Dear Ms. von der Leyen,

We write to you regarding concerns over the potential abuse of European Union funds by Palestinian terrorist organizations.

On March 30, 2020, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorf, head of the EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza, sent a “clarification letter regarding the EU-funded contracts”1 to Palestinian NGO Network  (PNGO) – an umbrella organization of 135 Palestinian NGOs. In it, the EU diplomats stresses that “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 (confirming his/her identity) corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists” (emphasis added). Moreover, the letter notes, “As far as Palestine is concerned, there are no Palestinian natural persons on the restrictive measures list, pursuant to Council Regulation 2580/2001.”

The implication is that, even if a Palestinian NGO applying for EU grants is an affiliate of EU-designated terrorist groups (as a number are) or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will still provide the organization with funds and legitimacy.

The EU Representative’s letter also emphasizes that “the EU does not ask any civil society organization to change its political position towards any Palestinian faction or to discriminate against any natural person based on his/her political affiliation.”

We have been documenting for years how some Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) abuse their mandates in order to promote hateful and often violent agendas. This is especially seen with CSOs connected to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which both Israel and the EU regard as a terror organization.

For instance, as you are certainly aware, on August 23, 2019, a PFLP cell detonated an explosive device targeting an Israeli family, murdering 17 year-old Rina Schnerb and wounding her father and brother.  On December 19, 2019, the Israel Security Agency uncovered2 a 50-person PFLP terror network operating in the West Bank; among those arrested were individuals allegedly responsible for the bombing. Several of the arrested contemporarily or previously worked in senior positions for PNGO member groups (Health Work Committees and Bisan Center for Research and Development). Critically, they worked as accountants and financial directors, responsible for handling grants from foreign governments, including the EC.

More broadly, at least five organizational members of PNGO have reported ties to the PFLP.

One such organization is Health Work Committees (HWC), which the EU supported until a few months ago. From 2017-2019, the European Commission provided a €700,000 grant, “Strengthening Community Resilience and Social Cohesion in East Jerusalem on Both Sides of the Separation Wall,” to five Palestinian NGOs including HWC. The grant was provided under the budget line and number “Support to the peace process and financial assistance to Palestine and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) ( ).”

On June 9, 2015, Israel declared Health Work Committees (HWC), based in the West Bank and Jerusalem, to be an unlawful organization, stemming from its ties to the PFLP.

According to the 3, October 2019 criminal indictment, Walid Hanatsheh, HWC’s “financial and administrative director” and a board member of PNGO, was concurrently a senior member of the PFLP in the West Bank, commanding, directing, and financing terror cells that launched several attacks against Israeli civilians. HIs alleged crimes include: membership in an illegal organization, holding a position in an illegal organization, possession of weapons, including assault rifles, weapons trafficking, multiple counts of premeditated attempts to cause death – including shooting attacks against civilian buses and private vehicles, as well as the August 2019 bomb attack and murder of Rena Schnerb.3

To conclude, our research is available to all and shows a direct connection between “natural persons” employed by or serving on the boards of some of these CSOs and the PFLP terror organization. We urge you to evaluate the evidence and ensure the anti-terror clause will be implemented fully in order to prevent EU funds being abused by those who support and endorse terrorism. This is of particular importance in light of the EU’s April 9 announcement regarding an emergency package to the PA of “around €71 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” including “€6.9 million in humanitarian aid” to unnamed “non-governmental organisations and UN agencies already present on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”[fn][/fn]


Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg                                       Olga Deutsch

President                                                                   Vice President

Copies sent to:

Ms. Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner (Neighbourhood and Enlargement)

Mr. Christian Danielsson, Director-General for Enlargement at the European Commission

Mr. Gilles de Kerchove, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator

Mr. David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament

Ms. Monika Hohlmeier, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Budgetary Control

Mr. Emanuele GIAUFRET, Head of EU Delegation to Israel