USAID-funded Palestinian NGOs: Introducing Children to Convicted Terrorists
On March 29, 2021, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) published an audit of the USAID West Bank and Gaza office 2015-2019 funding for local NGOs, highlighting deficiencies in USAID’s anti-terror vetting. The report concluded that vetting of second-tier grantees was often incomplete or conducted after the fact. Likewise, “post-award compliance reviews occurred, at times, after the sub-awards expired, which was too late to take corrective actions.”
The GAO audit also identified a failure to include mandatory language about anti-terror requirements and to verify that sub-grantees had procedures in place to meet these requirements.
In practice, as shown below, a number of USAID sub-grantees ran programs that introduced children to convicted terrorists, presented convicted terrorists as role models, and publicly demonstrated support for terrorists and terrorist organizations.
The following report assesses the public information that was available to USAID and primary grantee personnel at the time that secondary-grantees were being vetted or were implementing projects. This begins with events, activities, and statements from before grants were issued.
Information pertaining to these activities was public and should have been accessed by USAID and primary grantee officials during the vetting process. Similarly, many of these incidents occurred before grants were issued, indicating a failure to properly vet grantees. Additionally, several of them took place during the grant period, reflecting the need to continue to monitor grantees after funds are approved.
Thus, this publication serves as a case study, highlighting the vetting deficiencies, which, if unaddressed, threaten the integrity of US funding.
- Before approving grantees, USAID must conduct a thorough review of the websites and social media accounts of potential partners, including sub-grantees. This material should be reviewed to ensure that potential grantees are not tied to terrorist organizations, do not espouse or glorify violence, and do not promote antisemitic tropes and rhetoric.
- USAID must conduct a thorough review of the websites and social media accounts of key officials of potential partners, including sub-grantees.
- USAID should scrutinize media reports, court documents, and other public records relating to potential partners, including sub-grantees.
- USAID and primary grantees should make the requisite resources available to ensure implementation of the above recommendations.
Juzoor for Health and Social Development
Palestinian NGO Juzoor for Health and Social Development received millions of dollars as a sub-grantee on USAID-funded projects during the period reviewed in the GAO audit. Both prior to and during the grant period, Juzoor ran a program that arranged meetings between teenagers and convicted Palestinian terrorists; in addition, its staff members glorified violence against Israelis.
The massive funding to Juzoor is a prime example of how terror-promoting actors can receive US government funding when vetting is insufficiently robust and effective.
USAID funding to Juzoor
Juzoor has been a secondary grantee on a number of USAID- funded programs:
- Juzoor received $2.13 million from 2013-2017 as a sub-grantee of Interhealth International for the “Palestinian Health Capacity Project,” which received $17 million from USAID in 2013-2019.
- Juzoor received approximately $600,000 from 2019-2020 as a sub-grantee of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), for the Envision Gaza 2020 project, scheduled to receive $24.5 million from USAID in 2016-2022.
- Juzoor received $3.9 from 2016-2019 as a sub-grantee of International Medical Corps for Gaza 2020 Health Matters, which received $15.5 million from USAID in 2016-2019.
The PFLP Connection – Youth Parliament and Advocacy Summer Camps
In at least 2007–2014, Juzoor maintained a Jerusalem Youth Parliament (JYP), “…designed to actively engage young Jerusalemite Palestinians ages 12 to 17 (as well as their parents and teachers) in active citizenship and to raise awareness of their Palestinian identity.” (According to a November 30, 2014 article, JYP was still active and directed by Mosab Abbas and Basel Abed. It appears that Abbas has been the general coordinator of JYP program since at least 2008.)
JYP hosted events with convicted terrorists, members of the US-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and their families, and held pro-BDS and anti-normalization activities for children.
- In September 2014, JYP’s advocacy summer camp invited Rasem Abidat, a senior PFLP member, to speak at the camp’s exhibition event. Abidat praised the program and said that the exhibition “emphasizes the need to stay devoted and stubborn and persist on our land, in our nation and in our city Jerusalem, which confronts Israelization and Judaization.”
- In 2001, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Abidat to two years in prison and another 16-months’ probation, noting that Abidat was “a senior member of the PFLP…a member of the terrorist organization’s central committee,” and that Abidat supplied forged Israeli identity cards to PFLP leader Ahmad Sa’adat, at his request, which aided the PFLP’s terrorist activities (on file with NGO Monitor).
- In 2005, the Israeli Supreme Court noted that Abidat played a crucial role in PFLP financing, maintained an active and senior role in PFLP activities in Jerusalem, and upheld “an ideological determination and persistence…to be involved in activities against public safety in Israel…”
- During the program, the children created posters, photos, and animated films. Several items contain violent and antisemitic content. One poster reads, “education is like a rocket, it achieves freedom.” An animation video titled “Prejudice in Media” shows Israeli soldiers killing a Palestinian child in front of his mother.
- On January 10, 2014, Abbas uploaded pictures of youth participants with several former prisoners and PFLP members. Abbas hailed the following men and referred to them as “heroes,” giants,” and “fighters”:
- Samer Issawi, a PFLP member, sentenced in April 2002 to 26 years for carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli vehicles. He was released as part of the 2011 deal to free Gilad Schalit and was re-arrested in August 2012 for violating the terms of his release.
