Overview

The United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinates millions of dollars in humanitarian aid provided by governments every year to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. As part of its “Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP),” aid appeals are divided into thematic groups, or “clusters.”1 In Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, these clusters include Protection, Education, Shelter/NFI (non-food item), Health and Nutrition, WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene), and the Food Security Sector (FSS).2

Within each cluster, NGOs serve as implementing partners with UN agencies, and in some cases, are responsible for leading the cluster. According to the UN, “Clusters provide a clear point of contact and are accountable for adequate and appropriate humanitarian assistance. Clusters create partnerships between international humanitarian actors, national and local authorities, and civil society.”

Under the guidance of or based on the HRP recommendations, individual government aid agencies select the projects and NGOs that they wish to support. These processes, like much of government funding for NGOs, particularly in Europe, lack transparency. As part of the 2017 HRP, NGOs received $43.2 million (out of a requested $136 million) in government-provided humanitarian aid within the different clusters.

In practice, the cluster system is a key international lobbying and action mechanism through which the PA advances its nationalist and political agenda, sustaining conflict. As the following analysis demonstrates, the NGOs promoted in the 2017 HRP advance political agendas that are inconsistent with the humanitarian principles, including impartiality, independence, and neutrality. The work of these clusters almost entirely ignores Palestinian terrorism, incitement, and other Palestinian human rights abuses.

The politicization of aid is particularly significant in the Protection Cluster, Food Security Sector, and Health Clusters. Numerous NGOs that receive funding under the HRP support BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and other overtly political campaigns against Israel, and several have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization, as detailed below. Claiming to advocate for Palestinians while promoting economic harm against Israelis and material support for terrorism is a violation of international law, human rights, and humanitarian principles.

Analyzing NGO funding under the 2017 HRP highlights the influence of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is among the leaders of political advocacy targeting Israel. Under the 2017 HRP, NRC received $18.3 million, including large amounts from the UK and the EU for work within a number of clusters. Furthermore, NRC serves as the “Cluster Lead Agency” (CLA) for Shelter Cluster Palestine and co-chairs the Protection Cluster’s Legal Task Force (see below).

Advocacy within Humanitarian Clusters

The following examples demonstrate the political advocacy, and not necessarily humanitarian work, of the various clusters that are led by a narrow group of secretly selected NGOs.

  • In August 2014, the Protection Cluster relied on B’Tselem, Al Mezan, and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) for reporting on Palestinian casualties in Gaza during the 2014 Gaza war. Much, if not all, claims were based upon those of the Hamas Ministry of Health. Former and current senior PCHR officials have ties to the PFLP.
  • Connie Martinez-Varela Pedersen is the current Cluster Coordinator for the Protection Cluster and a Human Rights Officer at OHCHR. Pedersen previously worked as the director of international advocacy for the politicized Israeli NGO Yesh Din.
  • Since 2013, under the “oPt Education Cluster,” UNICEF has partnered with Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in providing “protective presence” to Palestinian children going to and from school. EAPPI brings volunteers to the West Bank for three months to “witness life under occupation.” Upon completion of the program, the volunteers return to their home countries and churches where many engage in anti-Israel advocacy, including advocating for BDS campaigns in churches, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, and other delegitimization strategies.
  • The “Shelter Cluster Palestine” is run by a Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) controlled by the Palestinian Authority. As of December 2017, members of this group include Ma’an, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), Palestinian Housing Council (PHC), Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) of the Palestinian Authority, OCHA, and UNRWA (as observers).
  • The Health Cluster specifically outlines its advocacy strategy under the 2017 HRP, stating that “The cluster will also advocate for the right to health for Palestinians in the oPt through evidence-based advocacy with duty-bearers concerning their legal obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, especially regarding barriers to access to health services, through research, training, reports and direct advocacy with international and national actors.”
  • In 2017, the Food Security Sector (FSS) stated that it would “conduct Bilateral meetings (lobby trip, Consulate, Embassy), hearing at the European Parliament and other international fora.” FSS also stated that it would focus on sending “clear messages about the illegality of the following”:
  1. “Israeli settlements, hence settler violence are illegal under IHL”
  2. “Stop settlements expansion”
  3. “Stop the forcible transfer of Palestinian Bedouins and herders with its negative consequences on their livelihoods.”
  • On March 21 and March 29, 2017, in meetings held at the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza City and Ramallah, the FSS, along with representatives from international and Palestinian NGOs, were urged by its partner Action Against Hunger (ACF) to participate in an advocacy “hashtag” campaign to mark “50 Years of Israeli Occupation,” using #thisisoccupation and #endtheoccupation.

