For years, virulently anti-Israel, and in some cases even antisemitic, Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been playing a successful con game in Europe.

They’ve presented themselves to foreign donors as paragons of virtue worthy of financial support, while funneling their money into anti-Israel demonization campaigns, youth programming and infrastructure that glorifies violence, and collaborative civic-engagement projects with designated terror groups.

Many European governments have been fooled into thinking that these Palestinian NGOs are pro-democracy civil society organizations committed to human rights, non-violence and peace.

But the reality, as documented by several Israeli watchdog groups, is far different.

In detailed publicly-available, multi-year reports, organizations like Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) and NGO Monitor have been exposing the ways in which Palestinian NGOs have been routinely abusing European largesse by using donor funding to, among other activities:

  • build schools and other public facilities named after notorious mass murderers;
  • develop educational and community projects in conjunction with members of terror organizations;
  • place on their pay-roll staff members who routinely traffic in blatant antisemitic tropes and canards; and,
  • advance the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign which aims to delegitimize the State of Israel.

Basically, European tax-payers have been channeling massive amounts of funding to a large group of Palestinian NGOs that are virulently anti-Israel, anti-peace, and (in select cases) even anti-Jewish.

These organizations thus work against the very principles that European countries require grant recipients to endorse. They pervert the laudable goal that Europeans have in fostering a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It’s been a shameful scandal.

Only now it appears that multiple European states are wising up to the con—thanks to the information provided and reviewed in, and investigations that have been launched on the basis of, recent PMW and NGO Monitor reports (see especially here and here).

They’re now starting to pull the plug on the funding.

This past week, two Scandinavian countries—Norway and Denmark—announced limits on funding to Palestinian NGOs which promote boycotts of Israel. Other European countries are also in the process of investigating their own funding streams to Palestinian NGOs.

Below I highlight the success that PMW and NGO Monitor are having in the European funding disputes.

Denmark and Norway to limit funding for pro-BDS Palestinian NGOs

Last Friday, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson announced that Copenhagen will “cut back” on support for a group of Palestinian NGOs and introduce new “rigorous monitoring” of where Danish funds are sent and what they help to support.

As Samuelson reportedly noted,

Denmark supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I am sure it will strengthen the work that we will focus on Danish assistance in the future, so we are absolutely sure that the money is being used for the right purposes.”

Now Norway, following in the footsteps of its southern neighbor, has also announced that it will slash its funding to Palestinian NGOs that promote Israel boycotts.

Norway’s announcement reportedly reflects its new governmental policy that rejected funding for organizations promoting the boycott of Israel.

A statement issued by Norway noted that:

Boycott creates distance, while the Norwegian government believes in dialogue and cooperation to create mutual trust as part of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This decision is another expression of the Norwegian government’s consistent opposition to boycotts against the State of Israel”.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)

Both the Danish and Norwegian actions this week can be linked to a widely-circulated PMW report released back in May, which exposed how European donor funds were being used by a Palestinian NGO grantee (the Women’s Technical Affairs Committee – WTAC) to build a community center that would be utilized by young women, and named after the mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi.

A Fatah operative, Mughrabi led the notorious Coastal Road terror attack in 1978 which resulted in the brutal massacre of 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children, and the wounding of over 70 others, The Coastal Road Massacre – March 11, 1978.

Here are the children that Mughrabi murdered:

[Credit: Palestinian Media Watch]

Basically, Denmark’s decision to cancel and suspend some grants, and to review further funding of Palestinian NGOs, was made following an investigation that was initiated at least partly on account of PMW’s report, which showed that Danish funds—along with other European aid money—had been used to support this women’s center.

The Norwegian decision to cut funding was likely also influenced by the PMW report.

A PMW bulletin released this week notes that Norway “immediately demanded” that Norwegian money be returned and that the logo of the Norwegian representation office be removed from the building after PMW released its report documenting that the European-funded women’s center was being named for terrorist Mughrabi.

We noted this as well in prior posts on the women’s center controversy:

So, in this case too, Norway is cutting off funding to Palestinian NGOs on the basis of an investigation, spurred by the PMW report, of the ways in which they’re using donor funding to glorify terror.

NGO Monitor

According to media reports, Denmark decided to revoke earmarked funding from some Palestinian NGOs, and tighten aid criteria for others, after being presented with evidence that they were financing groups that were actively promoting anti-Israel boycotts; “involved in anti-Israel incitement”; and tied to internationally-designated terror organizations.

