The connection between Swedish aid and Palestinian media anti-Semitism

The first time I started to dig into the Swedish Development Aid Agency Sida’s (government organization under the Swedish Foreign Ministry) Aid to the so called Palestinian Territories and Gaza I was astonned to know that Sweden was funding an exhibition that contained photos of political graffiti glorifying terror against the State of Israel.

the connection sida antisemitism
photo by Tobias Petersson

Unfortunately there is more to learn about Sweden’s part in the legitimization of terror and incitement against Israel. I recently browsed the Swedish Aid Agency’s public data base. Among all its 176 aid contributions in the West Bank and Gaza for 2013 I found one project that really caught my attention. Not only was it remarkable because of the fact that the amount the Swedish state is giving away for this project is large, 1,06 million USD just for 2013, but also because of what it was aimed for. The aid is dedicated to media development in Birzeit University outside Ramallah. The Birzeit University is very much loved by the anti-Israel leftists. However the university has been criticized for allowing Hamas students to parade in the university area glorifying terrorism against Israel.

Since 1996 Sweden has been funding the MDC, the Media Development Center in the Birzeit University and is its biggest donor. The MDC has trained the vast majority Palestinian media professionals one or several times according to Sida. The MDC also have facilities for education in Gaza.

According to Sida the primary objective for the project support has been to ”strengthen the democratic process through a professionalization of Palestinian media practitioners within the press, radio and TV”(Assessment memo MDC 2010-2012, 3). Sida considers that the support is ”well in line with promoting peace building and the peace process”. However on one of the agreements for this project Nabeel Kassis, minister of finance in the PA government and also President of the Birzeit University has his name. Mr Kassis has openly voiced that he is against a Jewish state. That shows how much the president of the Birzeit University has been affected by the Swedish strategy for peace building, while the MDC received, in the latest three years, 2,5 – 3,5  million USD (Sida says about 2,5 million USD while the Swedish Consulate in Jerusalem says 3,5 million USD) in order to build peace.

When Sida writes the final report for 2010-2012 the organization concludes that the report is based on interviews with partners and beneficiaries. On the list of persons interviewed, who can have influence on the Swedish aid, are a professor and also a lecturer at the Al Aqsa University in Gaza. Other stakeholders and participants interviewed who thereby have influence over the Swedish aid are Miftah,  Maan News Agency, PYALARA and PBC, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation that has two media stations: the radio station Voice of Palestine and PA TV.

Not only do these Palestinian institutions and organizations seem to be  important in the media field  but out of the many media houses and TV-stations there are in Gaza and PA these participants seem to have big importance to the Swedish peace building in PA and Gaza.

So what is the problem about all these stakeholders interviewed?  The fact is that all of them have been involved in either spreading a message of violence, glorification of terrorism or antisemitism to the population in the PA and Gaza.  That is not how to build democratic societies nor peace and coexistence.

The Al Aqsa University has had staff members lauding happiness over suicide killings and spreading anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments.

Miftah on March 27 2013 published an article that repeated the antiseptic idea of Jewish blood libel. Miftah also publishes articles giving voice to the BDS movement.

The Maan News Agency, an EU-funded News Agency, on January 31 2013 published an article denying the holocaust.

PYALARA, funded by Swedish Olof Palme International Center, on several occasions in 2012 expressed in TV-shows with young journalists that terrorists are ”the greatest role models”.

The PA radio channel The Voice of Palestine has repeatedly given antisemitism a voice in religious sermons and poems. On August 8  2013 a radio show announcer greeted the people in Acco, Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa and Jaffa (all Israeli cities) by saying that  ”there soon will be Palestine again”, i e no more Israel.

The PA TV has constantly been monitored by Palwatch (PMW), a research institute that is monitoring the Palestinian media. The antisemitic, anti-Israel and terror praising  broadcasts by PA TV have been enormous. A search on Palwatch’s website on PA TV gives 5930 results in antisemitism, anti- Israel comments, indoctrination of children to hate Jews and glorification of terrorism.

According to a survey by the Near East Consulting published in 2011 the second most watched TV station in the PA is the PA TV. So PA TV has a potential of having a profound influence on the way the TV viewers in the PA view the world, including how they view Israel and Jews.

Not only does Sida give legitimization to these stakeholders who spread antisemitism and hatred against the State of Israel but the Swedish aid agency also helps them through the MDC to build new journalist strategies, new techniques that in the hands of these stakeholders will not be in the interest of building coexistence with Israelis but instead keep the population down in hatred against Israel.

Why Sweden continues to provide aid to the MDC is still a mystery. In Sidas report for 2010- 2012 and many times before it is stressed that there is no impact on developing the free democratic media that  Sweden wants to create  in the PA and Gaza. Sida has even been advised to end the support to the MDC.

Sida claims it wants media to help building a democratic and peaceful society. However as long as the antisemitism and the glorification of terror exist in the Palestinian media, the media will always remain undemocratic and undeveloped and can not build a peaceful society.

About the Author
Tobias Petersson is a Swedish freelance writer who has focused on Israel and the MENA region. He came to Israel first in 2007 for a summer vacation and learned much. Soon after his return to Sweden he was suddenly aware of the anti-Israeli sentiments in his country and decided he wanted to change that. He has published articles about Israel in various Swedish and Israeli media to make the distance between Israel and Sweden less. Today Tobias is active in the Swedish pro-Israel network Perspektiv på Israel/Perspective on Israel.
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