On June 30, 2020, the European Commission updated its Financial Transparency System (FTS) with details about grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) authorized in 2019.1
NGO Monitor’s analysis of this newly-released information shows that, in 2019, the EU authorized seven grants involving €11.8 million for projects in Jerusalem, out of a total of 42 grants of €37.15 million for projects in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza — for implementation by NGOs. Some of these projects clearly relate to the EU’s highly politicized “strategic approach” (November 2018), namely the “urgent need to preserve the Palestinian identity of EJ (East Jerusalem).” One NGO project even seeks to “protect Islamic and Christian Waqf2 religious and cultural heritage properties against Israeli violations and threats.”
Such grants are unique: of the 38,447 grants (as listed on the FTS) funded by the EU worldwide in 2019, the only examples dealing with “religious and cultural heritage properties” in a highly conflictual framework are embedded in the Palestinian context.3
The EU’s politicized framework regarding Jerusalem is shared by some troubling actors, including the EU-designated terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In July 2020, after Israel arrested several directors of Palestinian cultural institutions in Jerusalem on terror and money-laundering charges, the PFLP published a statement echoing the EU’s language and asking the EU to intervene against Israel’s “strik[ing] the Palestinian narrative, culture and national identity,” and “target[ing] Islamic and Christian holy sites, as well as all of the Palestinian national heritage that constitutes the features of the city of Jerusalem.”
EU’s “strategic approach to…protect the Palestinian identity of the city”
In 2018, the European Commission published its “annual action programme in favour of Palestine for 2018 (including one action on budget 2019 and 2020).” One aspect, detailed in Annex 3, is the “Support to East Jerusalem in 2018, 2019 and 2020,” for which the EU has adopted a “strategic approach to sustain the presence of the Palestinian population and protect the Palestinian identity of the city.”
Towards this goal, the EU prioritized the “protection of Palestinian heritage and culture as there is an urgent need to preserve the Palestinian identity of EJ, based on the restoration of historical sites in the Old City and the promotion of cultural life and activities in EJ.”
The EU further defined “Palestinian culture and heritage in East Jerusalem are protected” as a strategic objective. As specified, “this will be done through (i) preserving cultural and historical sites with a special focus on the Old City and the surrounding area, (ii) supporting cultural, arts and music activities, and co-ordination amongst cultural related organisations in the City; (iii) ensuring Palestinian cultural heritage remains in the curriculum.”
According to the EU, this is necessary to ensure that “the shrinking space for cultural organisations does not become too restricted for organisations to continue to operate (closing of Bank accounts, detaining staff/performers, shutting down activities while in performance, cancelling registration of organisations, etc,” and that “the Israeli Ministry of Antiquities does not completely further renovation works [sic].”
The political goals of this program are reflected in several grants, for implementation by NGOs, authorized by the EU in 2019. For example:
- Grant: “Protecting Islamic and Christian cultural heritage in Jerusalem.”
Politicized NGOs Involved: PalVision; Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA).
Project Description: “To contribute to preserving the Palestinian character and cultural heritage of East Jerusalem (EJ) by strengthening the Palestinian identity and enhancing the sense of belonging among Palestinians. SO1: To protect Islamic and Christian Waqf religious and cultural heritage properties against Israeli violations and threats SO2: To enhance Palestinians ability to identify and value their cultural heritage and have a good understanding of what can be done to protect their cultural heritage” (emphasis added).
- Grant: “Talim lil-Jamia: inclusive education intervention for East Jerusalem children.”
Amount: €1,897,650 million
Politicized NGOs Involved: Terre des Hommes (TDH) (Italy).
Project Description: “Contribute to preserve the Palestinian identity of occupied East Jerusalem. While promoting equity and inclusion adopting a rights-based approach, thus addressing the needs of Palestinian students and the overall young community of East Jerusalem (EJ), the project intends to contribute to improve the educational offer provided by the Awqaf system of EJ thus promoting its role as one of the main pillars to protect the Palestinian identity of EJ.” (Emphasis added).
It is noteworthy that the project “inclusive education intervention for East Jerusalem children” implemented by TDH (Italy) has been funded three times by the EU in 2012-2019. The project description further indicates a politicization of the project:
- In 2016, the EU authorized a €1,193,000 grant for the project “inclusive education intervention for East Jerusalem children,” implemented by Terre des Hommes (Italy) and Al-Quds University.
