Belgian Funding for PFLP-Linked NGOs
- In 2017-2021, the Belgian government (Directorate-General for Development Cooperation; DGD) allocated approximately €9.5 million to Belgian NGOs – including Viva Salud, Broederlijk Delen, Oxfam Solidarité, and Solidarité Socialiste – for projects in “Jerusalem & Palestinian Territory.” Of this, at least €3 million was allocated to projects involving Palestinian NGOs linked to the EU-designated terror organization, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
- These Belgian NGOs coordinated the official 2017-2021 strategic objectives for the Belgian government to “increase advocacy efforts towards European institutions and member states, promoting respect for international law and mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices” (emphasis added). This Joint Strategic Framework for Belgian Aid to Palestine was approved by the Belgian Minister of Development
- In 2017-2020, Belgium contributed $14 million (out of $113 million, 12.3%) to the UN-OCHA oPt [occupied Palestinian territory] Humanitarian Fund. At least $10.6 million from this fund was allocated to same PFLP-linked NGOs.
Israel uncovers a finance network for PFLP orchestrated by PFLP- affiliated NGOs
In May 2021, Israeli authorities announced that four officials from the PFLP-linked Palestinian NGO Health Work Committees (HWC), including a Spanish citizen (Juana Ruiz Sánchez), had been arrested for terror related activities including diverting European aid to the PFLP terror group. These arrests of 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 government funds by terror linked organizations has been widely discussed in Europe over the last 18 months, in particular after five senior employees, including financial directors of European-funded Palestinian NGOs were charged in relation to the murder of 17-year- old Rina Shnerb in August 2019. In Belgium, these concerns were already reported in 2019 in the French-language L’Echo: “De l’argent belge géré en Palestine par des terroristes présumés.”
According to DGD portal, in the framework of the 2017-2021 Joint Strategic Framework (JSF) for Belgian aid to Palestinians, DGD provided the Belgian NGO Viva Salud (formerly Médecine pour le Tiers Monde/ Geneeskunde voor de Derde Wereld) with €1.15 million (here and here).
According to a 2017 Viva Salud report about the 2017-2021 JSF, DGD was expected to provide three PFLP-linked Palestinian NGOs with €828,640 for 2017-2021. The report notes that the NGOs should “advocate for BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)]” within the JSF’s objective to “increase advocacy efforts towards European institutions and member states, promoting respect for international law and mitigating the influence of pro- Israel voices.”
A. Health Work Committees (HWC, €297,925)
HWC finance and administration manager Walid Hanatsheh (Abu Ras) was arrested in October 2019 for being the alleged leader of PFLP “military” operations and commanding Samer Arbid, the terrorist responsible for leading the PFLP terror cell that carried out the August 2019 bombing. According to an Israeli media report, Hanatsheh bankrolled the attack. Following his arrest, the PFLP labeled Hanatsheh a “leader in the Popular Front.” Prior to this, he was arrested several times in 2002-20121 by Israeli security forces.
On June 9, 2015, Israel’s Defense Minister declared that “the group of people or institutions or association known as the ‘Union of Health Work Committees- Jerusalem’…or any other name that this association will be known by, including all of its factions and any branch, center, committee or group of this association is an unauthorized association, as defined by the Defense Regulations” (emphasis added, p. 6489). At the time of this declaration, DGD was funding Viva Salud for programs in partnership with UHWC and HWC.
Numerous individuals with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist organization have served as employees and as board members at HWC. For more information about HWC’s ties to PFLP, read NGO Monitor’s report “Health Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”
B. Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC, €192,823)
UHWC’s treasurer Magdi Yaghi is referred to by the PFLP terror group as a “member of the regional command” and a “comrade.”
UHWC is identified by Fatah as a PFLP “affiliate” and by a USAID-engaged audit as “the PFLP’s health organization.” HWC is UHWC’s former West Bank and Jerusalem branch.
Numerous individuals with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist organization have served as employees and as board members at UHWC. For more information about UHWC’s ties to PFLP, read NGO Monitor’s report “Union of Health Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”
C. Bisan Center for Research and Development (Bisan, €337,892)
Ubai Aboudi, Bisan’s Executive Director, was arrested by the Israeli authorities on November 13, 2019. In June 2020, Aboudi was sentenced to 12 months in prison. According to his conviction, Aboudi “was convicted of being a member and an activist of the Popular Front organization during the period starting from 2016 and ending in July 2019.” Specifically, Aboudi “was responsible for recruiting additional activists to the organization from young people and students, as well as strengthening the organization’s infrastructure in the area” (on file with NGO Monitor).
- On October 22, 2020, after Aboudi completed his jail sentence, Viva Salud published a Facebook post claiming wrongly that he was placed in administrative detention “without charge and without reason.”
- In November 2021, Viva Salud interviewed Ubai Aboudi who confirmed that after completing his jail sentence, he “quickly returned to Bisan to work.”
Itiraf Hajaj (Rimawi) served as Bisan’s previous Executive Director (his name is listed as the contact person in the 2017 Viva Salud’s report mentioned above). Rimawi was arrested on September 23, 2019, and an Israeli authorities’s statement refers to him as responsible for PFLP clandestine operations. Additionally, according to the PFLP-linked organization Samidoun, in 1995-2017, Rimawi was arrested several times.2 A 2016 High Court of Justice decision [HCJ-2524/16] referred to Rimawi as a “PFLP member” who “posed a security threat” (on file with NGO Monitor).
