Analysis: EU going wobbly, might return to funding Palestinian NGOs with terror ties

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, Western donors are not entitled to demand that their taxpayer money not go to EU-designated terrorist organizations.

By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute

For many years, Palestinians have received unconditional funding from Western donors.

Here is how it worked: Palestinian organizations would submit an application for funding, and the donors would automatically sign the check or approve the wire transfer of millions of dollars or euros to the Palestinians’ bank accounts.

In a nutshell, the Palestinian attitude regarding Western funding has always been along the following lines: “You Westerners owe us this money because you contributed to the establishment of Israel after World War II. Thus, you have no right to set any conditions for the funding. Just give us the money and shut up. Any refusal to comply with our demands will result in our rage, and possibly terrorism and other forms of violence, not only against Israel, but also against you [non-Muslim] ‘infidels’ in the West.”

Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand why Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now furious with the European Union (EU). Recently, the EU and its member countries have had the audacity to demand that EU taxpayer money not end up in the hands of terrorists or terrorist organizations.

The donor countries, in other words, appear finally to have woken up to the fact that their money has been going into the coffers of Muslim terrorists and Arab extremists who continue to call and work for the elimination of Israel.

There are signs, however, that the EU is about to surrender to Palestinian pressure and threats.

During a May 19, 2020 meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Oliver Varhelyi, Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, stated that he had instructed the heads of EU delegations to Israel and West Bank/Gaza to “look deep” into the allegations that some EU funds go to terror-linked or terror-supporting NGOs, declaring that such funding “will not be tolerated.”

The announcement came in wake of concerns that the EU, under pressure from the Palestinian NGOs, has backtracked on its condition for providing funds to the Palestinians.

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In a May 30, 2020 “clarification” letter to the Palestinian NGO Network, the head of the EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, explained that the EU “does not ask any civil society organization to change its political position towards any Palestinian faction or discriminate against any natural person based on his/her political affiliation.”

Burgsdorff, however, also wrote:

“While the entities and groups included in the EU restrictive lists cannot benefit from EU-funded activities, it is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with, or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefiting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists.”

This opaque language means that even if a Palestinian NGO applying for EU grants is an affiliate of terrorist groups, or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will, after all, provide it with taxpayer funding — whether designated for emergency responses to COVID-19 or for regular programs, according to NGO Monitor, a globally recognized research institute that works to ensure that decision makers and civil society operate in accordance with the principles of accountability, transparency, and universal human rights.

Palestinians first noticed the apparent change in donors’ position in 2019, when the EU introduced a new clause in its contracts with Palestinian NGOs, under “General conditions applicable to European Union-financed grant contracts for external actions” (Annex G.2, Annex II, Article 1.5 bis).

The clause stipulates:

“Grant beneficiaries and contractors must ensure that there is no detection of subcontractors, natural persons, including participants to workshops and/or trainings and recipients of financial support to third parties, in the lists of EU restrictive measures.”

It is worth noting that these lists include terrorists and terrorist organizations designated as such by the EU, such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) among others. The three groups, together with several others, do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and have long been engaging in terror activity against Israelis.

The EU “anti-terror” clause has drawn sharp criticism from Palestinians, including dozens of NGOs based in Judea and Samaria and Gaza Strip. The main complaint made by the Palestinians is that they cannot accept “politically conditioned funding” from any party, including EU donors.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, Western donors are not entitled to demand that their taxpayer money not go to EU-designated terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PFLP.

Here is how one Palestinian NGO, Badil, put it:

“Politically conditioned funding is resolutely rejected in its entirety, regardless of the amount and whatever its justifications. The so-called screening and vetting procedures, which include subjecting members of the management bodies and staff of organizations, their contractors, service providers, and beneficiaries to examination under the guise of standard security measures are rejected and condemned. Palestinian political factions and forces are not terrorist organizations, and their popular, national, and legal statuses are not determined by a European document.”

The PFLP, whose members have been involved in many terror attacks against Israel in the past few decades, claimed that the EU “anti-terror” clause was “in the context of measures to liquidate the Palestinian cause.” The PFLP is furious because many of the Palestinian NGOs operating in Judea and Samaria and Gaza Strip are affiliated with it.

This week, a group of Palestinian NGOs in eastern Jerusalem accused the EU of being in collusion with Israel and the U.S. administration in order to “liquidate the Palestinian cause.”

This concocted accusation is based on the false claim that the Europeans are part of President Donald J. Trump’s plan for Middle East peace and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. Notably, many EU states and leaders hold explicit anti-Netanyahu and anti-Trump views.

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The Palestinian opposition to the EU demand regarding funding for terrorists and terror organizations is also based on the argument that this request is “humiliating” for the Palestinians. The Palestinians see the request as a “humiliating” because they believe that no one has the right to tell them that Hamas and other Palestinian groups are engaged in terrorism.

The Palestinians are offended by the idea that their “cash cow” is now refusing to produce money for terrorist aims.

Palestinian NGOs are facing a dilemma. On the one hand, they are desperate for Western cash — to the tune of tens of millions of dollars and euros. On the other hand, they are worried that the demand to ensure that the funds do not go to terrorists might “criminalize the Palestinian national struggle against Israel.”

Clearly, the Europeans setting forth conditions fail to grasp that, for the Palestinians, rockets, suicide bombers, stabbings, drive-by shootings and other forms of violence are not considered terrorism but, rather, heroic acts against Israel and Jews.

Europeans have long funded dozens of NGOs that openly support and promote anti-Israel violence and incitement. In response to the apparent EU move to change the rules of the game, Palestinian groups are also turning the tables on the Western donors, by condemning, pressuring and threatening them.

It remains to be seen whether the Europeans will cave in to Palestinian threats of retaliation and drop their demand that EU money actually feed hungry people rather than feed the Palestinian terrorists’ hunger for Jewish blood.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.