Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Opinion

How one NGO cries wolf at the expense of Palestinians

  • A pro-Palestinian protest outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

I was bemused to read a strident opinion piece published last week in EUobserver by Issam Aruri, chair of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). Mostly because it was a response to something I had written months ago for a totally different publication.

In my capacity as Europe desk director at NGO Monitor, I published a piece last February in EP Today making the case that Aruri's organization, PNGO, which represents 134 Palestinian NGOs, functions as a "ring leader" that coerces its members to toe the line with an extreme agenda, thus shrinking the space for Palestinian civil society.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

For EUobserver readers who are not familiar with NGO Monitor, we are a Jerusalem-based research institute that provides information and analysis on the reports and activities of human rights and humanitarian NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Apparently PNGO submitted a rebuttal at the time, which was never published by EP Today. Contrary to Aruri's accusation, we are not privy to the editorial decisions of any newspaper, nor have we ever participated in any sort of "campaign" to get a publication not to run another group's article.

Aruri's insults and conspiracy theories aside, I am happy to continue the exchange on a new platform. From NGO Monitor's perspective, we welcome substantive discussions.

At the risk of restating the obvious, I will present some of NGO Monitor's main findings regarding PNGO and explain why they remain valid. Both Aruri's article and another rebuttal posted on the PNGO website fail to directly address any of them.

Aruri begins accurately, noting that "for decades, the EU has invested into civil society organisations in Israel and Palestine that promote its core values 'on the ground'."

What Aruri fails to mention is that PNGO categorically rejects the very notion that funds ought to be conditioned on the promotion of donor governments' values, and considers "the withholding of foreign aid from legitimate Palestinian resistance to be a form of support of the illegal Israeli occupation."

Leaving aside the fact that Palestinian "resistance" often takes a violent form, Aruri has erased any mention of PNGO's long history of condemning funding provisions that do not quite fit with its political agenda.

In 2000, it called on "all Palestinian NGOs to stop all joint programs and activities with Israeli organisations, especially projects conducted in the framework of the 'People to People' program, the Peres Institute for Peace, and the 'Joint Projects Program' funded by the American Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as any other project aiming at normalisation with Israel."

The announcement added that PNGO would "compile a list of Palestinian and Arab organisations that violate this position and will publicise it regularly among all Arab and Palestinian communities."

So much for the pluralistic inclusivity and open debate that is ostensibly the staple of civil society.

Seven years later, PNGO spearheaded a boycott of USAID funding following the introduction of anti-terrorism clauses to funding agreements.

In 2013, PNGO went as far as to denounce the EU's Partnership for Peace program for encouraging "normalisation between Palestinian and Israeli civil society organisations."

Norway case

By far the most disturbing, however, is PNGO's statement from June 2017 condemning Norway – one of its funders – for pulling funds from a youth centre named after a terrorist. The centre, inaugurated by one of PNGO's member organisations, Women's Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), was named after no other than Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist involved in the 1978 coastal road massacre that saw 38 civilians, including 13 children, murdered.

In its statement, PNGO reiterated "their total refusal of changing the Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Centre that was established in Burqa Village. PNGO believes this is another form of foreign domination and oppression calling Palestinian resistance a terrorist resistance against Israeli occupation."

It added, for good measure, that "No one in Burqa or in the Palestinian society glorifies terrorism and or terrorist attacks; there is a difference between freedom fighters and terrorists."

To the shock of nobody at all, PNGO did not address its unequivocal glorification of a terrorist in any of its responses. Instead, following my op-ed mentioning this uncomfortable fact's publication, PNGO scrubbed the statement from its website without a word of explanation.

It was archived, however, and can be found in the Internet Wayback Machine. Perhaps this is what Aruri means when he says, "We face draconic digital surveillance and interference by Israel, which violates our fundamental privacy and obstructs our work."

This is hardly a viable defence when hateful, self-damaging statements are exposed.

Astoundingly, the EU has long been a funder of PNGO, and the group is currently the co-beneficiary of two EU grants. The EU has also, however, pledged in its 2017 Annual Action Programme in favour of Palestine to put an end to the situation where "EU-supported civil society organisations also engaged in activities inciting to hatred and/or violence." Perhaps this caught the attention of Mr Aruri.

So, no, NGO Monitor is clearly not in the business of shrinking the space in which NGOs operate.

At the same time, we unapologetically reject PNGO's attempts to undermine the most precious, fundamental values of global civil society. As noted by the EU, there is no contradiction between promoting a constructive civil society and the values that this process is designed to promote.

Olga Deutsch is the director of Europe Desk at NGO Monitor, an independent research institute which provides information and promotes accountability on the reports and activities of NGOs claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  3. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  6. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  9. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  11. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us