Israel urges EU to cut funding to pro-BDS groups

Israel urges EU to cut funding to pro-BDS groups
Israel has called on the EU to cease funding NGOs that support the nonviolent BDS movement.
3 min read
BDS is a growing movement in Europe -Getty]

Israel called on the European Union on Friday to halt funding to more than a dozen European and Palestinian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that it says promote boycotts against the brutal Israeli occupation.

Israel's strategic affairs ministry published a report with a list of groups that it says receive EU funding and call for boycotts against Israel. It said some of the groups that received EU money had links to militant groups.

The report was the latest salvo by Israel in its fight against a non-violent global movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) due to Tel Aviv's treatment of the Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian territories.

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 organisations 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 organisations which promote anti-Israel boycotts and de-legitimisation."

EU officials said the bloc's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, received the report from Israel along with a letter requesting a reply, which is now under consideration.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to talk to the media.

Earlier, an EU statement said the bloc was "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," it 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 Gaza-based Hamas, listing among others Norwegian People's Aid, which received more than 1.7 million euros ($2 million) in 2016 and claiming the group had links to Hamas.

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

Munjid Abu Jaish of PNGO Net called Friday's report "another Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and their institutions".

"We will continue our legal nonviolent struggle according to the international law, regardless of the results, because we believe in this path," he said.

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 due to their calls for boycott.

The EU has recommended that its member states put special labels on exports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

It has stopped short of banning settlement products, but they do not receive the same tax emptions that products made in Israel receive.

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 to such actions.

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

Recently, pop singer Lorde joined a number of other artists who have canceled performances in Israel amid pressure from BDS activists.