It is no news that Norway is one of the Palestinian people’s main financiers, but here is a recent example of how things work up here.
The municipality of Rana has decided to throw some spare cash to the Palestinians. Journalis Beate Nygård in Rana Blad, a local newspaper, reports:
On yesterday, the Board of Culture, Environmental issues and Business issues decided who were to be given grants for 2011. Not all agreed on the Committee for Palestine being given support.
In the guidelines of the Municipality of Rana it is stated who can apply for fiscal support:
“Any open organization which does not exclude groups or individuals due to religion, ethnicity, social class or political views”.
This year, the Palestine Committee has been granted 5000 Nkr by the Municipality’s cultural budget. Torill Hanssen (Progressives) took part at the meeting, and was anything but content.
“Funds are to be used by associations, for those active in flowers, choirs, children and non-political organization. They may say whatever they will, but the Palestine Committee is political”.
Did you receive support over your opinions?
“No. Nor had I expected it. Saying things like this is not popular”.
In spite of this, three members of this board voted for this grant.
The Palestine Committee describes itself centrally as an “independent and not part politically associated organization”.
Torill Hanssen is not in agreement with this description.
“This is implied by its name, what if I initiated an organization named “Friends of the Progressives”, claiming this was a-politically, I am not that stupid”.
Bente Bogen, the officer responsible of handling this case relates to what the application says.
“I cannot do anything but relate to applications. If it says it is an apolitical organ, then I as an officer cannot sow doubts about this. They claim to be an interest organization for the Palestinian people”.
Do you find it difficult to grant them support?
“I relate to people talking true when claiming to be apolitical, so I have to trust this”.
Meanwhile people hoping to be able to give tax deductible donations to Israeli recipients have a harder time. Journalist Tarjei Leer-Salvesen, a solid friend of Palestine, writes in Fædrelandsvennen:
Peter Gitmark (Conservative), Kari Henriksen (Labor) and Alf Holmelid (Socialists) wished for a speedy evaluation in the case concerning tax deductions for Karmel and the settlements in the West bank. This they received.
On Monday and Tuesday a number of members of Storting contacted the Ministry of Finance and the Norwegian MFA in order to find out whether it can prevented that tax free gifts are given to organizations in order to support constructions of settlements in the West Bank, occupied territory according to the UN.
According to the Norwegian Karmel-Institute the Northern part of the West Bank, Samaria, is not occupied by Israel, but “liberated” from Jordan. They have supported the Alonei Shilo settlement with millions, having financed more than half of the houses in this growing town of shacks (sic).
On Tuesday evening it was made clear legislation will be proposed, as worked out by the Ministry of Finance, cooperating with the MFA. This proposal will exclude organizations funding activity contrary to international law from enjoying tax deductible gifts.
Alf Holmelid of the Socialists, Kari Henriksen and Peter Gitmark were among those committed in this.
“We socialists have always been committed to this. As this case again was raised through press coverage in the Fædrelandsvennen, I experienced great support over our views by colleagues, I am glad we experience success I this, and is happy over this”, Holmelid says.
Not all politicians with whom Fædrelandsvennen spoke were critical, the Karmel-institute received support by Progressive Tor Utsogn, and Kjell Ingolf Ropstad of the CPP avoids political discussion on what organizations should be given tax deductibility. However, one right wing politician marked himself as a critic, Conservative Peter Gitmark.
“The government’s present initiative is very positive”, Peter Gitmark says.
He says Norway cannot continue a practice of being aware of gifts being tax deducted, then used contrary to international law, of which Norway is so committed to protecting.
“I will raise this appeal with the donors of Karmel: Give money and support Israel. But give for something really strengthening the state of Israel, contributing to them living at peace with themselves and their neighbors” say Gitmark, who is not averse to friends of Israel supporting settlements within the pre 1967 borders, and not on the outside.
He has formerly expressed that he regard Karmel support of the settlements a criminal act. But he will not press charges at them.
“If police do not investigate these matters, I am concerned about them using tax deductions”, he says.
“I find it positive that the government takes an initiative to stop this problem. We cannot allow collection of funds for criminal acts being tax deductible”, Henriksen says.
She is critical over tax deductions to ideal organizations.
“We should give from our heart, not expecting tax deductions”, Henriksen has as her opinion.
The Labor Youth (AUF) will go even further than the proposed legislation. Labor Youth leader Eskil Pedersen has proposed a ban on gifts to illegal settlements on the West Bank.
Kari Henriksen agrees.
“It is very negative that groups in Norway are allowed to commit organized illegal activity. I agree this should be banned”, she states.
Eskil Pedersen of the Labor Youth has travelled in the West Bank, having visited several Israeli settlements there.
“What I see is not good, escalating the conflict in the area and the whole region. It is against common sense to let them deduct this on taxes”
He is content over the government’s initiative to change rules.