Dutch will look into NGO funding of anti-Semitic website
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
NGO Monitor slams Dutch ICCO for funding 'Electronic Intifada'; Dutch FM says if true, will have a 'serious problem' with the Palestinian site.
BERLIN – The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime.
NGO Monitor’s exposure of Dutch government funding for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday to the Post, "I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”
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That government funding amounted to €124 million in 2008. The European Commission also funds ICCO.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said, “This type of poisonous activity is precisely why European government funding of NGOs requires close oversight and full transparency."
“Based on our experience, we assume that the top Dutch government officials are completely unaware of the link between money given to ICCO for aid, and Electronic Intifada, a group whose rhetoric and activities undermine hopes for mutual understanding.”
The ICCO website devotes a page to Electronic Intifada, praising its work as “an internationally recognized daily news source” that provides a counterweight to “positive reporting” about Israel. ICCO’s website notes its three-year funding pledge for Electronic Intifada.
NGO Monitor told the Post that “EI executive director Ali Abunimah is a leader in delegitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel. In his travels and speaking engagements, facilitated by Electronic Intifada’s budget, he calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and routinely uses false apartheid rhetoric."
“Abunimah also equates Israel to Nazi Germany, comparing the Israeli press to Der Stürmer, referring to Gaza as a ‘ghetto for surplus non-Jews,’ and claiming that ‘Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.’” NGO Monitor criticized ICCO’s employment of Mieke Zagt, who is “the ICCO official directing the funding to EI,” a “former employee of Amnesty International’s Middle East division, and a vocal proponent of BDS herself.” BDS is the abbreviation for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
Marinus Verweij, who became chairman of ICCO’s executive board earlier this month, wrote the Post on Thursday, “Electronic Intifada was launched in February 2001. It publishes news, commentary, analysis and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian situation... It has become an important source of information from the occupied Palestinian territories. Newspapers such as The Washington Post and the Financial Times have frequently used material from the Electronic Intifada.”
He continued, “The rights of Palestinian people to a decent way of living are central in the news brought by the EI. The EI reports frequently about the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the State of Israel. In no way is the EI anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.”
Verweij said ICCO “has a policy of supporting both Israeli and Palestinian organizations who abide by the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law. ICCO supports the Electronic Intifada since 2007. Mieke Zagt is one of the program officers for ICCO working on the Middle East. She is implementing the policies approved by the executive board of ICCO.”
Verweij declined to comment on Zagt’s advocacy for BDS activities as well as Electronic Intifada’s comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany.
Speaking from The Hague, Ronny Naftaniel, head of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, told the Post, many “Christians are not aware that funds are being misused” by ICCO and thought ICCO funding would be used for projects in Africa. The Dutch authorities should be made aware that “taxpayer money is going into anti-Israeli propaganda” and ICCO’s funding sources should be investigated.
Ward Bezemer, a spokesman for the Dutch foreign minister, wrote the Post by e-mail, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands subsidizes Dutch NGOs, like ICCO, which support civil society in developing countries."
“NGOs report retrospectively on program implementation and activities to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to ICCO, it has contributed financially to the funding of the website Electronic Intifada, was funded with Dutch subsidy until 2010. From 2010 on it has allocated only non-subsidy funding to this activity.”
Bezemer continued, "Whether ICCO has promoted anti-Semitism (a criminal offense) is to be determined by the public prosecutor on the basis of Dutch law.”