Sunday, January 23, 2011
Dutch FM mulls slashing funding for anti-Israel charity
Interchurch Organisation for Development and Cooperation uses public funds to finance Electronic Intifada website that equates Israel with Nazis.
BERLIN – Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal “will monitor ICCO’s activities. He will consider this as a minus when he makes up the balance when ICCO applies again in new a subsidies-round,” Ward Bezemer, a spokesman for Rosenthal, told The Jerusalem Post last week.
Bezemer was responding to the Interchurch Organisation for Development and Cooperation’s defense of its use of public funds to finance the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada website. Rosenthal met with the Dutch charity on January 13, and told ICCO that its support of EI contradicts the government’s foreign policy, ICCO said in a statement.
EI equates Israeli policies with the Nazi regime and advocates boycotts against the Jewish state, the Jerusalembased NGO Monitor reported in November. NGO Monitor asserts that EI is plagued by expressions of modern anti- Semitism.
Rosenthal told the Post then, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government-subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”
ICCO on January 14 expressed defiance of Rosenthal’s policy positions rejecting ICCO support for EI.
ICCO titled its statement, “ICCO will not change policy after discussion with Dutch foreign minister,” and said “it discussed its funding of the website The Electronic Intifada with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal. It was a tough and straightforward discussion, but ICCO sees no reason to change its policy. International law is the main guideline for ICCO’s work.”
The ICCO said, “According [to] the minister, the site offers a platform for the call for boycott of Israel. Supporting this website is therefore, in the minister’s view, diametrically opposed to Dutch foreign policy. ICCO disagrees with the minister on this.”
According to the ICCO statement, “Since 2005, more than 170 Palestinian and some Israeli organizations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policy. The purpose is for Israel to comply with international law and respect human rights. This pressure is justified as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories continue. It is a peaceful and legal way to push for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve a peaceful and just solution.”
NGO Monitor criticized ICCO’s statement and reported Dutch government funding of another anti-Israel nonprofit.
NGO Monitor said that Oxfam Novib sponsored a speaking tour for Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of EI, who has called for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, wrote the Post by e-mail on Monday: “We note that Foreign Minister Rosenthal is continuing the important inquiry into ICCO’s funding of Electronic Intifada.”
He continued, “EI is a leader in the demonization of Israel, including the anti-Semitic BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign, and frequently compares the Israeli military to Nazis. EI executive director Ali Abunimah labels Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as ‘collaborators,’ and PA participation in peace talks as ‘collaboration.’” Steinberg added, “As the Dutch government opposes such activities and statements, this inflammatory rhetoric and calls to isolate Israel internationally are entirely counterproductive to achieving peace in the region. We will continue to monitor the investigation and call for the end of ICCO funding for all issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict until a full audit has been completed.
“Our research shows that the Dutch government also funds Oxfam Novib, which in 2009 funded a Netherlands speaking tour for Abunimah.
During the tour, Abunimah called for an end to Israel as a Jewish state, advocated for the BDS movement, and invoked the rhetoric of ‘apartheid.’ These are not isolated incidents – this type of poisonous activity is precisely why European government funding of NGOs requires close oversight and full transparency.
We expect the Dutch government to investigate this funding as well,” Steinberg said.
Ruud Huurman, a spokesman for Oxfam Novib, the Dutch affiliate of Oxfam, responded to Post queries by e-mail on Wednesday. “In 2009, Oxfam Novib provided modest funding for a public discussion entitled Towards a Rights-Based Solution for the conflict in Palestine/Israel.
The event took place on 16 May 2009 in the renowned Amsterdam-based public debate center De Balie. The funding consisted of Euro 5,650 and included the traveling and lodging costs of Mr.
Abunimah. The event was organized by the Netherlands Palestine Committee, in cooperation with al-Awda and the Palestinian community in the Netherlands,” Huurman said.
When asked about Abunimah and EI’s calls for boycotts against Israel and the allegations that his and EI’s comments are anti-Semitic, Huurman wrote, “Whilst Oxfam Novib has not itself signed on to the call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in relation to Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, we fully support the democratic right of Mr. Abunimah to express his views in this regard.”
“Oxfam Novib has been working in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1982 and with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon since 1985. Our work there targets the most vulnerable Palestinians such as rural communities, women and children. We also support Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations striving for human rights and respect for international law. Oxfam Novib bases its work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law. We would never provide support to organizations and individuals who discriminate or incite violence and hatred,” Huurman said.
ICCO “behaves like a state within a state,” Ronny Naftaniel, head of The Haguebased Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, told the Post via telephone on Tuesday, speaking from Kiev, where he was attending a Jewish conference.
The Dutch people want to support aid for people in developing countries and not for anti-Israel propaganda and boycott measures against the Jewish state, he said.
Naftaniel dismissed ICCO’s claim that it adheres to international law.
“If you support an organization that is against the existence of the State of Israel and promotes boycotts, then they are themselves against international law.”
Most members of parliament support Rosenthal’s opposition to EI, Naftaniel said. There might be legal obstacles to pulling the plug on ICCO funding during the life of the contract, he said.
ICCO received a four-year budget from the Dutch government and the contract expires in three years, Naftaniel said.
Rosenthal’s decision and the Dutch parliamentary majority against Dutch taxpayer funding for anti-Israel NGO activity could have implications for other Dutch charities, Naftaniel said.
It is unclear if the Dutch foreign minister will take legal action to terminate ICCO’s funding during the life of the four-year agreement.
Yochanan Visser, who made aliya from the Netherlands in 2000 and is head of the organization Missing Peace, told the Post on Tuesday that “based on our research, we came to the conclusion that the Dutch government should immediately cut the subsidy to ICCO, because it continues to refuse a stop to the funding of Electronic Intifada, which is a jihadist news site.”
Visser said that in official statements, ICCO “calls for a just peace for everyone (Israeli’s and Palestinians) and states that protection of human rights and International law is the main guideline for her work.
“But in reality it continues to fund a news site (EI) that whitewashes suicide terrorism, makes pleas for Islamist terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizbullah, demonizes Israel and invokes hatred of the Jewish state. It is impossible to understand how this enhances the chances for peace.”