- Project Description: “Contribute to the full enjoyment of the right to education for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. Improve the quality of and increase access to basic education in East Jerusalem with an inclusive perspective.”
- According to Terre des Hommes (Italy), the project included the Palestinian politicized NGO Burj Luq-Luq Social Center Society.
- In 2012, the EU authorized a €1.5 million grant for the project on “inclusive education intervention for East Jerusalem children,” implemented by Terre des Hommes (Italy).
- Project Description: “The project intends to intervene through activities implemented at three different levels: school, family and overall community – in support and for the improvement of the quality of education in a number of the EJ Awqaf schools.”
Jerusalem Awqaf school system
The Awqaf school system is one of the primary frameworks for Palestinian students in Jerusalem. Awqaf schools are affiliated with the Palestinian Ministry of Education and use its curriculum. According to IMPACT-se,4 “The current Palestinian Authority curriculum5 taught in Awqaf schools is more radical than those previously taught…There is no evidence of a ‘rights-based approach,’ and there is the adoption of extreme and unacceptable teaching materials in the schools the EU is supporting.”
One such example, directly relevant to the EU grant, is of “material in the 2019-20 Palestinian curriculum relating to preservation and protection of Palestinian identity.” Specifically, “Children are taught the libel that Israel carries out excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque to cause it to collapse. They watch a video in class on the subject. This dangerous myth has been the cause of considerable bloodshed (Islamic Education, Vol. 1, Grade 5, 2019, p. 98).”
The PFLP terror group echoes the EU narrative on Jerusalem
In July 2020, Israeli security forces arrested several directors of Palestinian cultural institutions in Jerusalem, suspected of “money laundering, funding terrorism and tax evasion.” In response, on July 26, 2020, the EU-designated terror organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) published a statement that “calls upon the European Union to stop participating in the Zionist crime against Jerusalem.”
Echoing the EU’s own language about Jerusalem (see above), the statement affirms that “the rabid Zionist campaign against Jerusalem’s culture and art institutions and centers is part of the wide-scale attack aimed at Judaizing the city, abolishing its Arab features, and a desperate attempt to strike the Palestinian narrative, culture and national identity,” and that “this ongoing Zionist crime in the city of Jerusalem is the most striking example of the fascist racism of the Zionist entity, which targets Islamic and Christian holy sites, as well as all of the Palestinian national heritage that constitutes the features of the city of Jerusalem” (emphasis added).
In addition, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) jointly published a statement accusing “Israeli policies and practices take the following forms: i) taking control of East Jerusalem’s public institutions and changing their status and character from Arab-Palestinian to Jewish-Israeli; ii) exploiting emergency and counter-terrorism laws to sweepingly outlaw or criminalize Palestinian political and non-violent activists organizations, punish their members and forcibly close their institutions iii) banning the institutions of the Palestinian Authority (PA) from the city, iv) enforcing restrictions and punitive measures against Palestinian institutions.” The signatories further call upon the international community to “publically [sic] condemn the campaign of defamation and de-legitimization led by Israel’s right wing government and lobby groups, such as NGO Monitor. Also condemn the abuse of sweeping Israeli emergency and counter-terrorism laws and the legitimization of civil laws for purpose of intimidating, restricting, criminalizing and penalizing the essential work of Palestinian CSOs in occupied EJ.”
The similarity in language between the PFLP, PNGO, and PHROC, on the one hand, and the EU on the other, parallels the numerous interactions between the PFLP-linked NGO network, including PNGO, and the EU, as documented by NGO Monitor. For example:
- In 2011-2019, the EU authorized grants of at least €37 million to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ties to EU-designated terrorist groups. (Read NGO Monitor’s report “EU Funding to Terror-Linked Palestinian NGOs Since 2011”).
- In December 2019, during a 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…claiming Palestinian terrorist groups are merely ‘political parties.’”
