Watchdog: Norway Should Cut Funding to Organization That Funnels Money to Pro-BDS Groups (INTERVIEW)
The Norwegian government should cease giving money to an organization that funds NGOs promoting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the head of an Israel-based watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Monday.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, spoke with The Algemeiner after publishing a report on Monday revealing that Norway allocated over $600,000 in the second half of 2016 to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (HR/IHL) Secretariat .
The NGO Monitor report said the “HR/IHL Secretariat is an intermediary that distributes funds to non-governmental organizations…active in BDS…campaigns and other forms of demonization against Israel. It is managed by the Institute of Law at Birzeit University (IoL-BZU) in Ramallah and the NIRAS consulting firm, based in Sweden.”
Steinberg told The Algemeiner, “We do not know what the Norwegian government knows or doesn’t know, or which part of the government made this decision. Formally, the funds are designated by the Foreign Ministry, but NORAD — the Norwegian Aid and Development framework — is in charge of funding decisions for NGOs. Whether anyone did due diligence on the HR/IHL Secretariat remains to be seen.”
According to the NGO Monitor report, “80% of the HR/IHL Secretariat’s distributions are allocated to core NGO funding. NGO Monitor research shows that out of 24 core recipients, 13 support BDS, receiving $5.78 million (more than half) out of an operating budget of $10.38 million over the course of four years. Some grantees have also promoted antisemitic rhetoric and have apparent links to the PFLP terrorist organization. Core group members receiving funding include BADIL, Al-Haq, Addameer and MIFTAH, all vehemently anti-Israel NGOs at the forefront of BDS campaigns.”
In a press release about the report, Steinberg said, “The objectives stipulated in the Norwegian agreement — promoting gender equality, good governance and democratization — are entirely disconnected [from] the realities of the HR/IHL framework. None of these terms applies to the activities of BDS grantees, leaving major questions regarding the Norwegian government’s decision-making process and the requirement for due diligence.”
Speaking with The Algemeiner, Steinberg said, “There is an influential group in Norway that is virulently anti-Israel, with members such as Dr. Mads Gilbert, who does propaganda for Hamas and Norwegian People’s Aid.”
He continued: “They have supporters in NORAD, which has given money to false human rights NGOs such as Al-Haq and PCHR (the Palestinian Center for Human Rights). But the decision to provide this major amount to the HR/IHL Secretariat was made under very tight secrecy, without debate in the parliament or media. If members of parliament and journalists realize that this money is wasted and used for hate, perhaps that will force a change. The current government is not anti-Israel and has the power to reverse this decision.”
Other European countries already funding the HR/IHL Secretariat were Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands. According to the NGO Monitor report, moves are underway in two of those countries — Switzerland and the Netherlands — to review the funding.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Norwegian Embassy in Israel responded to the NGO Monitor report with a statement, saying, “We do not find their characterizations to be representative of the work that these organizations are doing. Norway does not tolerate hate speech, efforts to delegitimize Israel, or antisemitism and have close dialogue with all our partners to make sure this is understood… Norway does not provide financial support to organizations whose main goal is to promote the BDS campaign.”