Gilad Erdan announces the launching of a new campaign to combat BDS..
(photo credit: ALEXI ROSENFELD)
Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan sent a letter on Friday to president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, calling on him to end funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promote boycotts against Israel.
The letter also urged Juncker to follow recommendations published earlier in the week of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), the European Union’s financial auditor body, to improve transparency and oversight of EU funding in the case of NGOs.
Erdan specifically highlighted the need for oversight of NGOs dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report revealed that the current method of distributing EU aid to NGOs is unreliable, and warns that the European Commission does not have sufficient or detailed information on how the money transferred to such organizations is being used.
Erdan’s letter also asked the president to review whether EU funds to these NGOs were used for purposes other than which they were intended, due to insufficient oversight and asked whether they were used to promote anti-Israel boycotts.
“I have no doubt that boycott organizations disguised as human rights groups exploit the European Union and use the funds they receive to promote boycotts against Israel,” Erdan said.
Funding NGOs that promote boycotts of Israel would contradict the EU’s own declared policy of opposing such boycotts, Erdan explained.
In May, Erdan’s ministry issued a 40-page study accusing EU institutions of funding 5 million euros to non-governmental organizations that promoted anti-Israel boycotts in 2016 and called for such support to end. The report also revealed that several million additional euros were being channeled to NGOs through third parties that received EU assistance.
An EU spokesperson, however, said that the findings of Erdan’s report were both “unfounded and factually incorrect.”
“None of the 13 organizations listed by Minister Erdan receives EU funds for BDS activities,” the spokesperson explained to The Jerusalem Post. “Following the publication of the so-called ‘Money Trail’ report, we invited the authorities to engage in a productive dialogue on civil society as foreseen by the EU-Israel Action Plan, and consider it unfortunate that unsubstantiated material is again being publicized without prior dialogue and engagement.”
The December 18 ECA report stated that the EU distributed an estimated 11.3 billion euros between 2014 and 2017 to NGOs in many different EU policy areas. While it found that the commission’s selection of NGO-led projects is “generally transparent,” the selection processes were not transparent for some of the audited UN bodies.
“The commission does not always collect and check comprehensive information on all [the] NGOs [it] supported,” the report states. “The information on EU funds implemented by NGOs is published in several systems but the information disclosed is limited. We conclude that the commission was not sufficiently transparent regarding the implementation of EU funds by NGOs, and that more efforts are needed to improve it.”
In response to this report, Erdan said, “I call again on the EU to immediately stop funding organizations that promote boycotts of Israel, even where the specific projects for which the money is earmarked are supposedly ‘verifiable,’ and are not directly related to the promotion of boycotts. Money is fungible, and funding one aspect of a BDS organization’s activities enables it to invest other resources in attacking Israel,” Erdan continued.
But when it comes to EU funding of NGOs operating in Israel and the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories, an EU spokesperson told the Post that: “Allegations of the EU supporting incitement or terror are unfounded and unacceptable” and that the ECA report did not make any specific findings regarding funding of Israeli or Palestinian NGOs.
“We strongly object to any suggestion of EU involvement in supporting terror or terrorism. Our commitment to the fight against terrorism has never been stronger and we have always maintained clear positions on terrorist organizations,” the spokesperson continued. “Vague and unsubstantiated allegations serve only to contribute to disinformation campaigns.”
Erdan said that in the coming weeks the Strategic Affairs Ministry will submit to the EU a report based on data that indicates there is still a severe lack of oversight and that millions of euros a year are still being transferred to organizations that promote boycotts of Israel, some of which were shown to have ties to EU-designated terrorist groups.