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Diplomatic protest Israel complains about funding for ‘anti-army’ NGO

A Palestinian demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag as he confronts a line of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Massara, outside Bethlehem, on May 8

(Keystone)

The Israeli ambassador to Switzerland, Yigal Caspi, has protested to the Swiss foreign ministry about its support for an exhibition in Zurich by the Israeli organisation Breaking the Silence, which is critical of the Israeli army. 

Caspi protested verbally on Tuesday about the ministry’s financial support of the exhibition, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy told the Swiss News Agency. 

She confirmed that Caspi had told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that it was not the job of the authorities to support such an organisation and that an exhibition abroad that portrays Israel in a negative light was not helpful. 

The exhibition at the Kulturhaus Helferei runs from June 4-14. 

The foreign ministry said it had acknowledged the ambassador’s protest but had no further comment. 

Breaking the Silence is an NGO comprising former soldiers “who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories”. 

On its website it notes thatexternal link “cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases. Our testimonies portray a different and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel’s security”. 

Strategic priority 

According to the foreign ministry, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the foreign ministry office in charge of Switzerland’s international cooperation, is funding the NGO from 2014 to 2016 to the tune of $65,000 (CHF61,000). 

In addition, the foreign ministry’s Human Security Division this year gave CHF50,000 ($53,500) towards one of the NGO’s projects. It also gave CHF15,000 to the Kulturhaus Helferei for the Breaking the Silence exhibition. 

Foreign ministry spokesman Stefan von Below said strengthening international humanitarian law was a strategic priority for the foreign ministry, and Breaking the Silence fits into that. 

The foreign ministry also confirmed that its participation in the exhibition had triggered a peaceful demonstration in Israel on Thursday, when around 60 people protested outside the Swiss embassy in Tel Aviv.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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