Jerusalem slams UK on NGO funds

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

Israel has formally protested against the British government’s funding of the soldiers’ organisation Breaking the Silence.

The objection was raised at a meeting in Jerusalem this week between the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general, Rafi Barak, and British Ambassador Tom Phillips. The meeting was mainly meant to discuss attempts by UK organisations to boycott Israel, but the £40,000 given by the British government to Breaking the Silence was also raised.

Similar objections were raised with the Dutch embassy and the EU, which has also funded the organisation.
Two weeks ago, Breaking the Silence published a report containing testimony from soldiers who served in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January. The document included allegations that Israeli forces had used Palestinian civilians as “human shields” and fired indiscriminately at civilian targets.

Israel’s diplomatic activity on this matter is part of a more general intention to counter the wave of criticism levelled at Israeli policies by NGOs, funded mainly by EU member states.

“How would the British have felt if Israel had funded organisations that supported the IRA or the Taliban?” said one Israeli diplomat this week. “They have to understand that some things are just not acceptable between democracies.”

The British Embassy made clear last week that the funds were given to Breaking the Silence last year, to support the organisation’s guided tours in Hebron, and not for its latest project on the Gaza operation.
“We support legitimate projects by legitimate organisations that support the government’s policies of bringing about a two-state solution,” said an embassy spokesperson.

Last updated: 4:41pm, July 30 2009