Finnish State Funds Support Palestinian NGO Campaigns against Israel* by Gerald Steinberg

From Behind the Humanitarian Mask, by Manfred Gerstenfeld, 2008

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs Development Corporation (FDC) of the Finnish government distributes governmental funds for the “promotion of global security, [a] reduction of widespread poverty [and the] promotion of human rights and democracy” in developing countries.1 In 2005, the FDC disbursed over €600 million for development projects and organizations around the world.2 Since 2000, the Palestinian-administered areas have been among the top sixteen recipients of Finnish development funds and have received roughly €28 million in bilateral funds from Finland overall.3

At a local level, funds destined for NGOs are channeled through the Fund for Local Cooperation, a subsection of the FDC, which functions through Finland’s embassies and Representative Offices. For the years 2003-2006, €715,000 was allocated for Palestinian development projects and organizations supported by the Finnish government and disbursed through the fund.4

Demonizing Israel

Although some of the NGOs supported by the FDC perform humanitarian development work, some recipients of Finnish government funding abuse their status for political campaigning that often includes false or unverifiable claims, biased condemnations, and the demonization of Israel. These have included HaMoked, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the World Organization against Torture, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), and many others.

PHRMG claims to document “human rights violations committed against Palestinians…regardless of who is responsible” but also emphasizes “the need to denounce Israeli human rights abuses.”5 In implementing this agenda, PHRMG criticizes the Palestinian Authority on issues such as freedom of expression, internal corruption, weapons proliferation in the territories, and civil-society issues such as honor killings.6 However, the organization also pursues externally focused political and lobbying activities, exploiting human rights rhetoric to attack Israeli self-defense measures against terrorism.

For example, in a letter to the then United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, PHRMG quotes statistics of the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of the intifada and accuses Israel of “violence [sic] to the International Humanitarian  Law,  which  constitute  war  crimes.”7    The  letter  does  not acknowledge Palestinian terror as a causative factor in IDF operations, disregards the military dilemmas posed by Palestinian terrorists operating amid civilians in an urban environment, and makes no mention of Israeli victims. In another press release, PHRMG also “laments” the “assassination” of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in part because of his “moderation” within the movement.8 The statement goes on to promote the Palestinian narrative, asserting that: “Assassination is an internationally condemned action, violating several human right laws…. Violence begets more violence, and Hamas has stated that retaliation attacks will follow. By such acts of violence, Israel is bringing disaster to its own people.”

The declared mission of another FDC-supported NGO, the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB), is to promote the building of Palestinian civil society by “equipping the local community to assume a proactive role in shaping their future…, cultivating artistic talents, and facilitating intercultural encounters.”9 In reality, the center also engages in political activities and promotes Sabeel, a radical NGO that supports the “one-state solution,” employs classical anti- Semitic theological themes,10 and has been very active in promoting the anti- Israeli divestment campaign. The head of Sabeel, Rev. Naim Ateek, was on a panel of an ICB conference titled “Shaping Communities in Times of Crisis: Narratives of Land, Peoples and Identities” in November 2005.11

ICB’s activities include a letter to U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton calling on her to reconsider her support for the Israeli security fence.12 The letter argues that to justify the fence as a defense against terrorism is “offensive” and states that “the Wall is less about security than it is about colonizing land and controlling its indigenous population.” The NGO claims that the fence renders Bethlehem an open-air prison and “is illegal and violates our rights to land, jobs, family, free movement, dignity, and self-determination,” again erasing the context of terror. In this way ICB, using Finnish government funds, contributes to the NGO network campaign to brand Israeli antiterror measures as illegitimate.

Promoting Hatred

World Vision-Finland, directly funded by the FDC and a global partner of World Vision International, is a Christian relief and development organization that “through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice…helps communities help themselves.”13 World Vision does indeed carry out positive humanitarian work in Palestinian society, implementing vocational training programs and providing health care for malnourished children.14 However, the World Vision regional webpage is highly politicized and blames Israel for social problems within the West Bank and Gaza, as documented in detail by NGO Monitor.15

In November 2007, the World Vision representative in Geneva, Thomas Getman, spoke at an event marking the sixtieth anniversary of UN Resolution 181, which called for the creation of two states, one Arab and one Jewish. According to UN Watch, Getman “sought to promote hatred of Israel among the delegates.” His speech failed to mention ongoing Palestinian terrorist and missile attacks against Israel, and he used highly manipulative, emotionally charged rhetoric. He called on his audience to think about “that suffering child that first crossed our path in Palestine” and made only passing reference to the situation of Israeli children subject to mass terror attacks.

UN Watch noted that in 2006, during a UN debate on Syrian human rights violations, Getman published an open letter siding with Syria. World Vision also released a statement at the inaugural session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June 2006 that exploited the suffering of Palestinian children to launch a political attack on Israel.16

The Accountability Gap

In 2006, the FDC gave €900,000 to KIOS, a Finnish foundation claiming to “promote human rights in developing countries.”17 KIOS supports four NGOs in the region: the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER). ACRI is a highly controversial NGO that campaigns among the Israeli population in support of the Palestinian narrative. Finnish government funding for this politicized Israeli NGO, and for others such as Machsom Watch, constitutes a blatant and patronizing effort to manipulate Israeli democracy.

