(July 5, 2018 / NGO Monitor) The banner of human rights provides nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) around the world with a halo of credibility and impartiality, enhancing their access to funding and to decision-making processes. Unfortunately, many NGOs routinely exploit the rhetoric of universal human rights and international law to promote narrow ideological and political campaigns.
Several government-funded NGOs involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict go further, using the facade of human rights and international law to blur the lines between “peaceful” and “nonviolent” campaigns, on one hand, and violent “resistance,” including attacks against civilians, on the other.
Some of these organizations also have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—a designated terrorist organization by the European Union, United States and Israel. The term “resistance” is used by Palestinians to refer to armed groups that carry out attacks against Israel, including the PFLP, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and is used in this way by many of the NGOs discussed in this report.
By exploiting the language of human rights and by working together in a tight network, these groups are able to amplify their claims, garner undue exposure and gain legitimacy for their radical ideologies. Their messages, which are in blatant defiance of their funders’ policies, resonate in a global context of rising populism and increasing extremism that rewards fear-mongering, incitement and misleading rhetoric.
The examples that will be presented in this report are symptomatic of an overall lack of accountability and scrutiny in government funding to NGOs, in particular those that are politically active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This results in financial backing for groups that legitimize violence, in sharp contradiction to French government commitments to facilitating a negotiated two-state framework.
In order to address this issue effectively and reduce such funding, NGO Monitor recommends:
- The establishment of inter-parliamentary working groups with Knesset members and French parliamentarians in order to enhance oversight and develop mutually agreed upon funding guidelines. An inter-parliamentary forum will enable pragmatic, constructive dialogue and provide a platform for the discussion of specific cases of direct and indirect funding, information exchange and consultation with experts (research institutes, academics, journalists, etc.).
- Increased coordination and information sharing among Israeli government branches, so as to identify cases of misplaced funding to Palestinian, Israeli and French NGOs, and to address these issues with the relevant parties.
- Increased coordination and transfer of information on NGO funding between Israeli security apparatuses and their French counterparts.
- Regular engagement in a respectful, informed dialogue with the French government on funding to civil society via diplomatic channels.
French-funded NGOs with ties to terror
From 2013-16, the French regions Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and PACA provided €89,167 and €35,000 respectively for a project implemented by the Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-Violente, and the Center for Freedom and Justice. The Palestinian NGO Center for Freedom and Justice’s leader Mousa Abu Maria describes himself as a “nonviolent peace activist.” Abu Maria was convicted in 1999 for his involvement in the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ), a terror group recognized as such by the European Union, the United States and Israel.
From 2012-14, France provided the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) with €301,176. UAWC is identified by Fatah as an official PFLP “affiliate” and by USAID as the “agricultural arm” of the PFLP.5
In 2015, MAEI provided Al-Haq with €27,842. Al-Haq is a leader of anti-Israel “lawfare” and BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns. Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin, who is also the vice president of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), was convicted in 1985 for recruiting members for the PFLP.
- In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Jabarin’s appeal to go abroad stating that “the petitioner is a senior activist in the PFLP terror group … the current petitioner is apparently acting as a manner of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, acting some of the time as the CEO of a human-rights organization, and at other times as an activist in a terror organization which has not shied away from murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights … ”
In 2011, the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem (CGF) granted the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC) with €15,000. According to the Institute for Palestine Studies, UPWC is politically affiliated with the PFLP. In 2017, UPWC declared that normalization with Israel is treason.
French-funded NGOs that promote violence and anti-Semitism
The French Agency for Development (AFD) supports French organizations that disseminate blatant anti-Israeli rhetoric and that are active in prohibited discriminatory boycott campaigns against Israel (according to the Court of Cassation). Senior staff members of these organizations also express sympathy for convicted terrorists.
- Since 2012, AFD provided €623,117 and €764,664 to the French NGO Secours populaire français for two projects in partnership with the Palestinian NGO Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS). In 2015, PMRS’ “independent news website” published violent and anti-Semitic imagery. PMRS is also active in BDS campaigns against Israel.
AFPS is a prominent BDS actor in France, and co-authored BDS reports against Orange (Partner) and French banks.
The full report can be read at NGO Monitor here.