The information was provided in large part via a series of reports published by NGO Monitor, including its comprehensive, multi-year study of Palestinian NGO funding through the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Secretariat, a conglomerate of Scandinavian countries that pool their resources to fund Palestinian NGOs.

From 2014-2016, the Secretariat had at a budget of $17.6 million. The funds are managed by the Institute of Law at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

NGO Monitor’s 31 page report covering the dozens of Palestinian NGOs that Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Norway have funded, and the activities and programming that’s been supported through these grants, is well worth reading (an executive summary, updated this week, is also here).

Here are some of the key findings:

  1. These governments all claim to oppose BDS. Yet 65% of Secretariat funding is being given to organizations which are leaders in the BDS movement (15 out of 24 ‘core fund’ recipients promoted BDS in their programming, receiving over $7 million from the Secretariat).
  2. The staff members of some of the Secretariat grantees have disseminated antisemitic hate speech, including visuals with classic antisemitic depictions of Jews and the elimination of Israel.
  3. Some of the funded NGOs have ties to the PFLP terrorist organization (senior staff and board members are PFLP members).
  4. Many of the Palestinian NGOs supported by the Secretariat promote ‘lawfare’ against Israel, which involves spending the funds to ‘document’ alleged human rights abuses of Palestinians, and seeking to harass Israeli officials with lawsuits and criminal investigations of “war crimes”.
  5. The Secretariat’s financial report shows an extremely high level of funds spent on administration and salaries (amounting to one-quarter of the total budget).

[Images disseminated by BADIL, a Palestinian NGO funded by the IHL Secretariat]

Also worth noting is that Manal Tamimi pops up in the NGO Monitor study.

We recently also mentioned her in a post earlier in the week, which detailed the anti-Jewish animus of the West Bank Tamimis, Media should stop whitewashing Ahed Tamimi’s terror-supporting family.

As we highlighted, Manal Tamimi, who seems to enjoy frequently posting antisemitic material to her Facebook page, is the aunt of the now famous Ahed Tamimi, a teenager exploited her whole life as a political prop for the purpose of creating and disseminating anti-Israel propaganda footage. She recently assaulted several IDF troops outside her home—a staged attack that was, of course, captured on a video that’s since gone viral.

It turns out that Manal Tamimi is also an employee of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), a Palestinian organization that’s received over $700,000 from the IHL Secretariat.

NGO Monitor documents how WCLAC accuses Israel of “collective punishment”, violations against women’s rights, and the “targeting of civil society”. But it’s the report’s coverage of Manal Tamimi’s antisemitic and violent rhetoric and imagery shared on her social media account that caught my eye:

It, along with all the rest of the report’s damaging information about the operations of Palestinian NGO grant recipients, was forwarded to the Norwegian and Danish governments, and to the other Scandinavian members of the IHL Secretariat.

Statement exclusive for Legal Insurrection from Prof. Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor

I reached out to Gerald Steinberg who heads the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor to find out more about how its multi-year research project triggered major changes in Norway and Denmark’s funding for Palestinian NGOs, and the long-term ramifications of these budgetary cuts.

Below is Steinberg’s reply to my query.

It offers a helpful overview of the backstory to the Danish and Norwegian moves, and highlights the success that NGO Monitor has had in shaping the conversation regarding the European funding disputes.

In addition, Steinberg confirms that research and reporting by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) also contributed to the changing attitudes, especially in the conglomerate of Scandinavian countries:

The changes in Danish, Norwegian and Swiss government NGO funding policies (as well as others in the pipeline) are connected and the result of years of research. In these and most other countries that support radical [Palestinian] NGOs, top officials were largely unaware (a combination of not wanting to know and systemic failure) of how taxpayer money for aid was spent. Parliament exercised zero oversight, and lower level bureaucrats promoting the Palestinian cause had no supervision.

In general and throughout Western Europe, NGO funding is handled by ministries for development, which are powers unto themselves, and dispense funds to allies independent of parliaments, foreign ministries, etc. Systematic NGO Monitor research ended the tight secrecy, in which the funding processes had been wrapped, leading for the first time to debate, criticism and oversight.

