On November 21, 2023, the European Commission (EC) released the results of an internal review of all ongoing funding to Palestinians, which had been frozen in response to the 7 October Hamas massacre in Israel.

Among conclusions relating to NGO dimensions, the most important development is the suspension of funds to the NGOs implementing two EU-funded projects over “allegations of incitement to hatred and violence after the 7 October 2023 events.” The EC also promised to improve “anti-incitement” monitoring.

NGO Monitor notes with concern that this instant review could not have adequately covered the EU’s entire development portfolio to Palestinians, including “over 100 open projects” as well as other forms of support for the Palestinian Authority, NGOs, and UNRWA. The review falls far short of the requirements of due diligence and accountability that reflect the gravity of the allegations of systematic incitement and other issues. As a result, there is no assurance that ongoing funding will not repeat the incitement to hatred and violence.

Detailed NGO Monitor Analysis

  1. The review should have been conducted by an independent external agency to ensure impartiality and objective results.
  2. EC reviews are largely based on NGO self-reporting, as well as self-review by the EC itself. This process has no credibility.
  3. In direct contrast to the claim in the conclusion that “the review has shown that the Commission controls and existing safeguards in place – which have been significantly strengthened in the past years – work well,” existing safeguards remain ineffective in monitoring, identifying, preventing, and sanctioning instances of NGO incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews, terror glorification, and funding to NGOs with terror connections.
  • One of the “existing safeguards,” in place since 2019, is an anti-terror condition in EC contracts with NGOs (1.5 bis of ANNEX II “General conditions applicable to European Union-financed grant contracts for external actions”). This clause is largely inapplicable in the Palestinian context since it only references the persons, groups and entities subject to the EU list of restrictive measures (terror list), which includes Palestinian entities like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP, but does not include any persons or organizations affiliated with them.
  • The EC has ignored for at least two consecutive years specific recommendations by the European Parliament (see here and here) to improve NGO vetting procedures to “make sure that individuals or groups affiliated, linked to or supporting terrorist organizations are excluded from Union funding; ensure that those Union funds are proactively recovered, and that the recipients involved are excluded from future Union funding”(emphasis added).

NGO Monitor has documented and shared with the EU many examples of statements from EU grantees that belittle and even justify the barbaric war crimes committed by Hamas on October 7.

  1. In addition, over the years, NGO Monitor has documented EU funding to terror-linked NGOs. According to this analysis, in 2011-2021, the EU authorized grants of at least €35 million for projects that involved as implementing partners 13 NGOs associated with the EU-designated terror group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Eight of these groups were designated as terror organizations by Israel, including six designated in October 2021, and five additional with reported ties to the terror group. At least €28 million of that amount was allocated for projects involving NGOs designated by Israel as terror organizations.

In some instances, public information indicates that the NGOs were founded by the PFLP itself; in others, PFLP members serve as staff, board members, and as key decision-makers and financial directors for the NGOs. With the use of open sources, NGO Monitor identified over 70 staff and board members, as well as other officials, who hold positions in both the NGOs and the PFLP.

As revealed in the review of November 2023, we note that the EC has suspended funds to NGOs implementing two EU projects, but only after evidence was presented by third parties. This clearly indicates that existing safeguards did not and could not detect such cases. The review also made reference to a new anti-incitement clause to be included in new contracts.

  1. We call on the European Parliament to commission an independent evaluation of the EC’s review, in order to fundamentally strengthen existing vetting practices and prevent public funds from contributing to Jew hatred, incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis, calls to annihilate or dismantle the State of Israel, political campaigns calling Israel a “racist endeavor,” and other forms of antisemitism.

This is particularly important as the EC currently provides major funding to Palestinian NGOs with ties to the PFLP terror group, including Palestinian NGO Network (recipient of €1.25 million EU funded grant; 2021-2024); Union of Agricultural Work Committees (recipient of €319,880 EU funded grant; 2021-2025), and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (recipient of a €475,000 EU funded grant; 2023-2024).

  1. No funds for Palestinians should be released pending the result of an independent and fully transparent investigation.