On October 12, 2023, UN OCHA-oPt launched the “OPT Flash Appeal,” seeking $294 million “to address the most urgent needs of 1,260,000 people in the Gaza Strip (Gaza) and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for three months.” On November 3, the target amount was raised to $1.2 billion.
The money will go to “13 UN Agencies, 29 International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and 38 National NGOs (NNGOs).” UNRWA was the only one of the 80 to be named in the October 12 document as an intended recipient. However, NGO Monitor researchers note that in January 2023, OCHA-oPt published a list of 78 partners that were projected to work within its “Humanitarian Response Plan” (HRP) in 2023. By cross-referencing grants listed in OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service database, NGO Monitor was able to identify, with a high level of confidence, the other two partners. (See Appendix 1.)
As of January 24, 2023, $697 million had been received as part of the Flash Appeal – by 9 UN Agencies, 22 international NGOs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, (see Appendix 4), and an additional $250 million had been pledged.
NGO Monitor raises the following concerns regarding this appeal:
- Many of these same UN agencies and NGOs were responsible for the hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid that Hamas systematically diverted for terror purposes – including for rockets and tunnels. Some of the recipients actively lobbied the US and European governments to significantly relax vetting standards meant to prevent this theft of aid. It would be irresponsible to continue funding these groups in the absence of significant changes in oversight and prevention.
- At least two of the NGO partners have been sanctioned after working with terror groups:
- In 2016, Mohammad El-Halabi, World Vision’s manager of operations in Gaza, was arrested by Israeli authorities, accused of diverting approximately $50 million (60% of the World Vision’s Gaza budget) to Hamas for tunnels and to fund other terrorist activity. In June 2022, the Be’er Sheva District Court convicted El-Halabi of taking “an active and significant part in the activities of Hamas and assisted Hamas over the years in a variety of ways, including transferring monies and equipment that he knew would be used to fund terrorism and assisting terrorists…marking exit points for tunnel openings on the Israeli side of the Erez Crossing…”
- In January 2023, the Jerusalem District Court approved a request from the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits to disband the World Vision’s Israel branch, due to concerns of terror financing and financial mismanagement.
- According to the US Department of Justice, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) provided “material support” to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
- During the current fighting, as with the past 16 years of Hamas control, the terror group has exploited humanitarian arrangements. There is no evidence to support a conclusion that the UN agencies and NGOs have will and security capabilities to prevent further large-scale abuse by Hamas and other brutal terror actors in Gaza.
- A number of recipients are listed as “International NGOs (Confidential)” and “National NGOs (Confidential)” (emphasis added). The lack of transparency and the possibility that the grantees are problematic actors are concerning.
- The Flash Appeal is not only for Gaza; rather, OCHA-oPt is also fundraising for “the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” OCHA-oPt also admits that “funding in 2023 has been a challenge.” This suggests that the UN is trying to capitalize on increased interest and concern about Gaza to increase resources for programs totally unrelated to humanitarian needs in Gaza.
- Reflecting the political agenda on the part of the appeal, “Strategic objective 1” is not providing humanitarian aid. Rather it is “The rights of Palestinians living under occupation, including those living under the blockade and other restrictions, are protected, respected, and promoted in accordance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL), while duty-bearers are increasingly held to account.” This language is code for repeating the biased advocacy and false allegations that Israel commits war crimes and crimes against humanity, and for pursuing unjustifiable indictments against Israelis at the International Criminal Court.
- The appeal also seeks $50.6 million for “Protection,” a euphemism for anti-Israel propaganda and demonization. According to OCHA-oPt, this includes “Monitoring, and reporting on violations of IHL and IHRL including tracking civilian casualties”; “Provision of legal aid to support freedom of movement outside Gaza”; “Delivering awareness raising on accessing legal aid in the context of IHL/IHRL violations and displacement”; “Legal cases/representation for individual victims of IHL/IHRL violations”; “West Bank: Protective presence.” The first four categories are often exploited by political NGOs for legal warfare (“lawfare”) against Israelis, and the last often involves bringing activists to the West Bank to prepare them to join anti-Israel campaigns in their home countries.
- Many of the NGOs for which OCHA-oPt fundraises are active in anti-Israel demonization and BDS. Given that political advocacy is explicitly part of the appeal, this indicates that funds will support anti-Israel NGO agendas instead of humanitarian goals. A number of the NGOs are affiliated with the PFLP terror group, including Al Mezan, Al Awda Health and Community Association, and Union of Agricultural Work Committees.