newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Germany cuts funding to NGOs labeled terror orgs by Israel in 2021

While Berlin had resisted halting its support for the six "Palestinian civil society groups" for two years, Oct. 7 "changed everything," according to NGO Monitor.

Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) take part in a military show in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the group's founding, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) take part in a military show in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the group's founding, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

The German government will cease funding six Palestinian NGOs that were declared terrorist organizations in 2021 by then Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported last week.

NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog group that spearheaded the effort to convince Germany to stop funding the groups, considers it a major development.

“It is huge because it is the first government in the world that is basically recognizing that Israel’s evidence was right concerning the designation of the six,” Olga Deutsch, vice president of NGO-Monitor, told JNS.

While Germany did freeze funding to the NGOs at the time pending review, for the last two years it had resisted calls to end funding altogether.

Indeed, in July 2022, Germany along with eight other European Union states said they would continue working with the six groups, claiming Israel had provided “no substantial evidence” justifying their assertion of the groups’ terror links.

The NGOs earned their terrorist designation from Israel for their close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

“Part of the problem is that Germany is one of the least transparent countries when it comes to providing aid,” said Deutsch, describing 34 different funding mechanisms under two ministries. Government money is also funneled through development programs, political party foundations and church aid groups, among other means.

The myriad ways of providing funds make it difficult to determine which NGOs have received them. She described how NGO Monitor puts together the puzzle pieces by cross-referencing bits of information. “Sometimes we will see an NGO promoting an event or a brochure, and then we will see Germany’s logo on it. So we will understand that it is supported by Germany,” she said. “I cannot stress enough Germany’s lack of transparency.”

Deutsch has personally traveled to Berlin many times and met with dozens of German parliamentarians. Last year, NGO Monitor presented German officials with an 85-page report that provided extensive information contradicting the claims of European governments and the NGOs themselves, she said.

Most parliamentarians welcomed the report, and there is a desire among German legislators to exert more control over where taxpayer funds go, and not just rely on executive decisions, especially given the enormous sums involved, she said. Germany is the second largest development aid donor after the United States, giving 35 billion euros (~$37 billion) in aid in 2022 globally.

The sudden shift in Germany’s attitude is due to the Oct. 7 massacre.

“It changed everything,” said Deutsch, forcing Germany to take an “urgent, critical look” at what kinds of groups it was supporting.

While Germany has stood at Israel’s side in the Gaza war, and took an active part in defending Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the NGOs detailed in the report (there were 12 total) failed to condemn Oct. 7 and most attacked Israel. An employee of one helped write South Africa’s ICJ genocide petition, while other groups sat in the audience in support of South Africa.

“What our report did is amplify the stark contrast between Germany’s official policy toward Israel, post-Oct. 7, and what the organizations they fund were actually doing, which was the exact opposite,” Deutsch noted.

Another problem that may explain Germany’s foot-dragging is psychological; It has been giving money to these groups for decades. “It’s very difficult to wake up one morning and say, ‘As of today, we don’t think that these groups are okay, although we’ve been funding them and partnering with them for 30 years,'” she said.

In some cases, NGO leaders became friends with their German funders. Deutsch describes a meeting last year with the head of the Middle East division of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. When she pointed out the publicly verifiable information about the terror ties of Shawan Jabarin, head of Al-Haq, one of the terror-designated NGOs, he replied, “I asked Shawan if he was a terrorist. And he said, ‘No.'”

It’s not known whether Germany has made a decision about the other groups named in the report. Deutsch is hopeful because the Bild article referred to two internal evaluations conducted by the German government. It’s likely they would have reached similar conclusions about the other groups, she said.

NGO Monitor next plans to leverage Germany’s decision to influence other European governments to revisit their funding of so-called Palestinian civil society groups.

It’s critical that the work be done before war’s end, as there will be “immense pressure” on the international community to give still more money to the Palestinians than they had prior to Oct. 7 to help rebuild, noted Deutsch.

“After the war, it will be too late. And we will just end up in a situation where even more money goes into these radical terrorist-related organizations, whose one goal is to lobby against Israel,” she added.

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