Beginning in 2014, as part of our routine research, NGO Monitor began examining government budgets to document the funding of radical NGOs involved in BDS and [anti-Israel] ‘lawfare’ by the four-government framework known as the IHL Secretariat based in Bir Zeit University. It included Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and Holland (and also briefly Norway, see below). In each country, we briefed Members of Parliament and journalists—and they pressed relevant ministry officials on how the budgets, amounting to millions of dollars annually, were determined and monitored.

For a while, the ministers and their appointees stonewalled but by early 2016, the criticism was intense. We revealed that a number of the NGOs (Al Haq, Addameer, DCIP, etc)  were linked to the PFLP terror group – and government officials were embarrassed. They didn’t know anything and were unable to answer basic questions.

In parallel, NGO Monitor published documents showing that the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and their representative in Ramallah had begun to channel $1 million to the IHL Secretariat, although no such decision had been made by the new government. In meetings with Israeli leaders, Norwegian political leaders learned the details and by January 2017, Norway ended this funding. This also triggered a broad review of all funding for anti-Israel NGOs in the NORAD pipeline, leading to cutoffs and reductions in the 2018 NORAD budget.

The press reports following the PMW [Palestinian Media Watch] revelation that Norwegian money, via the IHL Secretariat, went to the school named after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi reinforced this policy change.

In the case of Denmark, the process was similar. In early 2017, following the updated NGO Monitor reports on the IHL Secretariat and detailed briefings with the Danish Ambassador to Israel, who forwarded the reports, the new Danish foreign minister met with [Israeli PM] Netanyahu, where the issue was discussed. Accompanying journalists wrote about the details of this funding in the Danish press, MPs pressed for major changes, and these factors triggered a full investigation. Here also, the school named after a terrorist reinforced the process, which ended with the Danish government decision to end funding for the IHL Secretariat.

There are a number of indications that the Dutch will follow the others and for the same reasons. Funding for the IHL Secretariat is still under review following a debate based on the NGO Monitor reports, meetings with Dutch diplomats, the involvement of the Dutch group CIDI (Centrum Informatie en Documentatie Israel) and a vote in Parliament. In Switzerland, the Parliament voted in March 2017 against the government and the Foreign Minister, who pleaded with his own party MPs not to approve a bill ordering funding changes, which are in process (the FM resigned afterwards, no reason given).

This probably means the end of the IHL Secretariat at Bir Zeit University—the jewel in the anti-Israel NGO crown. A unique NGO funding mechanism based in Ramallah, [it enabled] four (and for a short period, five) [Scandinavian] governments to pool their money ostensibly to save on overhead, while avoiding oversight and monitoring, which allowed local radicals at Bir Zeit [University] to control and abuse the funds.

Sweden is the only country that has not announced a review or investigation, but they will not be able to run the Secretariat on their own, and even in Stockholm, some MPs are asking questions about funding via SIDA (the Swedish International Development Agency, which is the most politically influential and unconstrained of all the European development ministries) for terrorist-linked [Palestinian] NGOs.

As a result, the NGO funding used for [anti-Israel] demonization will diminish significantly—at least by $5 million per year, which means less resources for BDS activities on campuses, and more importantly, reduced funds for lawfare campaigns via [the Palestinian NGOs] Al Haq, PCHR, DCIP etc.”

Conclusion

On their English-language websites, many Palestinian NGOs convey a benign image of civil rights groups engaged in advancing democratic rights, peace, and civil society. But their actual programming and Arabic-source messaging tells an entirely different story—as the work of watchdog groups like PMW and NGO Monitor has long exposed.

PMW and NGO Monitor have revealed that for years a large number of Palestinian NGOs have helped to inculcate within Palestinian society a culture of hate that’s completely at odds with European governmental policies—and is among the most significant obstacles to peace.

Now Danish and Norwegian aid donors have demonstrated that they’re no longer willing to be complicit in the ruse. They’ve taken note of the information that PMW and NGO Monitor have compiled, and they’re responding appropriately.

If other European governments also become sufficiently fed up with the charade, and follow suit to also implement more stringent vetting processes for transferring funds to Palestinian NGOs, then this will be a very important victory in the battle against the anti-Israel BDS movement.

That’s especially going to be so when you consider the large-scale funding that Europe provides to Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, many of which have basically become arms of BDS, under the pretext of advancing peace and civil society.

Bottom line: All those who care about Israel and advancing Middle East peace should be very grateful for the work that PMW and NGO Monitor do. You can support their research by making a donation (for PMW click here; for NGO Monitor click here).

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman