The European Union (EU) is still financing anti-Israel BDS groups, despite Israel’s request that it ceases to do so, a new and extensive Israeli survey on the issue shows.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Wednesday dispatched a missive to Frederica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in which he demanded that the EU act on its statements opposing boycotts on Israel and stop financing organizations that promote them.
This letter was a follow-up for a similar letter Erdan sent Mogherini in May 2018 following the publication of an Israeli report detailing EU funding for NGOs involved in promoting BDS, some of which are connected to EU-designated terror organizations.
In the May letter, Erdan expressed Israel’s “grave concern” that EU funding was helping NGOs promote boycotts of Israel, even if the declared projects for which they received funding were not directly related to BDS. Mogherini stated in her reply that the EU had strict rules and guidelines for vetting its funding to NGOs while stating with confidence that EU funds were not used to support BDS or terrorism.
However, another new Israeli survey shows that the EU is still funding anti-Israel NGOs.
Erdan in recent months established a team that widened its examination of this issue while using newly available data published by the EU for 2017 and 2018. The findings show that the EU continues to fund NGOs that promote BDS.
The updated report highlights 10 NGOs that actively promote boycotts of Israel which received EU funding in 2017-2018. At least three of these NGOs have connections to EU-designated terror organizations. The report notes that while exact amounts are difficult to determine due to a lack of EU transparency, these 10 organizations received at least five million euro ($5.9 million) from the EU, although the real amount is likely much higher.
The report also found that two of the most prominent Israel-boycott organizations, Al-Haq and Al-Mezan, were awarded a multiyear grant of over €750,000 from the EU which apparently began in 2018.
Erdan also calls Mogherini’s attention to a December 2018 report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) which found that the “Commission was not sufficiently transparent regarding the implementation of EU funds by NGOs,” and warned that the Commission does not have sufficiently-comprehensive information as to how these NGOs use these funds and found that the Commission’s mechanism for assigning NGO status was unreliable.
“Unfortunately, the findings of the ECA report paint a different picture from the one which you presented in your letter,” Erdan wrote. The ECA report “underscores the concerns which I raised regarding the danger of the misuse of EU funds by NGOs for purposes other than those for which they were intended.”
Erdan further noted that “even if funds were not misused, it is clear that money is fungible, and that funding provided to BDS-promoting NGOs for one purpose allows them to channel other resources to promote anti-Israel boycotts. In addition, the fact that a BDS-promoting NGO has been awarded an EU grant provides the NGO with special status and legitimacy, which then support its fundraising efforts more broadly, including for BDS.”
“I strongly believe it is time for the EU to move from words to action,” Erdan stated, urging Mogherini “in the strongest possible terms” to implement the ECA’s recommendations for greater transparency regarding EU funding to NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, to undertake an examination as to whether EU funds have been used to promote BDS due to insufficient oversite, to immediately end funding for NGOs which actively promote a boycott of Israel or which count among their members those connected to EU-designated terror organizations, and to condition future EU funding on an NGO’s commitment not to promote anti-Israel boycotts, and not to include among its members those connected to EU-designated terrorist organizations.
“These steps would bring EU funding policy in-line with its declared opposition to BDS and all forms of terror. Israel, like the EU, is deeply committed to freedom of expression. However, this does not mean that the EU should provide taxpayer funds to NGOs promoting the anti-Semitic BDS campaign,” Erdan wrote.
Erdan also charged Mogherini with attempting to avoid proper handling of the issue. While Mogherini invited Erdan to present Israel’s findings after the May report, he says that when he offered potential dates for such a meeting, he was met with a suggestion to hold a “technical discussion” between bureaucrats in order to “clarify the facts”.
“The facts, as laid out in our detailed reports, are clear. If your offer to meet in order to review the evidence and conduct an open dialogue on this issue is indeed sincere, I invite your office to reach out to mine in order to set a concrete date for such a meeting,” he concluded the letter.
Following the publication of the special report, Erdan stated that “the time has come for the EU to begin a deep reexamination of its policies. Instead of hiding behind empty statements, the European Union needs to implement its own declared policy and immediately cease funding organizations that promote boycotts against the State of Israel.”