On March 30, 2020, the EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza sent a “clarification letter regarding the EU-funded contracts” to Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) – an umbrella organization of 135 Palestinian NGOs. In it, the EU diplomats appear to give in to Palestinian pressure and effectively annul EU regulations that prohibit the transfer of EU funds to terror groups or individuals connected to these groups (what Palestinian NGOs label “political parties” and “resistance factions”).
At least five members of PNGO have reported ties to EU-designated terror organizations, including through employees and/or board members who are directly involved in the activities and programs – on top of the various Palestinian NGOs and humanitarian groups that are affiliated with the PFLP. In addition to ongoing funding, on April 9 the EU announced a massive assistance package to the PA of “around €71 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” including “€6.9 million in humanitarian aid” to unnamed “non-governmental organisations and UN agencies already present on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
In practice, this means that even if a Palestinian NGO applying for EU grants is an affiliate of terrorist groups or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will still provide them with taxpayer funding – whether designated for emergency responses to COVID-19 or for regular programs.
In 2019, the EU introduced a clause in its contracts with NGOs, under “General conditions applicable to European Union-financed grant contracts for external actions” (Annex G.2, Annex II, Article 1.5 bis). It stipulates that “Grant beneficiaries and contractors must ensure that there is no detection of subcontractors, natural persons, including participants to workshops and/or trainings and recipients of financial support to third parties, in the lists of EU restrictive measures.” In the Palestinian context, these lists EU-designated terrorist organizations(e.g. Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).
According to media reports, during a December 20, 2019 meeting with EU officials, representatives from PNGO “refused to sign an EU grant request which stipulates among its criteria that beneficiaries must refuse to transfer any EU aid given to terrorist groups or entities….The organizations in question steadfastly decline to do so, claiming Palestinian terrorist groups are merely ‘political parties.’”
On December 30, 2019, multiple Palestinian NGOs, including PNGO members, launched a “Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding.” The campaign, which rejects the EC’s “conditioned funding” and “so-called anti-terrorism clauses and policies…on preventing terrorism that affect the history and struggle of our people” (emphasis added), justifies the use of violence and claims that the “Palestinian resistance factions are not terrorist organizations,” (see video clip).
The EU’s March 30 Letter
The March 30 communication stresses that “it is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with, or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefitting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname (confirming his/her identity) corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists” (emphasis added). Moreover, the letter notes, “As far as Palestine is concerned, there are no Palestinian natural persons on the restrictive measures list, pursuant to Council Regulation 2580/2001.”
In other words, even if the Palestinian NGOs applying for EU grants is an affiliate of EU-designated terrorist groups (as a number are) or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will still provide them with taxpayer funding.
The EU also emphasizes that “the EU does not ask any civil society organization to change its political position towards any Palestinian faction or to discriminate against any natural person based on his/her political affiliation.”
Background on PNGO
PNGO enjoys generous funding from the European Union (EU)1 and other international donors for the stated purpose of strengthening, coordinating, and networking among Palestinian civil society. PNGO also enjoys permanent representation in the UN’s Humanitarian Country Team, which coordinates all international aid in Gaza and the West Bank. This comes with a seat on the advisory board of the UN’s humanitarian pooled fund, which is designated for emergencies, granting PNGO decision-making power in selecting the fund’s beneficiaries.
PNGO ties to the PFLP terror group
- Hanatsheh was arrested in October 2019, alleged to be the leader of PFLP “military” operations in the West Bank.
- According to a December 12, 2019 indictment in Israeli military court, he commanded Samer Arbid, who has been charged for leading the PFLP terror cell that carried out an August 2019 bombing attack that murdered 17-year-old Rina Shnerb, and injured her father and brother (on file with NGO Monitor).
- According to an Israeli media report, Hanatsheh bankrolled the bombing.
PNGO describes Ashraf Abu Aram as “a human rights defender and advocacy officer of Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).” According to a November 2019 statement by PNGO, Abu Aram was arrested by the Israeli security forces (November 7, 2019) and “was transferred under ‘administrative detention for four months.’”
A 2012 report in Haaretz identified Abu Aram as a PFLP member who was arrested for “allegedly planning to kidnap an IDF soldier in order to bring about the release of PFLP leader Ahmed Sa’adat from an Israeli jail.” According to the Israel Security Agency (Shabak), “Abu Aram already contacted a local weapons dealer in an effort to obtain two pistols and an automatic rifle with which to carry out the planned abduction.”
- Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which has a seat on PNGO’s board2
- HWC, which also has a board seat3
- Addameer, “executive member”4 of PNGO, according to Addameer’s website
- Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC)6
Samer Arbid and Abdel Razeq Farraj, both senior UAWC employees, were arrested in 2019 for their alleged involvement in the August 23, 2019 bombing attack (see above).
- Samer Arbid: According to Israeli security officials, Samer Arbid commanded a PFLP terror cell that carried out the bombing against Israeli civilians. According to the Israel Security Agency (Shabak), Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device.
- According to Arabic-language media, Arbid worked as the accountant of the UAWC at the time of his September 2019 arrest.
- Abdel Razeq Farraj: According to his indictment, he authorized the bombing.
PNGO’s Rejection of Anti-Terrorism Funding Requirements
PNGO has previously rejected anti-terrorism funding language, defended Palestinian “resistance,” and blocked normalization with Israel and Israelis:
- In June 2017, PNGO condemned Norway for pulling funding from a youth center named after Dalal Mughrabi – a terrorist who in 1978 murdered 37 civilians, including 12 children – asserting that “there is a difference between freedom fighters and terrorists.” PNGO later scrubbed the statement from its website (preserved on “Internet Archive”: “PNGO Condemns Norway demanding PA return funds for Center Named after Dalal Mughrabi”).
- In April 2017, PNGO called on the international community not to “use aid to undermine legitimate Palestinian resistance.” According to PNGO, “We reject all de-legitimization or criminalization of lawful Palestinian resistance, whether in form of allegations of terrorism, anti-semitism or otherwise… We call on all governments and aid providers to respect our right to lawful resistance, support Palestinian human rights defenders, and ensure equal, impartial and transparent access to funding for all.”
- According to a 2013 study commissioned by the UN, PNGO “stated that its members would not sign funding agreements that included the ATC [Anti-Terror Certificate]. This is now a condition for membership under PNGO byelaws [sic].”
- In 2013, PNGO condemned the EU Partnership for Peace program for encouraging “normalization between Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations.”
- In 2008, PNGO was one of the authors of “The Palestinian NGOs Code of Conduct,” which obliges members to “be in line with the national agenda without any normalization activities with the occupier, neither at the political-security nor the cultural or developmental levels.” In other words, if an NGO wishes to promote cultural exchange between Israelis and Palestinians—a form of normalization—it will not be represented by PNGO, putting their funding at risk.
- In 2007, PNGO spearheaded a boycott of USAID funding following the introduction of anti-terrorism clauses in grant agreements.
- PNGO is a partner of a current €261,914 European Union grant titled “torture is a humiliation of dignity;” In 2016-2019, PNGO was a co-grantee of a €446,482 EU grant titled “Contributing to the respect, protection and promotion of the right to association in the Gaza Strip.”
- PNGO, “Board members,”: http://www.pngo.net/board-members/
- PNGO, “Board members,”: http://www.pngo.net/board-members/
- Addameer, “Our Work”: http://www.addameer.org/about/our-work
- Al-Dameer, “Evacuation of Responsibility”: https://www.aldameer.org/en/Evacuation%20of%20Responsibility.html
- UPWC, “عن الإتحاد” :https://upwc.ps/?page_id=408