NGO Monitor Letter to the Belgian MFA Regarding Funding to the Health Work Committees
Dear Ms. Wilmès,
Last week, Israeli authorities announced that four additional officials from the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian NGO, had been arrested for terror related activities including diverting European aid to the PFLP terror group.
These arrests are part of a larger operation that uncovered a finance network for PFLP orchestrated by PFLP-affiliated NGOs. According to Israeli authorities:
“Popular Front organizations (PFLP-affiliated NGOs) deceived assistance organizations in Europe using various methods – reporting fictitious projects, transferring false documents, forging and inflating invoices, diverting tenders, forging bank documents and signatures, reporting inflated salaries, etc. The considerable financing that was received was transferred – inter alia – to payments for the families of Popular Front ‘martyrs’, salaries for militants, recruiting new members, advancing and strengthening terrorist activity, funding Popular Front militants in Jerusalem and the dissemination of Popular Front messages and ideology” (emphasis added).
The question of potential abuse of European, including Belgium governmental funds by terror linked organizations has been widely discussed in Europe over the last 18 months, in particular after five senior employees of European-funded Palestinian NGOs were charged in relation to the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in August 2019.
As you are aware, in 2020, the Belgian Deputy Ambassador to Israel was summoned three times over NGO related issues, including the invitation by Belgium of a representative of a PFLP-linked NGO to address the UN Security Council.
NGO Monitor research shows that in 2014-2021, Belgium (Directorate-General for Development Cooperation; DGD) provided at least €8.9 million for projects involving Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ties to EU-designated terrorist groups – including €1.4 million to projects involving HWC.
Indeed, there is an undeniable connection between HWC and the PFLP. The Jerusalem branch of HWC was designated as a terrorist organization by the Israel High Court of Justice (HCJ 3923/15). Additionally, in October 2019, HWC’s “financial and administrative director,” Walid Hanatsheh, was arrested as an alleged leader of PFLP “military” operations in the West Bank; Hanatsheh is currently on trial for commanding a PFLP terror cell that carried out the aforementioned murder. (See NGO Monitor’s report “Health Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group” for more details.)
In accordance with our previous letters (here, here, and here), we urge you to immediately freeze any funds that may be going to all terror-linked NGOs (see NGO Monitor’s report “Belgian Funding for PFLP-Linked NGOs”), launch an investigation, and implement robust vetting mechanisms to ensure that terror-linked NGOs do not receive taxpayer funds.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg Olga Deutsch
President Vice President
Deputy DG of Cooperation Guy Rayée
Ambassador Mr. Jean-Luc Bodson, Ambassador of Belgium in Israel