We Swiss love our direct democracy. We are, undisputedly, world champions in keeping the politicians we voted for on their toes. Several times a year, we are called to cast our votes online or in the polling booth , in order to state our opinion regarding a certain subject. Regardless of the resulting vote, until that time and subsequently, our representatives are required to deal intensively with the issue. Our politicians, on all levels – State, Canton or Commune – must fight for their place on the list.
Until now, Christian Imark, SVP, a member of the National Council since 2015, behaved in the way newcomers usually do. First, he thought, then he acted.
Last week, he succeeded in his biggest and most spectacular political breakthrough – no more tax money for anti-Israeli and/or pro-Palestinian NGOs. The Federal Council had recommended that the motion be denied, but the Council of States and the Lower Chamber did not accept the request and endorsed the motion by a great majority.
What is the issue?
For many years, EDA, the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department, has repeatedly been the focus of criticism. Long-term contacts with the terrorist organization, Hamas, are not in keeping with the image of a clean Switzerland. At the classy „Center for Humanitarian Dialogue“ in Geneva, Hamas representatives can freely meet representatives of the Western World. Behind closed doors of course.
In this case, it was with EDA representatives led by Foreign Minister Burkhalter. The contacts were „practically inherited when he took over the Department from Micheline Calmy-Rey (71) in 2012“
EDA Information Director, Jean-Marc Crevoisier: „We do not publish our partners‘ names, otherwise we would endanger the work of those institutions.“ However, he confirms that, „in order to promote the dialogue in the region“, they are cooperating with partner organizations. The Department’s attitude is clear: whenever possible, Switzerland tries to promote a dialogue between conflicting parties.“
In July of 2014, PA President Dr. Mahmud Abbas, in a letter addressed to Foreign Minister Burkhalter, had asked that a conference of the partners of the Geneva Conventions be urgently organized. Our Foreign Minister did not deny the possibility of talks with the radical-Islamic Hamas; however, he underlined that they can only take place under certain conditions. , Hamas must recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist.
Talks with Hamas? Is that possible as such? As far as National Councilor Alfred Heer (SVP) is concerned, it is clear that supporting Hamas is counterproductive, the attempt of making the terrorist organization Hamas socially acceptable to the West.
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter (FDP) announced his resignation, shortly after the motion was adopted. Coincidence or calculation? Was he really serious when defending Israel’s right to exist as a State?
But not everything paid for by EDA is hidden from the public. Time and again, numbers are revealed that are shocking. David Klein mentions in his article „EDA and the children soldiers of Hamas“ of March 18, 2017:
All in all, Switzerland has paid 476 million Francs to UNRWA to date. Between 2014 and 2017 alone, EDA transferred some 60 million Francs, and between 2017 and 2020, another 80 million are scheduled to be transferred. That is probably why EDA president Didier Burkhalter only dealt superficially with Imark’s criticism and instead exploited his speaking time to justify the exorbitant financial assistance for UNWRA, though Imark’s motion does not mention it at all.
Dominik Feusi shows here that payments are not only effected directly via EDA. „Switzerland supports an exceptionally large number of non-government organizations in Israel and Palestine -with more than 35.6 million Francs. The Helvetic Department for Foreign Affairs (EDA) alone financed 57 organizations in 2015, as shown in an official listing made for BaZ (Basler Zeitung). Additional organizations are being paid more Swiss money than a year earlier.
This in addition to contributions also streaming into the region from federal funds indirectly via Swiss Help Organization, such as, for instance, the Help Organization of the Evangelical Churches (Heks). – not exclusively but in the main, the Swiss money goes to organizations, which in the decades long conflict between Israel and the Arabs have campaigned against the State of Israel or supported those who do.“
EDA does not disclose all the recipients of payments. In 2014, five NGOs remained anonymous, in 2015, three. The question regarding why that is so, why EDA’s secrecy seems expedient, only receives a vague reply from EDA „It might cause damage to Swiss foreign policy.“
Hillel Neuer from UN Watch describes Switzerland’s donating activity in further detail: Swiss money has also been paid to the anti-Israeli NGO „Breaking the Silence“ (BIS). This NGO accuses IDF soldiers of violating human rights and delegitimates Israel wherever possible. The fact that the statements on which BIS base themselves are in part proven falsifications hardly interests the activists. They know that whatever enters the minds of easily manipulated people is practically impossible to correct.
Money is also transferred directly to the PA, to be distributed from there among so-called funds for development aid and social assistance. A considerable part of the money is then used by the PA, without any further external influence, to transfer pensions to terrorists or their families. Consequently, Switzerland has been using our tax money to finance Palestinian acts of terror against Israel.
On April 26, 2016, Christian Imark, supported by 41 members of Parliament, submitted a motion to the Swiss National Council „The Federal Council is required to adapt the relevant legal instructions, ordinances and rules in such a manner that Swiss public funds aimed directly or indirectly for development cooperation may no longer be assigned when the non-government organizations (NGOs) supported are involved in racist, anti-Semitic and hateful actions or BDS campaigns (boycott, capital deduction and sanctions). Hateful actions include campaigns by NGOs that can be considered to be provocations by rivaling groups or sovereign states. BDS campaigns are boycott, capital reduction or sanctions against rivaling groups or sovereign states.“
A detailed listing of all payments can be found here
An excerpt from the position of the Federal Council, which eventually led to the recommendation to deny the motion: „Switzerland supports only organizations whose engagement corresponds to our foreign policy as stated in the Federal Constitution. (…) The Federal Council is of the opinion that those rules fulfil the motion’s purpose and therefore, it believes that an adaptation of legal instructions is unnecessary. (…) The Federal Council advocates a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, achieved by way of negotiations. It recognizes the State of Israel within its 1967 borders and is in favor of a viable, continuous and sovereign Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital“.
On March 8, 2017, the National Council adopted the motion, on June 13 it was followed by the Council of States. The oral justifications for both votes can be found here
A long overdue step for Switzerland! And a courageous step for a young parliamentarian, who – together with the 41 co-signatories – adopted a clear position that is against antisemitism and pro-Israel!
©Esther Scheiner, Israel
©Translated by Translation international, Herzliya