Examples of German Funding to Palestinian NGOs: Terror Ties and ICC Lobbying
The German Federal Government provides millions of euros to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) operating in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza through a variety of frameworks, including the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Foreign Office (MFA-AA), and the United Nations.
A severe lack of transparency curtails the ability to independently and fully verify and evaluate the country’s funding to the region. Despite this, NGO Monitor’s analysis, based on available data, shows that the German government has been allocating funds for projects involving at least eight Palestinian NGOs with reported ties to the EU-designated terror group,1 the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP):
- Senior employees of at least three PFLP-linked NGOs funded by Germany, including employees responsible for financial matters, were arrested and are currently on trial for their involvement in an August 2019 bombing attack in which 17-year-old Rina Shnerb was murdered, and her father and brother were injured.
- A PFLP-tied German grantee NGO regularly hosts events organized by the terror organization, featuring heavily armed PFLP members.
- Tens of employees (including in senior positions), founders, board and general assembly members from German grantee NGOs have ties to the PFLP terror group.
- At least three Palestinian PFLP-linked German grantee NGOs are playing a leading role in lobbying for indictments of Israelis at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In contrast, Germany officially opposes an ICC probe of Israel, affirming that “the court has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law.”
- In 2019–2020, Germany provided approximately $25 million to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) oPt Humanitarian Fund. The Fund has provided grants to a number of terror-linked NGOs.
- At least three PFLP-tied German grantee NGOs rejected the EU’s anti-terror funding requirement introduced in EU contracts in 2018.
Following are select examples of problematic German funded projects and NGO grantees. Due to the lack of transparency, projects’ funding amounts and durations are often not available.
German Governmental Funding to PFLP-linked NGOs
Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
- In 2018 and 2019, the German group Medico International implemented a project, “Defense of Palestinian land rights in the Jordan valley,” with the Palestinian PFLP-linked Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC; see “Union of Agricultural Work Committees Ties to the PFLP Terror Group”). According to UAWC, this project was funded by the German MFA (funding amount and project duration unknown). Medico also lists the Federal Foreign Office (MFA-AA) and Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as funders of its projects in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
- Additionally, in 2015-2019, BMZ provided the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) with €9,3 million for “Support of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Employment Programme.” According to UAWC (see here and here), it is an implementing partner of the project.
Ties to Terror:
- UAWC is identified by Fatah as an official Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “affiliate” and by a USAID-engaged audit as the “agricultural arm” of the PFLP.
- In 2019, two senior UAWC employees responsible for the NGO’s finances were arrested and are currently standing on trial for their membership in a PFLP terror cell responsible for an August 2019 bombing that murdered Rina Shnerb, a 17-year-old Israeli.
- Samer Arbid, UAWC’s “financial director” and “senior staff”: Samer Arbid is on trial for commanding a PFLP terror cell that carried out the bombing. According to the indictment against him, Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device. On August 30, 2020, the PFLP itself issued a press release confirming that Arbid is a PFLP “commander and one of the heroes of the heroic Ein Bubin operation,” referring to the August 2019 attack.
- In a November 2019 Facebook post, Medico International identified Samer Arbid as an employee of “our partner organization UAWC.”
- Abdel Razeq Farraj, UAWC “Finance and Administration Director”: According to his indictment, Razeq Farraj held a senior PFLP post and authorized the bombing. He is currently standing trial.
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
- As reported in a Bild exposé, GIZ acknowledged that in 2014-16, it provided €70,000 to the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). According to GIZ, Germany funds PNGO “so that this network of Palestinian NGOs can better coordinate its activities.”
- In addition, GIZ funds “training for the member organizations of PNGO, in which they learn to better address and represent the interests of young people.” On the GIZ website, this project is titled “Strengthening Palestinian civil society” and was extended until 2022.
Ties to Terror:
- PNGO is an umbrella framework with 142 NGO members based in Gaza and the West Bank, which has also ties to the PFLP (see our report “PNGO’s Ties to Palestinian Terror Groups”). For example:
- Walid Hanatsheh (Abu Ras), listed as a PNGO board member on behalf of a PFLP-linked NGO, Health Work Committees (HWC),2 and allegedly the leader of PFLP “military” operations in the West Bank, was arrested in October 2019. According to a December 2019 indictment in Israeli military court, he commanded Samer Arbid. Following his arrest, the PFLP labeled Hanatsheh a “leader in the Popular Front.”
- In November 2019, Ashraf Abu Aram, described by PNGP as “a human rights defender and advocacy officer of Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO),” was arrested by the Israeli security forces 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.”
