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Danish FM mulls cutting funding to pro-BDS NGOs in Palestinian territory

May 31, 2017 6:16 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2017 8:50 P.M.)
Palestinians walk past a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank Town of Bethlehem calling for boycott Israeli products, June 5, 2015. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Danish Foreign Ministry has begun to re-examine its funding to Palestinian nonprofits in the occupied territory following pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged Danish leaders to cut donations to Palestinian organizations supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and those “inciting” against Israel, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Israeli daily Haaretz quoted a statement from Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen as saying that a “comprehensive evaluation” was being done on Palestinian organizations following a visit to Jerusalem on May 17, when the Danish leader met with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu reportedly told Samuelsen to “cut Danish funding for Palestinian organizations and NGOs involved in inciting against Israel and promoting boycott, divestment and sanction measures against it,” according to Haaretz, with the Israeli leader also reportedly forwarding a list of organizations to Samuelsen that Netanyahu claimed have been supporting the BDS movement.

"It is possible that in wake of the examination, we will be forced to stop our support of a number of Palestinian organizations. Until this examination is complete we won't sign any new grants for Palestinian organizations," the statement reportedly concluded.

The news is the latest of a string of anti-BDS policies and actions the Israeli government has taken in recent months in an attempt to stamp out the movement, which has seen its support base widen in the past few years.

The BDS movement was founded in 2005 by a swath of Palestinian civil society as a peaceful movement to restore Palestinian rights in accordance with international law through strategies of boycotting Israeli products and cultural institutions, divesting from companies complicit in violations against Palestinians, and implementing state sanctions against the Israeli government.

Activists target companies that act in compliance with Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and encourage supporters to avoid buying Israeli products in order to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the half-century occupation of the West Bank and the decade-long Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

As support for the movement has grown, the Israeli government has introduced anti-BDS policies, including passing a law in March banning foreigners who have openly expressed support in BDS from entering the country.

Head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile and BDS activist Anwar Makhlouf was deported by Israel in April, while British activist and chairman of the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Hugh Lanning was denied entry into Israel in March.

Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced in August last year that they were forming a joint task force to “expel and ban the entry of BDS activists” into Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

In May last year, Israel issued a travel ban on BDS cofounder Omar Barghouthi, a permanent resident in Israel, as Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, stated at the time that the decision reflected “the lengths [Israel] will go to in order to stop the spread of the non-violent BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality."

In March, Israeli authorities detained Barghouthi after accusing him of tax evasion, a charge which activists and analysts have said is an attempt to silence the BDS proponent through seemingly apolitical means.
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