details, including the extreme secrecy on EU funding processes for anti-Israel NGOs, he will have many opportunities to provide a full accounting, repair these practices, and make a lasting contribution to peace and to Israel-EU relations.
The author is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and heads NGO Monitor.