One of the ways in which the Biden administration has already departed from its predecessor is engagement with Palestinian Authority leaders and civil society. The United States government has that announced it will resume support for Palestinians, launching new funding programs through NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Before funding decisions are made, it is crucial to ensure that this strategy is undergirded by a commitment to robust vetting mechanisms. As a March 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stresses, sound policy is only as effective as its implementation. In reviewing USAID West Bank and Gaza operations for 2015-2019, the GAO found that the agency did not always ensure that sub-grantees were vetted properly, and in a timely manner, for potential terror ties.
Unfortunately, in the not-so-distant past, similar insufficient scrutiny led to the disbursal of US funds to terror-linked actors and those who glorify violence.
An example of this phenomenon is a $723,405 USAID grant to World Vision in 2014, “to provide food security, sanitation equipment and health services to the conflict-affected areas in the Blue Nile region of Sudan.”
In order to deliver these services, World Vision entered into a contract with the Sudan-based Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA). At the time, officials at USAID apparently did not know that ISRA was on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) sanctions list as a result of its terror-financing activity, including of Osama bin Laden and Hamas.
Six years later, the Senate Finance Committee’s Oversight and Investigation unit noted that the “failure occurred because World Vision’s system for vetting prospective sub-grantees was borderline negligent and ignored elementary level investigative procedures, such as failing to conduct basic secondary research that is widely available to the public on the internet via free search engines.”
In the context of support for Palestinian NGOs, previous US administrations provided funding to Pal-Think, which orchestrated interactions between representatives of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Palestinian teenagers. Notably, the United States has also funded groups such as PYALARA, which produced youth-focused television programs that praised suicide bombers and referred to Jews as “crows” and “rats.”