NGO accuses Sweden of funding extreme anti-Israel groups

Steinberg: If Sweden wishes to be viewed as a fair EU president, this very damaging NGO funding must be addressed.

sweden flag 88 (photo credit: )
sweden flag 88
(photo credit: )
The Swedish government is funding radical NGOs which, under the guise of human rights and humanitarian aid, are exacerbating the Middle East conflict, a Jerusalem-based research organization said, in a report released Wednesday. The report by NGO Monitor came on the day that Sweden assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union. The report by the watchdog group states that the activities of these Swedish-funded organizations often "increase hostility, and are inconsistent with the goals of the EU in the Middle East, raising concerns over Sweden's ability to lead the EU in contributing to the peace process." Swedish government funding for political NGOs is disbursed through a number of channels, via its development wing, the Swedish International Cooperation Agency. Over $13 million was distributed in 2008 to Diakonia, Sweden's largest humanitarian NGO, according to the report. The report states that Diakonia distributes this money to some of the most radical NGOs in the region, including an organization which has compared Israeli military and political figures to Nazis, and avers that President Shimon Peres is an "enemy" of "human rights and of peace" and that working with Peres Center for Peace is "morally disgusting." Another group that received funding from Diakonia is a leader in the anti-Israel church divestment campaign, whose director, the report says, regularly employs anti-Semitic theological themes, referring to the "Israeli government crucifixion system" which places "Jesus…on the cross again, with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him." "Swedish government funds are being utilized by NGOs to fuel political attacks against Israel under the façade of human rights," said Gerald Steinberg, executive director of NGO Monitor. He added that the policies of these NGOs increase mistrust, exacerbate the conflict and erode the moral foundation of international humanitarian law. "If Sweden wishes to be viewed as a fair and effective president of the European Union, this very damaging NGO funding must be addressed," he said. A Swedish Embassy spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said Wednesday that Sweden was aware of the report but declined comment. A spokeswoman for Diakonia did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. Sweden will serve as the rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union for six months.