Anger Grows Over Swedish Government Funding for Anti-Zionist Groups Amid Diplomatic Row
The Swedish government has insisted that it will continue with plans to recognize a Palestinian state, despite appeals from the Israeli government and the leader of Israel’s opposition Labor Party not to do so.
The Palestinian announcement was among the first priorities of the new Social Democratic government, led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who took office on Friday last week.
“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” Lofven said on Friday, the eve of the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, without giving a timeline for the recognition.
Over the weekend, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog was told by Lofven that Sweden “wasn’t going to recognize a Palestinian state tomorrow morning” and “wants to speak first with all the relevant parties, including Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and other EU states.”
Herzog said that he told both Lofven and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom that their “policy challenges the principle of mutuality. Negotiations are preferable to unilateral moves that are liable to lead to undesirable consequences.”
Should the recognition of Palestinian state proceed, the BBC observed, Sweden would become “the first long-term EU member country to do so.”
The news comes amid fresh controversy over Swedish government funding of rabidly anti-Israel non-governmental organizations. In its latest report, NGO Monitor, the Israel-based watchdog that tracks foreign government funding for NGOs involved in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, noted that Sweden “funds numerous Israeli and Palestinian NGOs through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Representative Office in Ramallah, and indirectly by outsourcing to Swedish aid organizations such as Diakonia and Kvinna till Kvinna.”
“Many NGOs receiving Swedish government funding oppose a two-state formula, disapprove of peace efforts, promote BDS efforts and lawfare cases against Israeli officials, and engage in antisemitic activities,” said NGO Monitor.
The watchdog highlighted that in 2013, Diakonia, a coalition of Swedish church groups, received approximately $65 million from the Swedish government. Diakonia “regularly exploits legal rhetoric to demonize Israel, accusing Israel of ‘war crimes,’ ‘collective punishment’ and ‘violations of international law.’ NGO Monitor also expressed concerns about the Church of Sweden, which received almost $27 million from the Swedish government and the European Union in 2013. According to NGO Monitor, the church endorses the Kairos Palestine document, a radical Christian declaration that “calls for BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) against Israel and denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, as well as ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed by Palestinians against Christians.”
Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, told The Algemeiner that the Swedish intention to recognize a Palestinian state was “grandstanding” and “hypocritical.”
“For years, governments in Stockholm have irresponsibly and immorally channeled tax revenues to some of the most anti-peace organizations and activities,” Steinberg said. Steinberg was particularly critical of Diakonia which, he said, provides funding for pro-BDS Palestinian groups like Badil and Sabeel, which “reject the existence of a Jewish state and engage in antisemitic activities.”
Steinberg pointed to a cartoon on the Badil wesbite which shows a visibly orthodox Jew holding a pitchfork drenched in blood and standing on top of a large stone weighing down a female Palestinian refugee and her dead child.
“If the Swedish Prime Minister is actually interested in peace, which requires an end to incitement, the first step would be halt this anti-peace NGO funding,” Steinberg said.
Sweden has frequently been accused of not doing enough to combat antisemitism at home while funding radical anti-Israel activism abroad. Earlier today, The Algemeiner reported that Adrian Kaba, who represents Lofven’s Social Democratic Party of Sweden on the Malmö City Council and the regional government, accused “the Israeli Mossad” of “training” the Islamic State terrorist group in a Facebook post in July.