Diagram 1: The Cluster Approach to Humanitarian Aid

https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/about-clusters/what-is-the-cluster-approach

Appendix I: Annual Funding to NGOs in Each Cluster

NGOs receive significant government funding coordinated through the HRP. This NGO funding amounts to approximately $35-40 million annually, much of which is channeled to political advocacy campaigns.

Table 1: 2017 Amounts Requested and Received

ClusterRequested Funding 2017 HRPAmount Received 2017
Total NGO Funding$136,042,106$36,431,547
Protection$22,541,827$10,421,830
Education $9,017,625$2,071,073
Shelter/NFI (Non Food Item) $33,310,849$11,168,271
Health and Nutrition $6,530,558$3,111,591
WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) $20,878,176$2,443,448
Food Security Sector (FSS) $43,282,071$6,436,548
Coordination and Support Services $481,000 (1 NRC project) $481,000

Table 2: 2016 Amounts Requested and Received

ClusterRequested Funding 2016 HRPAmount Received 2016
Total NGO Funding $104,137,419$40,326,629
Protection$20,628,559$11,149,533
Education $7,355,512$1,697,093
Shelter/NFI (Non Food Item) $26,462,852$13,191,028
Health and Nutrition $5,097,519$1,745,067
WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) $10,899,309$1,738,101
Food Security Sector (FSS) $33,693,668$10,805,807
Coordination and Support Services (Not Applicable) N/AN/A

Table 3: 2015 Amounts Requested and Received

ClusterRequested Funding under 2015 HRPAmount Received in 2015
Total NGO Funding$125,369,196$42,374,076
Protection$21,660,152$15,972,615
Education $8,952,646$3,987,465
Shelter/NFI (Non Food Item) $36,655,884$6,582,544
Health and Nutrition $8,050,207$4,363,987
WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) $19,694,141$2,911,257
Food Security Sector (FSS) $30,356,166$8,556,208
Coordination and Support Services (Not Applicable) N/AN/A

Appendix II: Select Political NGOs Funded under 2017 HRP

(* = PFLP linked NGO)

ClusterNGOProject TitleImplementing PartnersRequested Funding under 2017 HRPFunding Received under 2017 HRP (Donor)
TOTAL$11,333,413
Protection *Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)“Accountability for victims of Israeli 2014 Operation Protective Edge and Accountability of victims of Israeli violations of IHL and IHRL in Access Restricted Areas”N/A$72,000$60,039 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
ACT Alliance/Diakonia “Increase respect and accountability for international humanitarian law”N/A $1,236,090$96,148 (the Netherlands)

$548,735 (Sweden)
Center for the Defense of the Individual (HaMoked) “Protecting the Rights of Palestinian Minors Detained by Israel in the West Bank”N/A$103,405$95,235 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)“Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) to protect the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank including East Jerusalem affected by displacement”Community Action Centre, HaMoked, International Peace and Cooperation Center (IPCC), Jerusalem Community Advocacy Network (JCAN), Jerusalem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC), Peace Now, Society of St Yves, Terrestrial Jerusalem, and Yesh Din$6,787,990$4,000,000 (the UK)

$1,066,879 (unknown source)
NRC“Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) to protect the rights of Palestinians and others in the Gaza Strip affected by displacement and lack of legal identity”Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Gisha, HaMoked, Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)$1,061,564$270,200 (Norway)

$128,452 (Spain)
Education NRC “‘Protecting Education from Attacks in West Bank, specifically in East Jerusalem and Area C’”N/A$809,202$910,125 (European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO))

$109,258 (Norway)
World Vision International (WVI)**“Building the resilience of vulnerable schools” Civil Defense $774,925$250,052 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Shelter ClusterNRC“Humanitarian Support to Protect Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Forcible Transfer.”Partners: Action Against Hunger (ACF), ACTED, Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC), Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) Legal Aid Partners: Hamoked, Jerusalem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC), Yesh Din.$9,308,683$107,671 (Denmark)

$434,783 (France)

$212,089 (Ireland)

$249,299 (Italy)

$159,067 (Luxembourg)

$568,828 (Spain)

$774,422 (Sweden)
Health and Nutrition *Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC)“Preparedness and resilience at Al Awda hospital and the community levels to respond to any emergency situation in the northern area of Gaza Strip”UHWC$299,100$153,793 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
*Health Work Committees (HWC)“Increase the accessibility, of the vulnerable populations in the old city of Hebron (H2 area) and its surrounding communities, to quality essential health and basic rehabilitation services and emergency preparedness.”N/A$342,650$109,756 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
CARE International “Health under protection (HUP): Emergency health and nutrition assistance to people living in communities whose rights are inadequately protected in the West bank (WB).”Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), HWC$823,363$299,056 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Food Security Sector (FSS)*Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)“The provision of rehabilitation for the open field land in Gaza strip”N/A $623,376$248,941 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
*UAWC“Rehabilitation of the damaged greenhouses”N/A$500,388$230,585 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Première Urgence Internationale (PUI)“Protect people living in the Access Restricted Areas and surroundings from protracted protection threats, enhance their resilience and livelihoods and advocate for their rights to adequate standard of living”1. Woman Rural Development Society, Deir Al Balah- Wadi as Salqa 2. Al Walaa Association, Khan Younis- Abassan Al Kabira 3. Future House Association, Khan Younis- Khuzaa 4. Qaa Al Qurain Association, Khan Younis- Al Fukhari 5. Maryam Al Azraa, Rafah$1,059,675$250,000 (oPt Humanitarian Fund)

