Israel is pressuring Germany to end funding for dozens of political, cultural and religious organisations that it accuses of anti-Israel agitation both abroad and at home — including the Jewish Museum Berlin — according to an unofficial letter obtained by a German left-wing daily newspaper.
The Tageszeitung, or Taz, obtained a copy of the unsigned seven-page letter sent to the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel and to the Federal Development Ministry urging Germany to “review its funding guidelines.”
The letter’s origin is not named, but sources told the Taz that it bore the hallmarks of the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, a nongovernmental organisation.
A German government spokesperson told the Taz that there is an ongoing conversation between the two countries about Germany’s support for NGOs and that the Israeli government has provided information as well. The spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that the letter in question came from official Israeli contacts.
The letter reportedly accuses Germany of going out of its way to support groups that are engaged in anti-Israel activity and try to intervene in Israel’s internal affairs. As one of many examples, the letter names the +972 magazine of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a think tank associated with the Green Party, saying its authors “regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”
It reportedly also accuses the Jewish Museum Berlin of stressing the Muslim-Palestinian view in a current exhibit about the city of Jerusalem, and comments on the museum’s “regularly occurring events and discussions with prominent supporters of the BDS [anti-Israel boycott] movement.” Germany’s international film festival, Berlinale, is confronted with the same charge.
The letter names foundations, church-based groups and partner organisations in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority as being involved in anti-Israel activities, and criticises German funding for films by groups that support BDS.
It urges Germany to “tie its further financial support to the complete halt of such activities.”
A Boll Foundation spokesperson told the Taz that the group had seen an increase in pressure from Israel on NGOs — both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories — seen as critical of the government.
German federal funding is among the least transparent in Europe and we welcome calls for increased discussion on its engagement with the civil society in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Olda Deutsch of NGO Monitor’s Europe Desk, said in a statement.
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”