In July 2020, Bisan refused to comply with anti-terror requirements for EU funding. A representative of Bisan stated on Al Jazeera that the group opposes conditional funding and the new EU anti-terror clause: “Palestinian civil society is donor-dependent. Bisan used to get its funding primarily from EU governments, but we withdrew our project concept notes for this year after they [European Union] included the ATC [anti-terror clause] in their contracts.”
According to DGD portal, in the framework of the 2017-2021 JSF for Belgian aid to Palestinians, DGD provided the Belgian Broederlijk Delen (BD) with €1.7 million.
A. Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P)
According to a 2017 BD report about the 2017-2021 JSF, DGD was expected to provide the PFLP-linked Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) with €170,800 for 2017-2021.
In early February 2020, Belgium, which held the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, invited DCI-P’s Senior Advisor for Policy and Advocacy to brief the Council. Following a public information campaign highlighting the terror links of the NGO and diplomatic protests by the Israeli government, Belgium rescinded the invitation.
Numerous individuals with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist organization have served as employees and as board members at DCI-P. In June 2018, in light of these PFLP links, Citibank and Arab Bank closed accounts belonging to DCI-P. Global Giving, a US- based crowdfunding resource, also removed DCI-P from its website. Examples of DCI-P employees with ties to the PFLP include:
- Hashem Abu Maria was coordinator of DCI-P’s community mobilization unit and was hailed by the PFLP as a “leader” after his death in The PFLP announcement praised his work for DCI-P, stating “he was in the ranks of the national liberation struggle and the PFLP from an early age, arrested several times, and was a model for a steadfast struggler and advocate for the rights of our people through his work in Defence for Children International.”
- Riyad Arrar, Director of DCI-P’s Child Protection Program, addressed a December 2014 PFLP memorial event for a group member who was killed “while engaging in a demonstration confronting the occupation forces with stones and Molotov cocktails.” The event featured PFLP paraphernalia and individuals clad in military garb – some of whom appear to be children (video on file with NGO Monitor).
- Nassar Ibrahim, President of DCI-P’s General Assembly, at least through May 2017, is the former editor of El Hadaf – the PFLP’s weekly
- Mahmoud Jiddah, DCI-P board member from at least 2012 to 2016, was imprisoned by Israel for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968.
For more information about DCI-P’s ties to PFLP, read NGO Monitor’s report “Defense for Children International – Palestine’s Ties to the PFLP Terrorist Organization.”
In 2017-2018, Oxfam reported that DGD provided €288,002 for the project “Protecting Lives in Closed Borders.” The project partners included the PFLP-linked Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). DGD portal reports that the project had a budget of approximately €1,174,244. In addition, Oxfam Solidarité reports that a DGD-funded program called “Cash-for-work” (funding details unknown) was implemented in partnership with UAWC.
UAWC’s Finance and Administration Director Abdul Razeq Farraj was arrested by Israeli forces on October 23, 2019. According to his indictment, he authorized the August 2019 bombing (see above). According to Addameer and Amnesty International, Farraj spent 1985- 1991 in “an Israeli prison after being convicted of affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” He is currently standing trial for the Shnerb murder.
UAWC financial director Samer Arbid is on currently on trial for commanding the PFLP terror cell that carried out the murder of Rena Shnerb. According to the indictment against him (on file), Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device. In August 2020, the PFLP published a statement referring to Arbid as a “prisoner and commander” and “one of the heroes of the Bubeen operation” – referring to the August 2019 bombing.
UAWC is identified by Fatah as a PFLP “affiliate” and by a USAID-engaged audit as “the PFLP’s agricultural organization.” According to academic work published by l’Institut français du Proche-Orient, “UAWC is an agricultural NGO linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
Numerous UAWC staff members, founders, board members, general assembly members, and senior staff members have ties to the PFLP terror group. For more information about UAWC’s ties to PFLP, read NGO Monitor’s report “Union of Agricultural Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”
Solidarité Socialiste (Solsoc)
According to DGD portal, in the framework of the 2017-2021 JSF for Belgian aid to Palestinians, DGD provided the Belgian Solidarité Socialiste (Solsoc) with €1.73 million.
According to a 2017 Solsoc report about the 2017-2021 JSF, DGD was expected to provide the PFLP-tied Ma’an Development Center (Ma’an) with €986,954 for 2017- 2021.
On May 15, 2018, Ahmad Abdallah Aladini, a Ma’an employee, was killed in clashes on the Gaza border. According to the terror group, Aladini was a “member of the leadership of the PFLP in Deir al Balah,” a town in Gaza.
In May 2019, Ma’an’s Director General, Sami Khader, attended a PFLP organized memorial event for late PFLP political bureau member Rabah Muhanna The hall was decorated with PFLP paraphernalia.
Indirect Funding via UN Frameworks
Funding to the UN-OCHA oPt Humanitarian Fund
- In 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017, Belgium provided the “occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund” with $4.3 million, $4 million, $2.9 million, and $2.8 million respectively ($14 million or 12.3%) to the $113 million UN-OCHA oPt Humanitarian Fund. At least $10.6 million of this fund were allocated to same PFLP-linked NGOs (UAWC, HWC, UHWC, Ma’an and Red Crescent Society for Gaza Strip).