- Additionally, according to media reports, during a December 2019 meeting with EU officials, the PNGO led rejection of the EU’s Anti-terror Funding Requirement (Article 1.5 bis of “ANNEX II General conditions applicable to European Union-financed grant contracts for external actions”). In January 2020, PNGO’s head of the board, Shatha Odeh, who also serves as the head of the Health Work Committees (see below), stated, “We disagree with the European Union on the list… which includes seven political organizations and classifies them as “terrorists”. For us, they are national liberation movements.”
- In 2013, PNGO condemned the EU Partnership for Peace program for encouraging “normalization between Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations.”
Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
- In December 2019, the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip (RCS4GS)reported that it had signed a contract with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the construction of an additional floor of RCS4GS’ Community and Health Center for Women. The project is funded by the “Federal Republic of Germany” through the German development bank KfW. The funding amount of the project is unknown, but in 2019, according to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), BMZ provided UNDP with €13 million for the project “Employment Program Poverty-oriented Infrastructure, EGP XI.”
Ties to Terror:
- The PFLP regularly makes use of RCS4GS facilities. For example, in February 2019, RCS4GS hosted a memorial service organized by the PFLP for Maher Yamani, a PFLP “founder” and a “member of the Central Committee and one of its most prominent military commanders.” Yamani “coordinated special operations…in particular the operation against an aircraft of the Israeli company El Al in July 1968 in Greece.” “Fighters” of the PFLP’s Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades and “civil society representatives” attended the event (see photo below).
- In addition, several RCS4GS board members have served as members of the PFLP Central Committee and as board members of other PFLP-linked NGOs. For example, Bakr Abu Safiya, referred to by the PFLP in February 2020 as “a member of the Central Committee,” is a RCS4GS board member.
Health Work Committee
- In 2018 (in the West Bank and in Jordan), the Health Work Committee (HWC) hosted and organized for its employees two workshops on “lobbying and advocacy mechanisms and their application.” The workshops were funded by “GIZ, the German International Cooperation.”
- In 2016 HWC “completed a specialized training course on integrating mental health in primary health care for workers,” which was carried out together with the Palestinian Medical Education Initiative (PMEI) and funded by GIZ and GIZ’s 2009-2021 Open Regional Fund for the MENA region.
Ties to Terror:
Numerous HWC staff members, founders, board members, general assembly members, and senior staff members have ties to the PFLP terror group. For example:
- Walid Hanatsheh (Abu Ras), HWC’s finance and administration manager until his arrest in October 2019 (See PNGO above).
- Daoud Ghoul, HWC’s former director of development projects and programs in Jerusalem, was convicted by an Israeli court of being a PFLP member. According to a Jerusalem District Court verdict, “the appellant [Ghoul] organized – among other things- trips, extra-curricular activities and summer camps for youth- some of which were named for terrorists that were active in the organization- and organized visits to the families of fallen and incarcerated members of the organization.” Ghoul “acted in order to bring the Palestinian public closer to the [PFLP] organization.”3
On June 9, 2015, the Israel defense minister declared the Jerusalem branch of the Health Work Committee an unlawful association, designated as a terrorist organization by the Israel High Court of Justice.4
In December 2019, HWC was a signatory of the “Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding,” which rejected the introduction of a new anti-terror requirement in EU contracts.
For more information on HWC’s PFLP ties, read NGO Monitor’s report “Health Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”
Defense for Children International – Palestine
- In February 2020, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) announced a “training session on the Universal Declaration of Safe Schools,” which was implemented “in partnership with Save the Children Foundation, financed by German cooperation.” The training targeted “police officers, military liaison, and national security.” The funding details are not disclosed. Save the Children Germany currently implements only one project in the West Bank and Gaza, which is funded with an unknown amount by the BMZ.
- The German NGO Weltfriedensdienst (WFD; Eng. World Peace Service) describes DCI-P as a “partner organization.” According to WFD, “From October 2020, the World Peace Service will support the [DCI-P’s] advocacy department with a peace specialist.”
Ties to Terror:
- Numerous individuals with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist organization have served as employees and as board members of DCI-P. (Read NGO Monitor’s report “Defense for Children International – Palestine’s Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
- In June 2018, in light of these PFLP links, Citibank and Arab Bank closed accounts belonging to DCI-P.
- 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.
