Minister threatens to withdraw charity's subsidy
Christian charity ICCO and Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal are at loggerheads because a row over ICCO's support for a Palestinian internet organisation.
The minister has told the Dutch-based inter-church development organisation to stop giving Electronic Intifada EI, financial support because on its website EI calls on people to boycott Israel. The minister has threatened to withdraw the Christian charity's government subsidy if it does not stop funding the site. He says the funding goes against government policy, “It is alright to be critical but not to directly oppose government.” ICCO refuses to change its policy. It says it bases its policies on international law.
According to ICCO, Electronic Intifada is an important source of information for ordinary Palestinians. The Christian organisation says many organisations support a boycott of Israel to put pressure on the country to stop its illegal activities. Although ICCO has not signed up to the boycott itself, it points out that the Netherlands also opposes actions by Israel which break UN resolutions.
ICCO receives 75 million euros in subsidy every year from the government. Nevertheless it says the money used to support the internet site comes from other sources as it also has private donors. Mr Rosenthal says it does not matter where the money comes from.
In 2010, ICCO gave the website 50,000 euros. If the subsidy is withdrawn that will only take place in 2014 when government spending is reviewed. The anti-Islam and pro-Israel Freedom Party is furious and wants ICCO's subsidies withdrawn straight away.
Green Left MP Arjan el Fassed, who helped set up the Electronic Intifada in 2001, but is no longer involved, says he is concerned about a clamp down on criticism of Israel. The internet platform also gives a voice to ordinary Palestinians to criticise their own leaders. He says, “It is good to have more discussion in regions of conflict.”
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