yesh din 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – The Jerusalem-based watchdog organization NGO Monitor has issued a
report alleging that Belgium taxpayer funds are being used to finance ‘anti-
Israel’ NGOs, including lawsuits against Israeli officials.
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the newly released NGO Monitor report on Belgium, the Federal Public Service, an
intermediary governmental agency in Belgium, provided payments in 2010 to
“political advocacy NGOs that claim a human rights mandate, such as Yesh Din,
Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Combatants for Peace
“The transfer of over 800,000 euros in the past three years from
Belgian taxpayers to opposition groups, under the façade of promoting peace and
human rights, adds to the resentment of many Israelis, including Knesset
Many criticize this as manipulative and anti-democratic,” Prof.
Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem
NGO Monitor charged that Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights
used funds to initiate litigation against Israeli officials because of alleged
human rights abuses.
The use of foreign money to influence Israel’s
political and judicial systems has been the source of a heated debate in the
Knesset, including bills designed to promote transparency among foreign funding
of NGOs in Israel.
Asked about Belgium’s role in financing Israeli NGOs,
Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium Foreign Ministry, told the Post
“Belgium does not fund NGOs. We fund specific activities and examine the track
record of the execution organization on a number of criteria. Respect for human
rights is a major one.
“The project executed by Yesh Din does not include
legal action against Israeli officials. It does include filing petitions based
on the Israeli Freedom of Information Act.”
According to Yesh Din’s
website, the NGO “is an Israeli human rights organization working to achieve
long-term structural improvement in the human rights situation in the Occupied
We are an independent nongovernmental
organization, supported by donations from individuals and institutional
In an e-mail to the Post
on Saturday, Hila Aloni, a
representative from Yesh Din, denied that the organization files law suits
against Israeli officials.
“As a human rights organization, Yesh Din
promotes accountability by the Israeli government, and demands it to do its job
of proper law enforcement in the occupied territories, according to both Israeli
and international law.
We do not file suits against Israeli officials,
but assist Palestinians to petition the Israeli justice system to challenge
allegedly illegal or unjust actions taken by Israeli authorities. All of our
financial information is completely public and transparent, unlike
pro-occupation organizations that do not reveal their funding sources,” Aloni
For Yesh Din, “A sum of 80,000 EUR has been approved by the
Belgians this year, although the money hasn’t been received yet,” she
According to the Belgium Foreign Ministry spokesman, the Federal
Public Service in 2009-2010 provided about 850,000 euros to Israeli and
Palestinian NGOs, “of which 600,000 was in occupied Palestinian territory
(450,000 medical work).”
He added that the following year, the FPS gave about 450,000 euros in
public monies for activities in the Palestinian Territories and Israel.
Steinberg told the Post
that “Foreign Minister
[Steven] Vanackere’s support for the Israeli NGO transparency law is important,
as is the publication of information on Belgium government funding for political
advocacy NGOs in Israel.
This information is necessary for an informed
debate on the morality and impact of this funding. In contrast, Belgian
transparency is incomplete, with an absence of information on grants to
Palestinian and European political groups.”
The Belgium Foreign Ministry
spokesman responded: “We believe our transparency is complete and goes beyond
the Belgian legal requirements. Israel legal requirements provide for
transparency for funding from public sources. Transparency should apply to all
types of funding, also private funding. We do not know what NGO Monitor means
when it speaks about ‘Palestinian and European political groups.’ “Belgium also
finances organizations including Peace Now, Palestinian Medical Relief Society
and the Parents Circle.”