Danish government cuts funding to CSOs operating in Palestine

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The Danish government has come under fire over a decision it made to withdraw its aid to Palestinian organisations, allegedly after being pressured by the Israeli government. Danish media reported on 22nd December 2017 that the government was withdrawing most of the aid it had allocated to at least 24 organisations operating in Palestine, following a seven-month review conducted in 2017. The review had found that one organisation receiving Danish support had named a cultural centre in Burqa, Palestine after a terrorist. Though there was no evidence of wrongdoing by any of the other organisations, aid to all of them was cut. 

In a press release, Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said that "there will be new and tight conditions for receiving Danish assistance in the future". Martin Beck, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, remarked on the government's decision, stating that:

"By announcing the need for stricter controls and conditions against NGOs without any immediate evidence, Denmark is in a position to contribute to the massive pressure on civil society in Israel and Palestine".

In a statement released shortly after the government's decision, Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Denmark and urged other European countries to follow suit. In a statement prepared for the CIVICUS Monitor, ActionAid Denmark heavily criticised the decision to cut funding to Palestinian groups. The organisation's Secretary General, Tim Whyte, said:

”The decision flies in the face of Denmark’s long-standing support for human rights defenders and democratic space for civil society around the world. I am actually quite baffled by it. It is not a great surprise, sadly, that the Israeli government would go to such lengths in curbing the democratic rights of Palestinian citizens under its occupation. I would, however, definitely have expected the Danish government to remain committed to its support for civil society rather than allowing itself to be pressured by Israel. Commitment to supporting human rights and civic space is a cornerstone of Danish aid and foreign policy in Palestine and is broadly supported by almost all the political parties in the Danish parliament – including parties in the ruling coalition. I would expect the government to live up to this commitment, not least at a time when it is actively pursuing a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.”

In a further development on 26th December, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Norwegian government was allegedly planning to limit support for organisations supporting boycotts of Israel.