For those present during Ahmadinejad’s hateful tirade in Geneva, as well as for those watching it on television, the mass walkout, mainly by European states, appeared historic. Such strong rejection of Ahmadinejad’s racist message by world leaders is symbolic of the international community finally taking the threats of the world’s most powerful Holocaust denier seriously.
As important as this gesture was, the EU has much to do if it truly wants to fight anti-Semitism, racism, and the perpetuation of anti-Israel propaganda on the world stage. It must put its money where its mouth is and stop funding NGOs that use these funds to promote the delegitimization of Israel and to pursue political agendas that preclude peace.
One avenue of EU funding for politicized NGOs in Israel and the Palestinian Authority is through the EU’s Partnerships for Peace program. Indeed a misnomer, the Partnerships for Peace program has provided grants to NGOs such as Miftah. Under the ironic title of “Words Can Kill” the EU awarded Miftah a grant to promote a "discourse free of incitement, prejudice and dehumanization of the other in Israel and Palestine" when in fact one of Miftah’s “strategic objectives” listed on their website is to “disseminate the Palestinian narrative and discourse globally to both official and popular bodies and decision-makers.” During the Gaza war Miftah condemned Israeli “atrocities” and “massacres” and claimed that “Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians.”How such an organization is an EU partner in peace is difficult to grasp.
Additionally, the NGO Development Center (NDC) made up of the pooled funding from the governments of Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, and Sweden recently awarded $6 million to 25 Palestinian and Israeli NGOs. Many of these organizations have been active in implementing the Durban Strategy crystallized at the first UN Durban Conference in 2001 by attempting to isolate Israel through the use of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS.)
The NDC awarded almost $1 million combined to Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in 2008 – the two leaders of the “Lawfare” movement to exploit the courts of democratic countries in order to bring cases against Israeli political and military officials for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”. In fact, Al-Haq claims on its website to have “ready-to-be-used case files,” lists BDS against Israel among its “goals and objectives” and has lobbied the EU to annul the upgrade of EU-Israel bilateral relations and to suspend economic cooperation between the two.
Additionally, Al-Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan on account of his alleged ties to the terrorist group Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP.) During the Gaza war, PCHR’s anti-Israel campaigning was among the most extreme including accusations of Israeli “crimes against humanity,” “human holocaust,” “collective punishment,” and “systematic destruction of all the Palestinian institutions and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip.” PCHR also consistently refers to Palestinian terrorism as “resistance.”
The extensive European funding for NGOs propagating a similar message as Ahmadinejad, places the Geneva walkout in perspective. It was an important gesture but effective change in the struggle to reclaim the universality of human rights from its politicization by NGOs will come only when the EU stops writing blank checks to these highly politicized groups. So thank you for the walkout, but what about the follow-through?
Diane Meskin is a researcher for NGO Monitor in Jerusalem