West News Wire: Human rights advocates claim that Arab civil society organizations are being financially cut off by Western sponsors for opposing Israel’s crimes in Gaza or for not providing sufficient support for such criticisms.
All civil society organizations and humanitarian aid groups that talked with news reporters claimed that some Western donors had stopped providing funding to think tanks, human rights organizations, and Arab media outlets. They added that because many Western nations and organizations have supported Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza, they have lost faith in them.
“The level of resentment and hatred extends beyond our people to us as well [as Arab human rights activists]. We are unsure of our ability to communicate with some of these Western nations or partners ever again,” said Hossam Baghat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
Israel’s assault on Gaza, a besieged enclave rights groups describe as an “open-air prison”, has killed more than 11,200 people since it began on October 7. It has prompted UN experts and hundreds of scholars to warn that the 2.3 million people living there are facing a grave risk of genocide.
Reporters spoke to civil society groups from Egypt, the occupied Palestinian territory and Lebanon who have spoken out against Israeli atrocities in Gaza. All said their advocacy and reporting are increasingly at odds with European donors who are mostly staying silent on Israel’s relentless attacks on civilians, which may be in violation of international law.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden discontinued bilateral development aid programs in Gaza and the West Bank a few days after Hamas launched an unprecedented onslaught on army outposts and nearby villages in southern Israel on October 7. The halt impacts several civil society organizations, UN agencies, and the Palestinian Authority, which oversees the West Bank. It also results in a loss of $139 million in financing.
Additionally, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) stopped providing millions of euros in funding to five Israeli and six Palestinian civil society organizations on October 11.
Zaid Amali, the public discourse and programme director for MIFTAH, whose stated goal is to promote democracy and good governance in the occupied Palestinian territory, said they were given a very positive review after the Swiss FDFA assessed their activities in September.
However, following the tragic attack by Hamas, the FDFA abruptly halted its collaboration with MIFTAH, which puts a temporary stop to any future funding.
He stated, “We are aware that pressure from right-wing organizations in Switzerland may have contributed to this decision.”
Sources got in touch with the Swiss FDFA to inquire as to why financing for civil society organizations in Israel and Palestine which HRW has deemed to be reputable had been suspended.
Lea Zurcher, the media spokesman, responded via email, saying, “For these eleven NGOs, the FDFA had external indications that they had potentially violated the Code of Conduct and/or the FDFA’s anti-discrimination clause.”
Another Palestinian civil organisation, which also lost funding from the FDFA, partly attributed the decision to intense “lobbying” from NGO Monitor, an Israeli NGO. A spokesperson for the organisation spoke to news reporters on condition of anonymity.
With regard to “whitewashing violence and terrorism, demonization and legal warfare, targeting Israeli officials and BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, and promoting anti-Semitic propaganda,” NGO Monitor maintains a database of Palestinian civil society organizations.
The FDFA’s decision on X (formerly Twitter) was partially attributed to NGO Monitor, which has claimed that Swiss lawmakers used its findings to support their demand that financing for Israeli human rights organizations that promote Palestinian welfare, like B’tselem, be discontinued.
“There are several non-governmental organizations with harmless-sounding titles, such as NGO Monitor, that aim to silence critics of the Israeli government. However, these organizations never denounce the Israeli government’s mistreatment of the Palestinian people, according to Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel-Palestine director.
“These groups don’t operate alone,” Shakir added. “They tend to be funded [by] or coordinate with the Israeli government.”
Additionally, regional civil society organizations are beginning to lose faith in UN organizations since they have either remained silent about Israeli atrocities in Gaza or have only recently done so, even in the face of growing evidence that these activities may constitute war crimes.
Executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation (Skeyes), which promotes freedom of the press throughout the Levant, Ayman Mhanna expressed his disappointment in particular with the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), which collaborates with his organization but has remained mostly silent on the subject of the violence in the West Bank and Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
They remain quiet. He told news reporters, “They haven’t taken action against independent media [that they favor], but at this point, their silence isn’t really understandable.
Mhanna added that he expects UN bodies to continue reiterating the stance of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who called for a ceasefire, raised the issue of Israel’s occupation as a root cause of violence and urged all sides to refrain from committing war crimes during a speech he gave on October 24. “We are not expecting them to take a completely pro-Palestine position, but what is happening right now defies any logic.”
On November 6, the heads of several UN bodies issued a joint statement along with global aid groups calling for a complete ceasefire. But Martin Griffiths, who leads the Office for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination (OCHA), later requested a “humanitarian pause”.