Are Israelis six times as likely as Palestinians to be in favour of peace? Are Israeli civil society organisations six times as expensive to run as Palestinian ones? Or is the UK government deranged enough to believe that spending six times as much money on Israeli peacebuilding organisations as Palestinian ones doesn't speak to an extraordinary bias against the Palestinian people?
Thanks to a question from Labour MP Joan Ryan, the Foreign Office has now confirmed that they will be funding eight Israeli peacebuilding organisations and just one Palestinian equivalent this year. The Israeli organisations will receive £851,000 in funding while the Palestinian organisation, the Jerusalem Community Advocacy Network, will receive £141,000.
This information was not announced to the entire House of Commons, instead the habitually evasive Tobias Ellwood, parliamentary under-secretary at the foreign office, provided the answer in writing. Jaded observers might say that embarrassing figures for the government are often delivered in this way, to avoid too much scrutiny.
To be clear – some of these organisations are brilliant. Yesh Din is receiving nearly £200,000 and documents Israeli human rights abuses persistently, much to the irritation of everyone who supports Israeli human rights abuses. Terrestrial Jerusalem will receive over £50,000 to continue their photography work detailing the occupation of Jerusalem, and have recently called out Netanyahu for "manipulative race baiting and incitement." Rabbis for Human Rights, who will receive over £100,000, have a title which is broadly self-explanatory; their most compelling projects include challenging land confiscations, re-planting olive trees looted by illegal settler gangs, and advocating for bedouin rights.
Putting aside the enormous funding gap between Israeli organisations who receive money, and the numerous Palestinian organisations that obviously don't; there are two organisations that deserve deeper scrutiny. Kids Creating Peace will received £40,000. On the face of it – what's not to like? Kids, peace, a charismatic founder who set up the organisation when she was just sixteen. Oh – Kids for Peace is part of the Kabbalah sect, a selection of barmy pseudo-religious types who have a long-running reputation for selling "cancer curing" water to actual cancer victims, and a history of dodgy accounting practices.
Foreign office figures also show how the Injiaz Centre for Professional Arab Local Governance will be receiving a large cheque from the UK taxpayer. Instead of training Arabs living in the Palestinian Authority controlled territories for their role in a future state of Palestine, Injaz Centre trains Israeli Arabs to participate in Israeli politics, with the organiser admitting "we will almost certainly have to give up on the basic formula of two states for two nations." The British government, despite their nominal support for a two-state solution, is prepared to pay over £60,000 this year to a small NGO in Israel that does not believe in a two-state solution.
Then we have the Peres Centre for Peace, created by Shimon Peres in 1996. Documents published by the Centre show this is being used for training of Palestinian doctors, who must live and be trained in Israel for five years before returning to territory nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority. They must also learn Hebrew – which while entirely practical, only adds to the impression that this "peacebuilding" activity is merely prolonging and legitimising the occupation. Having lost his family in the Shoah, the Jewish element of the European Holocaust, Peres himself travelled to what would become the state of Israel and was promptly imprisoned by the British, in 1944, after he led an illegal settler expedition into the Negev desert. He spent much of the next few years acquiring that most peaceful of objects – illegal nuclear weapons. He did so by subterfuge, outright deceit and trickery of international nuclear weapons inspectors, in his capacity as a defence minister, triggering a nuclear arms race in the region. He later had the temerity to lecture Iran on her own programme.
Later gaining a reputation as a "dove" over his impressively two-faced approach to the Oslo Accords, Peres also used the invasion of Lebanon in 1996 to simultaneously displace hundreds of thousands of civilians and boost his chances in a general election which, by pure coincidence, was going on back in Tel Aviv. Around 800 Lebanese civilians took shelter in a refugee facility in Qana. Peres and his generals ordered the facility to be bombed, later claiming this was an accident. The Israelis changed their story when footage evidence of air troops carefully surveying the area before the strike hit. Over a hundred unarmed Lebanese civilians died and the same number were injured, as well as a number of United Nations peacekeepers.
That the British government considers a centre for peace named after an alleged war criminal worthy of investment is baffling; that it is prepared to hand over money to cultish religious organisations; that foreign office ministers obstinately claim to favour a two-state solution then fund groups which openly admit to preparing for a one-state solution, and that they are giving six times as much to Israeli groups as to Palestinians, suggests at very best a profoundly concerning imbalance in how it views this conflict. At worst – it is evidence that, in the deepest sanctums of Whitehall's foreign office, the mandarins know that the two-state solution is dead.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.