As we announced mid-April, the European Union (EU) sent an official “clarification letter” to PNGO about its funding of Palestinian NGOs. The letter, dated 30 March 2020 and signed by EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, was provided after intensive deliberations with PNGO and several of its member organizations.
For years, the Israeli government and extremist organizations like NGO Monitor have been waging smear campaigns to defund Palestinians NGOs. They have now launched a coordinated attack on the EU to discredit and undermine the clarifications recently provided by the EU.
In this context, NGO Monitor has sent a letter full of toxic defamation and disinformation to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Find below PNGO’s response to this letter.
Ms. Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
Concerns: attack on EU funding for Palestinian NGOs
Palestine, 10 May 2020
Dear President, dear Ms. von der Leyen,
We are reaching out to you in relation to a letter about EU funding for Palestinian civil society organizations, which you recently received from an Israeli organization called “NGO Monitor”. We wish to put the toxic defamation and disinformation in this letter into perspective.
As you may have noted, NGO Monitor portrays itself as an independent research institute, but in reality, it is anything but that. Its work was disqualified by former EU Ambassador to Israel Faaborg-Andersen as “a cocktail of tendentious research, intentional inaccuracies and downright EU-bashing propaganda”.
NGO Monitor pretends to promote accountability of NGOs. Its real mission, however, is to fight and undermine NGOs that criticize and oppose Israel’s 53-year long military occupation of Palestine and that promote accountability for Israel’s grave violations of international law. More than 200 Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations are defamed on its website.
One of them is the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), an umbrella organization and coordination framework of 142 Palestinian NGOs, which is based on the principles of democracy, social justice, rule of law and respect for human rights.
PNGO’s member organizations are working tirelessly to mitigate the disastrous consequences of Israel’s occupation, which is accompanied by grave violations of international law and is causing a chronic humanitarian crisis in Palestine, in particular in the Gaza Strip.
At this critical hour, our members play an essential role in containing the Covid-19 pandemic. They do so as Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian people at large face another imminent threat: Israeli annexation of large and vital parts of the occupied West Bank, which would kill any chances for a two-state solution and establish full-blown apartheid.
You won’t hear NGO Monitor about Israeli violations and the accelerating preparations by the Israeli government for annexation. In fact, NGO Monitor is consistently shielding and facilitating the illegal and disastrous policies and plans of the Israeli government. It does so by defaming, deplatforming and defunding Palestinian NGOs opposing these policies and plans – in an effort to break the backbone of Palestinian civil society and push the Palestinian people towards capitulation.
While PNGO and its member organizations are committed to human rights and international law, NGO Monitor works to undermine fundamental rights and the international legal order as such. As confirmed by its own information, NGO Monitor does so in close coordination with the Israeli government, in particular with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
This ministry has waged aggressive campaigns against the EU itself, accusing it of financing incitement and terrorism. In response, former EU High Representative Mogherini sent an angry letter to Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Erdan, a key proponent of annexation, condemning such accusations as “unfounded and unacceptable” and adding that “vague and unsubstantiated accusations serve only to contribute to disinformation campaigns”.
The tactics used by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and NGO Monitor are highly similar. In the past years, NGO Monitor’s methods and campaigns have been denounced by several European governments, including Belgium (“the allegations by NGO Monitor are unfounded and thus unacceptable”), Denmark (“detached claims that cannot be substantiated by documentation”), the Netherlands (“careful substantiation is lacking”) and Norway (“the organization has a clear political slant”).
NGO Monitor has become a catalyst of shrinking civic space. As such, it is part of a wider problem. Around the globe, in particular in conflict areas, the manoeuvring space of civil society organizations is shrinking. Fundamental freedoms and democratic rights that any vibrant civil society relies and depends on, are at risk. The European Union is leading international efforts to contain and counter this hazardous, antidemocratic trend.
As the Israeli government is preparing for annexation, this trend is now reaching a climax in Palestine. In its March 30 clarification letter to PNGO regarding EU funding for Palestinian NGOs, the EU affirms it will continue to be “a key partner of Palestinian civil society” and reiterates its longstanding support to the Palestinian people “in their quest for freedom, independence and self-determination”, clarifying “the EU fully respects the right of Palestinians to use all means allowed under International law and relevant conventions to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in line with international agreed principles”.
More than ever, we urge the EU to deliver on this commitment and to uphold its support and funding for Palestinian civil society. Regarding the immediate concerns expressed in this letter, we call on the EU to condemn and dismiss NGO Monitor’s escalating defamation and disinformation, as well as the Israeli government coordinated campaign against the integrity, reputation and organizational sustainability of organizations promoting human rights and international law in Palestine.
Chair PNGO Board of Directors
Mr. Josep Borell, EU High Representative/Vice-President
Mr. Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement
Mr. Christian Danielsson, Director-General for Enlargement at the European Commission
Mr. Gilles de Kerchove, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator
Mr. David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament
Ms. Monika Hohlmeier, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Budgetary Control
Mr. Emanuele Giaufret, Head of EU Delegation to Israel
Mr. Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, Head of EU Delegation to West Bank and Gaza Strip