Human rights activists are claiming that Arab civil society groups are currently facing financial cuts from Western donors due to their criticism of Israel's actions in Gaza or their lack of support for such actions. Numerous humanitarian aid groups and civil societies have come forward to assert that Western donors have withdrawn financial support for Arab media outlets, human rights groups, and think tanks. These groups have expressed their disillusionment with several Western countries and foundations due to their endorsement of Israel's bombardment and siege of Gaza. As a result, human rights advocates in the Arab region find themselves uncertain about how or if they can maintain their engagement with these donors.
Israel's assault on Gaza, described as an "open-air prison," has resulted in more than 11,200 deaths and raised concerns about a potential genocide. Civil society groups from Egypt, occupied Palestinian territory, and Lebanon have voiced their opposition to the Israeli atrocities committed in Gaza. They have criticized European donors for remaining silent on Israel's attacks, which could potentially violate international law, thus creating a conflict between their advocacy and reporting and the support they receive from these donors.
Several countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, have suspended their bilateral development aid programs in Gaza and the West Bank following Hamas's attack on army outposts in Israel. These suspensions have led to a loss of $139 million in funding and have affected various institutions such as UN agencies, the Palestinian Authority, and civil society organizations. Furthermore, Swiss funding to Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations has also been suspended, with allegations that right-wing groups and lobbying efforts have influenced this decision. A prominent Israeli NGO, NGO Monitor, which accuses Palestinian civil society groups of whitewashing violence and terrorism, has claimed responsibility for influencing the Swiss funding decision. This NGO has previously advocated for funding cuts to Israeli human rights groups as well.Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director at HRW, accuses non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like NGO Monitor of aiming to marginalize critics of the Israeli government, while failing to condemn the government's oppression of Palestinians. Shakir also highlights that these groups often receive funding from or coordinate with the Israeli government.
Al Jazeera reached out to NGO Monitor for a comment, but did not receive a response.
Al Jazeera has been informed by two Arabic media organizations that European donors and partners are refraining from expressing support for Arab media outlets that have faced censorship or criticism for reporting on Israel-Palestine. A journalist from one of these outlets, who chose to remain anonymous, raises the question of how the West can endorse "independent media" and "freedom of expression" while implicitly or explicitly supporting the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. This journalist suggests that Western donors seem willing to support independent media organizations as long as they do not interfere with their support for Israel.
The founder of another media outlet, heavily reliant on Western funding, acknowledges that relying on such funding involves a trade-off, but states that as long as they have editorial freedom, it is worth it. However, if funding becomes more restricted, they may be forced to cease operations.
Civil society organizations in the region are also losing trust in UN institutions that either remain silent on Israeli atrocities in Gaza or only speak out after significant delays, despite evidence suggesting potential war crimes. Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, expresses disappointment in the UN Democracy Fund's silence on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and violence in the West Bank. Mhanna expected UN bodies to echo the calls for a ceasefire made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, finding their lack of action perplexing.
On November 6, some UN bodies and global aid groups called for a complete ceasefire, while others, such as Martin Griffiths from OCHA, proposed a "humanitarian pause." The Palestinian envoy to the UN urged for a full ceasefire.
Amali from MIFTAH warns that the silence from various institutions and Western countries claiming to support international law runs the risk of undermining the credibility of human rights work in Palestine and the wider Arab region. Other activists echo this sentiment, noting that the global community has failed Palestinians long before October 7.