In 2001, KIOS joined with the highly politicized ICJ and Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) when it awarded a grant of 20,000 FIM ($4,140) to PCHR to carry out a joint fact-finding mission in the Palestinian territories “in order to make an independent, objective and expert assessment of the human rights situation on the ground.”18 PCHR regularly uses the language of demonization and exploits legal terminology in its allegations of Israeli human rights abuses. For example, in a memorandum submitted to the consul-generals of the European Union in April 2004, PCHR claimed that “the Israeli military has continued to commit grave breaches of the Convention, namely war crimes, which include but are not restricted to: willful killings; torture or inhuman treatment….”19 The FDC’s support of PCHR is inconsistent with the proclaimed goal of using development funding to promote “greater prosperity…political stability and security” and “reduce[e] the threat of crisis and war.”20

KIOS also provides funding for JCSER, an NGO that uses rhetoric of apartheid and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”21 The example of JCSER highlights the accountability gap when governments channel development funding via NGOs such as KIOS. The FDC is the sole source of income for KIOS, which acts as an independent NGO and awards grants entirely at the discretion of its board (which includes representatives from Amnesty International and UNICEF).22 As a result, the FDC’s ability to supervise the activities of organizations that receive government money is very limited.

The NGO calling itself “Psychologists for Social Responsibility” (PSR), based in Washington, DC, is also funded directly by the FDC. Its mission, it states, is to “facilitate positive changes for victims and survivors of personal, community, and civil violence” but its actions are often political, and it is far removed from the region. For example, PSR has lobbied President Bush “to rethink America’s stand on missile defense and to reconsider the sale of Apache Attack helicopters to Israel.”23 Furthermore, this NGO has joined and supported the political campaign to exaggerate the effects of sonic booms caused by Israeli aircraft attempting to disrupt Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza, while ignoring the attacks on Israeli civilians.24

Another organization supported by the FDC is the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), whose work includes lectures to international study groups presenting a revisionist history of Jerusalem, reports on “Israeli Occupation Policies” devoid of any reference to Palestinian terror,25 and support of the Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG) campaign.26 These activities are outside the terms set by the Finnish Representative Office for its development funds, which state that “aid is directed towards improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people and reforming the Palestinian administration.”27

In summary, while some of the NGOs supported by the FDC do carry out valuable development work in Palestinian society, there are a number of organizations that receive money from Finland whose work is inconsistent with the official goals. Such NGOs also contribute to misinformation and hostile and rejectionist attitudes toward the state of Israel among the international media, diplomatic, and development-organization communities.



*      Information  for  this  report  was  provided  by  the  Finnish  Representative  Office  in Ramallah. The NGO Monitor research team contributed to the analysis presented.

  1. Global Finland—Ministry for Foreign Affairs Development
  2. “Finland’s Official Development Assistance in Statistics,” Global
  3. Representative Office of Finland,
  4. Ibid.
  5. “State of Human Rights in Palestine,” Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG).
  6. See “The Chaos of Corruption: Challenges for the Improvement of the Palestinian Society,” “The ‘Intra’fada,” and “The State of Human Rights in ”
  7. “An Open Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan,” 12 September 2005, Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.
  8. “PHRMG Condemns the Assassination of Hamas Spiritual Leader, Ahmed Yassin,” 22 March 2004, Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring

9. See “The International Center of Bethlehem” and “About the International Center of Bethlehem.”

10.NGO Monitor’s Submission to the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism, 27 December 2005 (pdf).

11.“Shaping Communities in Times of Crisis: Narratives of Land, Peoples and Identities,” 6-12 November 2005, ICB.

12.A letter to Senator Rodham Clinton from Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, ICB. Note that Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW sent a similar letter to Senator Clinton.

13. “Who We Are,” World Vision International.

14.See “Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza—Country Profile,” WorldVision International.

15.World Vision International, NGO Monitor Infofile.

16. hatred_of_israel_ .

17. “A Brief History of KIOS,” KIOS—The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights.

18. “Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Monitoring,” grant awarded in 2001 for “A joint fact finding mission of FIDH, the ICJ and the EMHRN to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in order to make an independent, objective and expert assessment of the human rights situation on the ground. Approved 20,000 FIM to a fact finding mission.”

19. “The  EU’s  Failure  to  Act:  Israeli  Violations  of  International  Human  Rights  and Humanitarian Law in the OPTs,” April 2004, PCHR (pdf).

20. “Decicion [sic]-in-Principle on Finland’s Development Cooperation,” Department for International Development Cooperation.

21. “Annual Report 2000,” JCSER.

22. “A Brief History of KIOS,” KIOS—The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights. This information was confirmed in a telephone conversation with KIOS.

23. “Global   Violence   and   Security   Action   Committee,”   Psychologists   for   Social Responsibility.

24. See “Psychologists for Social Responsibility Launch Campaign against Israel for Engaging in Psychological Warfare against Palestinians—Protest to White House: SPME Responds,” 16 November 2005 (pdf), and NGO Monitor Digest, Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2005.

25. See “The Question of Jerusalem,” 10 July 2000, PASSIA, and “Israeli Occupation Policies,” PASSIA (pdf).

26. “Boycott Israeli Goods,” Zaytoun Olive Oil.

27. See “Palestinian Territories,” Representative Office of Finland, Ramallah, and “Boycott Israeli Goods.”


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