Switzerland sits on BDS funding data, cites ‘foreign policy interests’

The Swiss Foreign Ministry declined to hand over the information to NGO Monitor and to another party that had expressed interest in the funding.

January 27, 2017 18:52
2 minute read.
Swiss flag

Swiss flag. (photo credit: REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The Foreign Ministry of Switzerland is withholding information on government funding for promoters of boycotts against Israel, citing a desire to avoid harming the country’s foreign relations interests.

An official from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs sent the unusual refusal and its reasoning earlier this month to NGO Monitor, an Israel-based organization that compiles and publishes information on funding for organizations that describe themselves as human rights groups and other nongovernmental entities active in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

In October, NGO Monitor requested the Swiss Foreign Ministry hand over information on its allocation of funds to NIRAS Natura AB, a Swedish-based firm that handles the ministry’s funding to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat. Set up by Switzerland and three other European countries, the Secretariat funds Palestinian organizations, including ones that promote boycotts.

But the Swiss Foreign Ministry declined to hand over the information to NGO Monitor and to another party that had expressed interest in the funding.

“We had to reject this request,” a ministry legal adviser wrote to NGO Monitor in a Jan. 11 email in accordance with a provision that states that “the right of access shall be limited, deferred or refused if such access to an official document is likely to affect the interests of Switzerland in matters of foreign policy and international relations,” the legal adviser wrote in the email obtained by JTA this week.

The ministry’s refusal to hand over the documents is pending appeals. Several European governments have displayed reluctance to release detailed information of their funding for Palestinian activism. However, a refusal citing foreign policy interests is unusual for European governments with a commitment to transparency.

Funding by the Secretariat, whose donor countries are Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, has gone to the production of anti-Israel propaganda, according to NGO Monitor.

Among the beneficiaries of funding by those countries is the Palestinian organization Badil, which holds annual Palestinian “right of return contests” and has published anti-Semitic cartoons on its website, as well as imagery promoting the elimination of Israel, which is a widely recognized form of anti-Semitism.

A cartoon that won a monetary prize for finishing second in Badil’s 2010 Al-Awda Nakba caricature competition features a Jewish man, garbed in traditional Hasidic attire, with a hooked nose and side locks. He stands above a dead child and skulls, holding a pitchfork dripping with blood.

“Those most effected by the funding, including Israelis, Palestinians and Swiss taxpayers, should be able to see how these crucial decisions are made, and how this money is being spent,” Shaun Sacks, NGO Monitor’s Europe desk researcher, wrote in a statement about the Swiss ministry’s refusal to disclose documents.

Last year, 41 lawmakers out of 200 serving in the federal parliament supported a demand that the government adjust funding regulations so that Swiss taxpayer money would not be directly or indirectly distributed as aid to “racist and anti-Semitic” groups or those involved in promoting boycotts and hate speech.

Related Content

Concert promoter Bill Graham
August 19, 2018
Florida Holocaust Museum takes rock 'n' roll detour in Bill Graham exhibit