- A DCI-P official claimed that the NGO refused EU funding as part of a Palestinian campaign to reject EU anti-terror regulations that prevent grantees from engaging with terrorist organizations. On September 22, 2020, DCI-P General Director Khaled Quzmar told the Turkish news agency Anadolu that DCI-P “has already refused to sign on conditional funding for a project for released child prisoners.” Quzmar added, “We think that no fair trial was held before [formulating] the European terror lists. On the contrary, they are the result of a political decision as part of the Israeli pressure on the EU.”
- In 2017, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) received a €340,000 grant from the German government.
- In November 2018, PCHR representatives went on a “Advocacy Mission in Berlin – Germany,” which was organized by the NGO EuroMed Rights, in which PCHR representatives presented to German policy makers the “human rights situation and Israeli violations against Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Ties to Terror:
- Multiple PCHR officials have ties to the PFLP, including its General Director, Raji Sourani, who was publicly honored by the PFLP in 2014. (For more information read NGO Monitor’s report “Palestinian Centre for Human Right’s Links to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
- Al Mezan holds regular meetings with German diplomats in Gaza and briefs them about the “human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the deteriorating […] situation imposed by Israel.”
- In 2018 and 2019, Medico International provided core funding to Al Mezan. As mentioned above, Medico lists the MFA-AA and BMZ as funders of its projects in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Ties to Terror:
- A number of Al Mezan officials and employees have links to the PFLP and Hamas. Additionally, Al-Mezan officials and board members speak at PFLP events, and many have posted material on their social media accounts promoting terror groups or utilizing antisemitic imagery and rhetoric. For more information on Al Mezan’s PFLP ties, read NGO Monitor’s report, “Al Mezan Center For Human Rights’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”
- In 2017-2021, the BMZ-funded German NGO Weltfriedensdienst (WFD) implemented the project “Side by side: strengthening civil society forces” together with Al-Haq, DCI-P (see above), and Badil, a radical Palestinian NGO known for promoting antisemitism and for having been nixed by the EU in 2020 for its refusal to sign anti-terror clause. WFD’s cooperation with Al-Haq “focuses on advocacy for the human rights situation in the oPt directed at political decision-makers and the public in Germany and Europe (EU).”
- In June 2019, Al-Haq hosted a meeting with several representatives from Palestinian civil society and several senior German officials. The meeting was organized in response to Germany’s Bundestag declaring BDS campaigns against Israel as antisemitic. During the meeting, “Palestinian civil society … raised their concerns and distress with the aforementioned motion” and “highlighted the urgent need for immediate actions and practical measures to be taken by States in order to bring to an end Israel’s prolonged occupation … and the presiding culture of impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses and grave breaches.”
Ties to Terror:
- Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin has ties to the PFLP terrorist organization and, as a result, has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan. In 2007, the Israeli High Court referred to Jabarin as a “Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, acting some of the time as the CEO of a human rights organization, and at other times as an activist in a terror organization.”5
German State Funding to NGOs leading the anti-Israel lawfare campaign in the ICC
Since 2015, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Al-Haq – all tied to the PFLP, as documented above – have submitted various documents to the Court alleging Israeli war crimes. According to the NGOs, “high-level Israeli civilian and military officials have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem” and have called for the Prosecutor at the ICC to “open an investigation into the serious international crimes committed during the July-August 2014 Israeli military offensive.”
In March 2020, these NGOs submitted an amicus brief to the ICC “welcom[ing] and support[ing] the findings of the Prosecutor that there is a reasonable basis to believe that international crimes have been committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
On February 6, 2021, following the Pre-Trial Chamber I ruling 2-1 that the Court has jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, Al-Mezan, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), published a press release stating, “…it is imperative that the Prosecutor include acts of apartheid in the scope of her investigation…The decision confirmed the State of Palestine… as a full and legitimate State Party to the Rome Statute, and the entirety of the oPt as within the scope of territorial jurisdiction for investigation into international crimes…” (emphasis added)
The organizations stressed that they will continue their “tireless” cooperation with the ICC, having submitted “six substantial communications and thousands of eyewitness files to the Office of the Prosecutor…”
German Governmental Funding to problematic Palestinian NGOs via UN Frameworks
In 2019–2020, Germany provided approximately $25 million to the UN-OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) oPt Humanitarian Fund. The Fund has provided grants to the PFLP-linked NGOs Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR; see above), UAWC (see above), Health Work Committees (HWC, see above), Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), and Ma’an Development Center. In addition, in 2019–2020, Germany provided approximately $16 million to projects in Gaza with the World Food Program, which partners with several Palestinian NGOs, including UAWC.
Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC)
UHWC is identified by Fatah as an official Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “affiliate” and by a USAID-engaged audit as the “agricultural arm” of the PFLP.
