Israeli Minister Slams EU Funding of 'BDS Groups,' Ignoring That the U.S. Funds the Same Groups

Why is Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan silent about American and Australian involvement in the funding of alleged anti-Israel boycott organizations?

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Pro-Palestinian protesters supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, demonstrates  in Cape Town, South Africa, September 21, 2015.
Pro-Palestinian protesters supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, demonstrates in Cape Town, South Africa, September 21, 2015.Credit: Michelly Rall / Getty Images
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security and of strategic affairs (Likud), has for some time been conducting a campaign against the European Union. The minister’s public image was dented in the past few days by the criticism he leveled against Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, but his pummeling of the EU is always welcome among Likud supporters.

Last Friday he tweeted, “The European Union continues to fund #BDS organizations, some of which are linked to terrorist organizations, with tens of millions of shekels a year. This morning we published an in-depth study exposing the scale of the EU’s funding of BDS as part of the political effort I am leading against the phenomenon. We will continue to act until Europe stops funding boycott organizations and stops meddling in Israel’s internal affairs.”

Erdan was citing a report drawn up by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which was leaked to the freebie newspaper Israel Hayom, about the EU’s involvement in financing organizations that call for a boycott of Israel.

But a perusal of the report shows that, though Erdan imputes responsibility to the EU, he’s silent about other countries that are friendly to Israel and also appear to be underwriting boycott groups, namely, the United States and Australia.

Minister Gilad Erdan.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

The largest organization mentioned in the report is Norwegian People’s Aid, which was founded in that Scandinavian country in the 1930s and conducts humanitarian activity across the globe. The fact is that, contrary to the allegation of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, NPA does not support a boycott of Israel in general, but only of the settlements. In any event, the organization’s 2016 budget stood at 1.2 billion kroner ($145 million), of which the EU’s share was 16 million kroner, or 1.3 percent of the total. Actually, the largest single donor to NPA was the United States: with the equivalent of 168 million kroner from the State Department and another 38 million from USAID, the American international development agency – all told, 206 million kroner.

Another organization mentioned in the report is the Agricultural Development Association (PARC), a Palestinian organization that is active in the territories. According to the Strategic Affairs Ministry, PARC “takes an active part in the Stop the Wall campaign that promotes the principles of BDS and calls, among other issues, for a boycott of Mekorot [Israel’s national water company] and the Elbit corporation, and for an arms embargo on Israel.” In 2016, PARC received 1.5 million euros from the EU. However, according to the organization’s website, it also receives funds (of an unspecified amount) from the United States.

One of the report’s allegations is that the EU indirectly funds BDS-supporting organizations through intermediary groups. For example, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights receives indirect financing from the overseas development agency of Ireland’s Catholic Church, which is called Trocaire. The ministry alleges that Trocaire supports an economic boycott of Israel, when in fact the organization is officially against a boycott. In 2016, Trocaire received 1.4 million euros from the EU, but it was also the recipient of an identical donation from the Australian government, which is considered friendly to Israel’s right-wing government.

Why is Erdan silent about American and Australian involvement in the funding of BDS organizations but casts responsibility on the EU? Of course, you already know why.

Asked about the discrepancy, a spokesman for the Strategic Affairs Ministry told Haaretz: “The European Union systematically and significantly funds organizations and nonprofits that work to boycott Israel – some of them also have ties with terrorist organizations. Israel will not accept this situation. In complete contrast to the European Union, the American administration pursues a clear policy against boycott organizations. In recent years, Congress and 25 states in the United States have passed laws against the boycott of Israel and taken additional measures to aid in the struggle against the campaign of delegitimization of Israel. It’s not known whether the funds to Palestinian Center for Human Rights were transferred during the period of the current administration or during the Obama administration. In any event, the ministry is in contact with the authorities in the United States to prevent the transfer of funds to organizations that support the boycott.”

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