Israel summons Belgium ambassador over 'anti-Israel' NGOs

Israel summons Belgium ambassador over 'anti-Israel' NGOs
The Israeli foreign ministry accused Belgium of funding organisations that 'attempt to silence supporters of Israel'.
3 min read
11 August, 2020
Relations between Israel and Belgium have become strained in recent months [Getty]
Israel summoned the Belgian ambassador on Monday, accusing Brussels of legitimising "anti-Israel activism" through its funding of NGOs, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson was reprimanded by the foreign ministry after a report last month by NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel institute that surveys the views of non-governmental organisations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The report by NGO Monitor - accused by critics of attacking and smearing human rights organisations and NGOs that criticise the Israeli government -  lashed out at Belgium over its funding of NGOs looking to "mitigate the influence of pro-Israel voices".

That phrase appeared in a 2016 document by the Belgian Joint Strategic Framework Palestine, an organisation that distrubutes government funds to NGOs that organise aid for Palestinians. 

The document stated a goal to strengthen local civil society organisations in order "to increase their advocacy efforts towards the European institutions and member states, promoting respect for international law and mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices".

NGO Monitor described the statement as proof of the "misuse of European taxpayer funds to benefit radical groups".

Last month, a spokesperson for the Belgian foreign ministry told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the phrasing "does not reflect Belgium's position or point of view".

Responding to a complaint by the Israeli ambassador to Belgium, the ministry said last week it "does not intervene in the legitimacy of the goals of these organisations".

Nonetheless, Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy director-general for Europe Anna Azari summoned Belgium's ambassador on Monday over the affair.

The ministry "takes the funding of organizations with the goal to harm support for Israel very seriously", a source told The Jerusalem Post.
"In this funding, the government of Belgium is hurting the discourse of understanding and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, and is distancing the chance for a peaceful solution between the two nations," the source claimed.

Relations between Brussels and Tel Aviv have grown tense over the past year.

In February, Israel summoned a top Belgian envoy twice in one week over the nation's invitation of a speaker from Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) to speak in front of the United Nations Security Council.

Israel accuses the group - which aims to protect the rights of Palestinian children - of ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The invitation was ultimately rescinded.

Belgium has also voiced support for sanctions against Israel in the event of its annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank.

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