UHWC’s treasurer Magdi Yaghi is referred to by the PFLP as a “member of the regional command” and a “comrade.”
Ma’an Development Center
- In 2018, Ma’an Development Center employee Ahmad Abdallah Aladini was killed in the violence on the Gaza border. According to the PFLP, Aladini was a “comrade” and a “member of the leadership of the PFLP in Deir al-Balah.”
- In May 2019, “Ma’an’s Director General” Sami Khader attended a memorial event organized by the PFLP that centered on PFLP political bureau member Rabah Muhanna, who, according to information posted by the PFLP, “contributed to the establishment” of several PFLP-affiliated NGOs, including UHWC, UAWC, and Addameer. The hall was decorated with PFLP paraphernalia.
Best Practices in the EU and other European countries
In recent years, other European governments have taken action to address some of these issues by instituting funding guidelines and passing legislation that denies funds to terror-linked NGOs or NGOs that incite to violence. For example:
- In 2019, the EU introduced a new clause in its contracts with all NGOs, stipulating 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.” These lists include terrorists and terrorist organizations designated as such by the EU (e.g. Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). In December 2019 multiple Palestinian NGOs launched an aggressive campaign rejecting the clause calling it “conditional funding.”
- In May 2020, during a European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi stated that he has instructed the heads of EU delegations to Israel and West Bank/ Gaza to “look deep” in to the allegations that some EU funds go to terror-linked or -supporting NGOs, declaring that such funding “will not be tolerated.”
- In June 2020, European Commission President’s office responded to an NGO Monitor letter (April 30, 2020), clarifying that “these [safeguards] rules make the participation of entities, individuals or groups affiliated linked or supporting terrorist organisations incompatible with any EU funding. If there is clear evidence that any organisation has made an inappropriate use of EU funds, the European Commission will take the appropriate measures such as recovery of the funds, exclusion of the entity from future EU financing, prosecution, etc” (emphasis added).
- In December 2017, the European Commission released its “Implementing Decision” on the “Annual Action Programme 2017 in favour of Palestine to be financed from the general budget of the Union” that includes a significant policy change in taking responsibility for the organizations it supports. It stipulates that: “Particular attention will however be paid to prevent that EU-supported civil society organisations are also engaged in activities inciting to hatred and/or violence. Eligibility conditions of the calls for proposals to be launched under this action will include strict compliance with the EU Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia.”
- Additionally, in 2017, the European Parliament commissioned the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to “assess the transparency of EU funds contracted with NGO.” The report, titled “Transparency of EU funds implemented by NGOs: more efforts needed,” concludes that there was neither sufficient transparency or information regarding the implementation of EU funds by NGOs.
- In 2018, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopted new CSO funding guidelines with the goal of ensuring greater protection of human rights and prevention of discrimination, funding to terror linked organizations, and funding to BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) activities. These include compliance with the fundamental principles of human rights and a strict prohibition on grantee organizations or individuals listed on EU or UN sanctions and/or terrorist lists. Furthermore, grantee organizations may not use Danish funds to finance BDS activities.
- On July 20, 2020, the Dutch government announced that it was suspending funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees over its PFLP ties. During a parliamentary debate, Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Development Minister Sigrid Kaag acknowledged that an internal government audit concluded that Dutch funds were used to pay the salaries of two senior employees of the NGO accused of involvement in the August 23, 2019 bombing attack in which Rina Shnerb was murdered.
- In 2017, the Swiss Parliament passed legislation prohibiting “development cooperation projects carried out by NGOs involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions.”
- A Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)’s report “MENA Strategy 2021–2024” further stipulates that “Since 2017, an additional clause has been included in the contracts for partner organisations prohibiting all forms of discrimination, including racism, antisemitism, incitement to violence and racial hatred. Any violation of this clause entitles the FDFA, for example, to terminate the external partner’s contract with immediate effect and demand repayment of the funds already disbursed. The partners supported by Switzerland are subject to constant evaluation. Hence, in 2019, the Federal Council committed itself to reducing the number of NGOs financed by Switzerland in the Israeli-Palestinian context.”
- In some instances, the NGOs were founded by the PFLP itself. In others, PFLP members serve as staff, on the boards, and in key decision making and financial roles at the NGOs.
- Walid Hanatsheh (Abu Ras) served until his arrest in 2019 as HWC finance and administration manager.
- HCJ 67637-03-16; translation by NGO Monitor
- HCJ 3923/15
- NGO Monitor’s unofficial translation of the ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice – June 20, 2007.