Israel Calls on EU to End Funding to Pro-BDS Groups

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

Israel called on the European Union on Friday to halt funding to more than a dozen European and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that it says promote boycotts against Israel, saying that the financial support violates the EU’s stated policy that it opposes boycotts against Israel.

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry published a report with a list of groups that it says receive EU funding and which call for boycotts against Israel. It said some of the groups had links to terror groups while receiving EU money.

The report was the latest salvo by Israel in its fight against a global movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions over of its treatment of the Palestinians. The movement, known as BDS, has urged businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel and it includes thousands of volunteers around the world.

“The state of Israel expects the EU to act with full transparency and reveal the scope of its financial aid to organizations that have ties to terror and promote boycotts against Israel” the report said. “Israel strongly urges the EU to fully implement in practice its declared policy of rejecting boycotts against Israel, and to immediately halt funding to organizations which promote anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimization.”

The EU said it hadn’t received any “communication from the government of Israel” on Friday’s report and that the bloc is confident its “financing does not go to support terrorism” or boycott efforts.

“We are of course happy to review any relevant information received concerning EU-funded activities. Money from the EU budget may only be spent for the purpose for which it was contracted, under strict transparency rules and is subject to extensive monitoring requirements,” the EU statement said.

Israel said the NGOs received a total of 5 million euros ($5.9 million) in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according to the ministry report.

It accused some of the NGOs of having links to Palestinian terror groups, listing among others Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which received more than 1.7 million euros ($2 million) in 2016 and claimed the group had links to Palestinian terror groups.

The U.S. Justice Department announced in April that the group reached a settlement with the United States over accusations that it had provided “training and expert advice or assistance” to the Islamic Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, as well as other Palestinian militant groups and Iran. As part of the settlement, NPA “admitted to and accepted responsibility for its conduct” and agreed to pay more than $2 million.

The U.S., along with the EU, considers Hamas a terror group. NPA said it wanted to see the list before commenting.

Other groups singled out in Friday’s report included the British organization War on Want, the Dutch antiwar group PAX as well as a number of Palestinian groups, including PNGO Net, an umbrella organization that works to coordinate Palestinian civil society.

The call to the EU follows other steps Israel has taken to ratchet up its fight against the boycott movement. Earlier this year, Israel identified 20 activist groups from around the world whose members would be banned from entering the country over their calls to boycott Israel.

The EU has upheld the free expression rights of its citizens to call for a boycott of Israel but has stressed that the body opposed any boycott of Israel.

In the years since its formation, the BDS movement has persuaded several church organizations to divest themselves of Israel-related investments and has garnered support on U.S. college campuses.