Dear Ann Linde (Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Per Olsson Fridh (Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation),
Last week, Israeli authorities announced that another four officials from the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian NGO, were arrested for terror related activities including diverting EU aid to the PFLP terror group.
These arrests are part of a larger operation that uncovered a finance network for the PFLP orchestrated by 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 Swedish government 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.
NGO Monitor’s research shows that in 2015-2019 (latest available data), the Swedish international development agency (Sida) authorized grants of at least €3 million to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ties to EU-designated terrorist groups – including 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 NGOs.
Furthermore, given your government’s role as a donor, NGO Monitor has the following questions:
- Can you confirm the amounts, years, and projects of funding provided to HWC?
- What vetting does Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) undertake to ensure that taxpayer funds are not provided to organizations connected to armed groups?
- What steps will SIDA take in light of these developments?
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg Olga Deutsch
President Vice President
CC: Mr. Erik Ullenhag, Ambassador of Sweden to Israel.