Dear Ms. von der Leyen,
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 EU governmental funds by terror linked organizations has been widely discussed in the European Parliament (EP) over the last 18 months, in particular after five senior employees of EU-funded Palestinian NGOs were charged in relation to the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in August 2019.
The EP’s 2019 Discharge Report, “EU general budget – Commission and executive agencies2020/2140(DEC),” approved two weeks ago, clearly calls on the Commission to “thoroughly verify the use of Union funds by third entities, their affiliates, and/or natural persons to ensure that no funds are allocated or linked to any cause or form of terrorism and/or religious and political radicalisation; and to ensure that these Union funds are proactively recovered, and recipients involved are excluded from future Union funding.”
NGO Monitor’s research shows that in 2011-2019 (latest available data), the EU authorized grants of at least €37 million to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ties to EU-designated terrorist groups – including €1.27 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.)
We urge you to freeze all ongoing or future funding to such terror-linked NGOs. Furthermore, we call on the European Commission to make public the findings of an internal review ordered by the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi during a meeting of EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee in May 2020.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg Olga Deutsch
President Vice President
CC: Ambassador Mr. Emanuele Giaufret, EU Ambassador to Israel