Swiss parliament launches inquiry into anti-Israel NGOs

The move could bring about a sea change in Swiss funding for scores of anti-Israel NGOs operating in Israel and in the disputed territories.

Swiss parliament in Bern (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Swiss parliament in Bern
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
BERLIN – The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has allocated funds in the millions to anti-Israel NGOs linked to terrorism and working in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, according to a report that appeared in Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung on Monday.
The front-page story by veteran journalist Dominik Feusi, headlined “Resistance in Parliament against money for Israel-critical campaigns,” stated that MP Christian Imark had introduced a motion supported by 41 lawmakers from across the political spectrum calling on the FDFA to stop all direct or indirect funding to organizations that sponsor “racist and anti-Semitic actions” or are involved in BDS campaigns.
The move could bring about a sea change in Swiss funding for scores of anti-Israel NGOs operating in Israel and in the disputed territories.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, spoke with the The Jerusalem Post about the development.
“The detailed and unprecedented article... reflects the concerns of many MPs in Switzerland, who were surprised to learn of the very negative and counterproductive impact of their government’s funding for radical anti-peace NGOs,” Steinberg stated.
“As in the case of the EU and many individual states, the funding process, which supports Al-Haq [an NGO based in Ramallah] – the leader of the 'lawfare' campaign – and Breaking the Silence, as well as other Israeli groups, has been strictly hidden from the media and MPs until now,” he said.
Steinberg, along with Olga Deutsch, head of NGO Monitor’s Europe research desk, briefed Swiss MPs in Bern in March on the alleged misconduct of certain NGOs and their financial irregularities.
“As noted in the [Basler] article, additional Swiss funding goes to Islamic Relief Worldwide,” he continued. “Earlier this year, HSBC cut all ties to this NGO due to concerns about its involvement in terrorism. Israel declared IRW a terrorist-supporting entity in 2014, citing funding to Hamas. The Swiss government must now review this funding.”
The article alleged that the FDFA funneled the equivalent of nearly $182,000 to the IRW last year. It also noted that Swiss funds had been sent directly or indirectly to 44 NGOs that “are opposed to negotiations with Israel and peace, and work for a boycott of Israeli products.”
The anti-Israel organization Badil was cited as a recipient of Swiss funds. Badil rejects “with words and pictures the existence of Israel, and this contradicts official Swiss foreign policy,” the article said.
The piece cited the NGOs Adalah and Gisha as recipients of nearly $71,000 and $61,000, respectively. It stated that Gisha fights “against Israeli security measures” and Adalah combats “the Jewish character of Israel.” Gisha’s website says its “goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians” and Adalah’s website says it ”works to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.”
Steinberg added: “The Swiss are core funders [along with Denmark, Sweden and Holland] of the International Humanitarian Law secretariat at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah. This money goes to more than 20 radical NGOs involved in BDS, political warfare against Israel and, in some cases, such as Badil, anti-Semitism. This funding expires at the end of 2016 and the Swiss are now debating renewal.”
According to the article, the Bundesrat, the executive council of the Swiss government, is required to respond to the motion submitted by the MPs.
“The revelations include cases of ‘double dipping’ – funding from different Swiss government agencies for the same NGOs, which was made possible by extreme secrecy,” Steinberg added.
 He added that Swiss public debate that crosses party and ideological lines has helped spark similar debates now taking place in Holland, Denmark and other countries that might be involved in the large-scale funding of radical NGOs.