**On June 15, 2016, Mohammed El-Halibi, the manager of operations for World Vision in Gaza, was arrested by Israeli authorities. On August 4, 2016, the Shabak, the Israeli security agency, revealed El-Habibi to be a Hamas terrorist. He was accused of diverting approximately 60% of the World Vision’s Gaza budget to the terrorist organization for tunnels and fund other terrorist activity. The siphoned funds amount to approximately $50 million.

Appendix III: PFLP Linked NGOs Funded under 2017 HRP

A number of Palestinian NGOs that request funding in the various clusters have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization. Under the 2017 HRP, these PFLP-affiliated NGOs received funding through the Protection, Health, and FSS Clusters.

ClusterNGOProject TitleImplementing PartnersRequested Funding under 2017 HRPFunding Received under 2017 HRP (Donor)
TOTAL$803,114
ProtectionPalestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)“Accountability for victims of Israeli 2014 Operation Protective Edge and Accountability of victims of Israeli violations of IHL and IHRL in Access Restricted Areas”N/A$72,000$60,039 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Health and NutritionUnion of Health Work Committees (UHWC)“Preparedness and resilience at Al Awda hospital and the community levels to respond to any emergency situation in the northern area of Gaza Strip”UHWC$299,100$153,793 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Health Work Committees (HWC)“Increase the accessibility, of the vulnerable populations in the old city of Hebron (H2 area) and its surrounding communities, to quality essential health and basic rehabilitation services and emergency preparedness.”N/A$342,650$109,756 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
Food Security Sector (FSS) Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)“The provision of rehabilitation for the open field land in Gaza strip”N/A $623,376$248,941 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)
UAWC“Rehabilitation of the damaged greenhouses”N/A$500,388$230,585 (the oPt Humanitarian Fund)

Appendix IV: Norwegian Refugee Council’s Vast Involvement in Humanitarian Clusters

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is a leader of massive and unprecedented legal advocacy, which floods Israeli courts with hundreds of cases annually. With a focus on political, as opposed to humanitarian, aims, NRC targets some of the most highly sensitive political issues in the Arab-Israeli context.

Under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, NRC received $18.3 million (out of a requested $24.2 million) in funding. NRC serves as the “Cluster Lead Agency” (CLA) for Shelter Cluster Palestine and co-chairs the Protection Cluster’s Legal Task Force.

NRC partners with highly political NGOs to carry out its legal advocacy. Under the 2017 HRP, NRC funding for its NGO projects through the Protection, Education, and Shelter Clusters.

Table 4: Selected Norwegian Refugee Council Projects Funded under 2017 HRP

(* = PFLP linked NGO)

ClusterNRC Project TitleImplementing PartnersRequested Funding under 2017 HRPFunding Received under 2017 HRP (Donor)
TOTAL $8,991,073
Protection “Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) to protect the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank including East Jerusalem affected by displacement”Community Action Centre, HaMoked, International Peace and Cooperation Center (IPCC), Jerusalem Community Advocacy Network (JCAN), Jerusalem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC), Peace Now, Society of St Yves, Terrestrial Jerusalem, and Yesh Din$6,787,990$4,000,000 (UK)

$1,066,879 (unknown)
“Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) to protect the rights of Palestinians and others in the Gaza Strip affected by displacement and lack of legal identity”Al Mezan, Gisha, HaMoked, Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)* $1,061,564$270,200 (Norway)

$128,452 (Spain)
Education “Protecting Education from Attacks in West Bank, specifically in East Jerusalem and Area C”N/A$809,202$910,125 (European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO))

$109,258 (Norway)
Shelter/NFI“Humanitarian Support to Protect Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Forcible Transfer.”Partners: Action Against Hunger (ACF), ACTED, Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC), Première Urgence Internationale (PUI)

Legal Aid Partners: HaMoked, Jerusalem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC), Yesh Din.
$9,308,683$107,671 (Denmark)

$434,783 (France)

$212,089 (Ireland)

$249,299 (Italy)

$159,067 (Luxembourg)

$568,828 (Spain)

$774,422 (Sweden)