EU concern about Palestinian NGOs will not override its support for Israel

Israeli forces raided and shut down seven Palestinian NGOs allegedly having links to terrorism (Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  August 23, 2022

Israeli forces raided the offices of seven Palestinian civil society organizations last week and shut down the premises, following accusations of ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The doors of the premises were welded shut and documents left behind by the soldiers specified no duration for the forced closure. In 2021, Israeli designated Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist organizations”, despite no evidence to substantiate its claims.

The current targeting is an extension of the previous year’s attacks on NGOs, yet for all the rhetoric of engaging with Israel about its oppressive tactics, the international community keeps missing the details for temporary and perfunctory reactions. In 2021, the European Union had stated that it would take action if the Palestinian organizations designated as terrorist groups by Israel were found to have misappropriated funds. A recent statement on behalf of the European Commission says in part, “Past allegations of misuse of EU funds in relation to certain Palestinian Civil Society Organizations have not been substantiated.” The EU also reiterated its ongoing support for such organizations because “they play a crucial role in promoting international law, human rights and democratic values.”

Pretty words, but the significance has greater impact in terms of allowing Israel to continue with its violations unchecked. Primarily, the EU’s praise of such organizations also highlights its own ineptitude. Undoubtedly, civil society and human rights organizations are indispensable, but they have also been made so due to governments’ reliance on violations of international law. The fact that the EU finances civil society organizations in Palestine and will continue to do so is only part of a bigger equation that sees the bloc in a duplicitous role of funding both the oppressor and, to a much lesser extent, the oppressed. Hence, the EU maintains the imbalance in favour of Israeli violence, while Palestinian civil society organizations are restricted in terms of lesser funding in comparison with the magnitude of violations that Israel commits.

A prime concern of the EU is related to the two-state compromise. “A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for a two-state solution.” But the two-state paradigm is a political disparity, encourages human rights violations and holds no space for democracy, since the decolonization process is not part of the framework. One question which should be asked is, how much does the EU depend upon civil society organizations providing enough of a facade for the bloc to promote its purportedly democratic agenda?

Palestinian civil society organizations exist to serve Palestinians. In a different political framework, such organizations would have more autonomy. As the EU funds Israeli colonization and violence, Palestinian organizations are on a perpetual precipice, at constant risk of closure and intimidation, while the EU stands by and watches the brutality of the colonial project it sustains take its toll on every aspect of Palestinian life. Funding NGOs is a tiny sliver of the equation. If the EU was serious about human rights, it would take steps to hold Israel accountable politically for its actions. After all, the power of civil society institutions is limited, hence there is no need to glorify their existence to the point of fake adulation. The EU can act politically to stop Israel, so why does it insist on focusing on a derivative of colonial violence, instead of tackling colonialism at its root? The evidence suggests that EU concern about Palestinian NGOs will never override its support for Israel.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America