Middle East

How can governments ensure NGOs aren’t diverting money towards terror?

Civil society, including NGOs, is the backbone of a healthy democracy, according to Olga Deutsch, Vice President of the Israeli applied research institute, NGO Monitor. 

“Journalists and governments rely on the information the NGOs provide about human rights around the globe,” said Deutsch, an expert in advocacy and building effective strategies to address attempts to delegitimize Israel, BDS and modern antisemitism. 

She stated, however, that when it comes to Israel, many organizations abuse their mandate.

“Instead of promoting human rights or providing humanitarian aid, they often try to delegitimize the State of Israel, promote antisemitic narratives, and work to boycott Israel or Jews around the world,” Deutsch said. “A prime example is the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.”

Deutsch clarified that in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, dozens of NGOs – the majority of them funded by the EU, UN, and other European governments – receive roughly $100 million USD annually from them for their activities.

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Encouragingly, this year alone, the EU, Netherlands, Holland, and Belgium opened official investigations into abuses of their funds out of concern that NGOs diverted them to terror purposes.

Deutsch refuted the argument that NGO Monitor’s work stifles Palestinians’ freedom of speech. “We have absolutely no issue with anyone voicing their political views,” she stressed. “If a government decides that it does not want to inadvertently fund terror, that should include funding to NGOs.”

Deutsch recalled that in 2019, Israeli law enforcement arrested 50 Palestinian NGO employees and officials part of the PFLP network.

Deutsch also spoke of contemporary antisemitism that revolves around Israel, Zionism, Israeli policies. According to Deutsch, the IHRA working definition on antisemitism is revolutionary in that it “tries to marry the ‘old’ antisemitism and the ‘contemporary’ manifestation of it.” The IHRA definition tries to define antisemitism today and attaches a series of examples from daily life to it. Examples include blaming Jews for Israeli policies, singling out Israel, denying the Jewish right to self-determination, and calling Israel a “racist endeavor” or “apartheid.” 

Regarding the EU’s new strategy to combat antisemitism, Deutsch excitedly pointed out that the document emphasizes that IHRA’s definition will guide the EU’s external policies, including funding NGOs outside its borders.

Reflecting on NGO Monitor’s impact, Ms. Deutsch noted that they have provided factual reports of NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, exposed their agenda, provided data on their funding, raised awareness about these issues, and called on donor governments to take action. 

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