2019 EU grants for projects implemented in Jerusalem by Palestinian, Israeli, and international NGOs
|“East Jerusalem youth: agents of change”||“The specific objectives of the action provides [sic] innovative youth -friendly and safe platforms, which are instrumental to their ability to represent and reflect youth visions in addressing EJ issues and IHL -IHRL breaches in EJ and the rest of the oPt. As well as targeted community members are mobilized to participate and contribute to fulfil their economic, political, cultural and social rights.”||€4,987,500 million||Palestinian Vision (PalVision, or “Ruya”); Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil; The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA); Afkar Production Company; danchurchaid|
|“Protection of marginalized communities in East Jerusalem through legal aid, planning, and advocacy”||“Overall objective: To support the marginalized Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem, increase their resilience, prevent forcible transfer and reinforce the Palestinian identity of East Jerusalem.Specific objectives:1.To challenge the Israeli policies targeting the marginalized Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, reduce their impact, and empower those targeted communities through legal aid and advocacy 2.To document, challenge and ultimately transform Israeli policies and me [sic].”||€2,086,757 million||Society of St. Yves; Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC); Land Research Center (LRC); Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC); Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ)|
|“Talim lil-Jamia: inclusive education intervention for east Jerusalem children”||“Contribute to preserve the Palestinian identity of occupied East Jerusalem. While promoting equity and inclusion adopting a rights-based approach, thus addressing the needs of Palestinian students and the overall young community of East Jerusalem (EJ), the project intends to contribute to improve the educational offer provided by the Awqaf system of EJ thus promoting its role as one of the main pillars to protect the Palestinian identity of EJ. The contribution to the [sic].”||€1,897,650 million||Jerusalem Autistic Child Care Organization; Terre des Hommes Italy|
|“Protecting Islamic and Christian cultural heritage in Jerusalem”||“To contribute to preserving the Palestinian character and cultural heritage of East Jerusalem (EJ) by strengthening the Palestinian identity and enhancing the sense of belonging among Palestinians. SO1: To protect Islamic and Christian Waqf religious and cultural heritage properties against Israeli violations and threatsSO2: To enhance Palestinians ability to identify and value their cultural heritage and have a good understanding of what can be done to protect their cultural heritage.”||€1,184,538 million||PalVision; Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA); ACT For Alternative Dispute Resolution And Studies|
|“Emergency housing rehabilitation for women headed households and vulnerable families in east Jerusalem and Jerusalem governorate.”||“The overall objective of this project is to respond to the immediate housing unit needs and protection of vulnerable populations in EJ and Area C of Jerusalem Governorate through self-help approach for the highly-vulnerable families by providing housing unit repairs and transitional housing unit solutions in order to meet the specific objectives.”||€927,939||Palestinian Housing Council (PHC)|
|“CEDAW implementation in Jerusalem”||“Overall objectiveTo enhance the protection of Palestinian women's rights living under occupation in EJ. This comes within the framework of the limited implementation of CEDAW in Jerusalem, and lack of protection measures for Palestinian women living in Jerusalem where ambiguity prevails in concern to the responsible party to ensure the implementation of CEDAW. This comprises on protection of women and girls and enjoyment of basic rights in Jerusalem.”||€279,895|
|Miftah; Kayan-Feminist organization|
|“Decision 3790: maximising its opportunities and countering its harmful effects to realise socioeconomic rights in East Jerusalem.”||“Overall objective: To hold Israel as the occupying power accountable to respect, protect and fulfil the socioeconomic rights of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem (EJ).Specific objectives: : To maximise implementation by Israeli duty bearers of Government Decision 3790 for Narrowing Socioeconomic Gaps and Promoting Economic Development in East Jerusalem in a transparent, non-discriminatory and fair manner for the benefit of all EJ residents, in and beyond the Separation Barrier.”||€299,977||Ir Amim; Workers Advice Center|
- Most of the grants authorized in 2019 will run for 36-months and are, therefore, ongoing as of August 2020.
- The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf controls and manages Islamic sites on and around the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
- The only two remotely comparable grants are (1) an academic project “to map Islamic places of remembrance in Central Russia’s Volga region, and analyse their social, political, and affective life”; and (2) “a pilot project aimed at conducting a broad sample survey of at least 1500 Jewish cemeteries in selected European countries, identifying good practices of their preservation as well as proposing a model for their successful safeguarding,” as part of a broader objective of “dissemination and awareness raising of the European value of heritage and cultural diversity of Europe.”
- IMPACT-se (The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) is an independent research center specializing in the analysis of textbooks and educational curricula.
- In May 2020, The European Parliament condemned the Palestinian failure to remove hate and violence in textbooks: https://mcusercontent.com/cda888712516195d04c9534ec/images/d5c322a5-51c8-4e7e-8b4d-0f1faf3ca657.png