- Yasin Abu Khdeir, was a member of the PFLP cell that murdered Israeli civilian Yigal Shahaf in an October 10, 1987 shooting in Jerusalem. Abu Khdeir was convicted of supplying the murder weapon and participating in other attempts to murder Israeli civilians in Jerusalem. He was released in 2014.
- Ahmed Khalaf was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to 21 years in prison for aggravated assault. According to PFLP, he was imprisoned for “stabbing a Jewish settler and throwing a Molotov cocktail on settlers’ stores in Alsilsila Gate” in Jerusalem. Khalaf was released as part of the 2011 deal to free Gilad Shalit.
- Jamal Abu Jamal, a PFLP member, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to stab an Israeli soldier. In November 2014, Abu Jamal was arrested again by Israeli forces after he lead rioters in stoning and launching fireworks directly at Israeli police officers.
- On August 8, 2013, Quds Net reported that a JYP delegation visited several “families of martyrs, prisoners,” a clear reference to the families of deceased and convicted terrorists.
- On April 10, 2013, Abbas shared pictures of the JYP’s visit to “the house of the giant, who was liberated from the enemy’s prisons, ‘Alaa Al-Ali. He spent 12 years in the tyrants’ jails.” According to Silwanic, Al-Ali was sentenced to 12 years in prison due to his affiliation with the PFLP. Upon his release, the PFLP held public celebrations.
- On February 2, 2013, Abbas shared pictures of the JYP’s visit to Samer Issawi’s family. Abbas wrote, “with the family of the giant, Samer Issawi…the group was honored to meet the prisoner’s father and sister…” Shirin Al-Issawi, Samer’s sister, spoke with the children about the “importance of the girls’ and boys’ role in the solidarity with the prisoners and the necessity that they will have activities in schools that contribute to raising the students’ awareness to the role and history of the prisoners’ movement.”
- In 2010, Shirin was convicted of transferring money from terror organizations to prisoners who committed terrorist activity, and was imprisoned for one year. In 2014, Shirin was convicted of additional security offences related to activities concerning imprisoned terrorists, including her involvement with Hamas officials and relaying messages to and from convicted terrorists.
- On January 30, 2013, Basel Abed posted pictures in JYP’s Facebook page of JYP’s meeting with Jihad Al-Ubaidi, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for being a PFLP member and stabbing two Israeli soldiers. The post hailed Al-Ubaidi as a “hero” and “comrade.”
- On December 10, 2012, the JYP’s Facebook page posted an official PFLP poster honoring the 45th anniversary of the PFLP. The poster features PFLP terrorist and plane hijacker Leila Khaled. JYP’s post reiterated the post’s slogan “long live the anniversary, long live the revolution and the resistance.”
- In the May 2011 edition of JYP newspaper Al-Quds Lana (meaning “Jerusalem is Ours” in Arabic), the newspaper published a piece about Issam Jandal, an ex-detainee who murdered a British tourist in 1986 and was a member of a cell that murdered an Israeli civilian that year. The article hailed Jandal as a “hero of heroes” and one who can teach “the values of steadfastness, persistence, determination, patience and how to bear hardships sufferings as sacrifice for the nation’s earth…”
Staff glorifying violence and terrorists
In addition to introducing children to PFLP terrorists, JYP staff also utilized social media to celebrate PFLP terrorists and promote the organization, while the NGO was receiving US funds.
- Mosab Abbas, JYP coordinator, frequently posted violent and pro-PFLP content on his Facebook page. The following examples are from his time at Juzoor.
- On November 18, 2014, Abbas shared a picture of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal, who murdered five Israelis in a November 2014 assault on a Jerusalem synagogue and wrote, “Jerusalem has sons, the lion comrades Uday and Ghassan. You two and the martyrs have eternal life. Whatever comes next will be more dangerous.” A few days later Abbas also shared an official PFLP poster hailing Uday and Ghassan.
- On August 27, 2014, Abbas shared an official PFLP poster of PFLP Secretary General Abu Ali Mustafa that read, “you will remain alive in the conscience of the people. The commander, the martyr Abu Ali Mustafa. We came back to resist, not to bargain.” Abbas reiterated the slogan “we will resist, not bargain” in his post.
- On March 1 and March 11, 2014, Abbas shared official PFLP posters hailing \ PFLP member Mu’ataz Washha, who was involved in a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers, and Saji Darwish, referred by PFLP as a comrade.
- On October 14, 2013, Abbas wrote, “Dear people, may you be well every year. We will surely celebrate Jerusalem and the prisoners’ freedom, the return of the refugees and the destruction of the thieving Zionist entity, with love, Mosab.”
- Basel Abed was a coordinator at JYP in at least 2013–2015. Abed frequently posted violent and pro-PFLP content on his Facebook page.
- On November 18, 2014, Abed shared an official PFLP poster of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal that read “wherever the fighter falls there the phenomenon will be preserved, wherever the fighter runs over there we will kiss the ground, wherever the fighter calls outs there you will hear thunder, wherever the fighter’s blood drains there a flower will grow.” Abed wrote, “we do not know where the comrades meet, whether in graves, prisons or in the shadow of flowers. May peace be upon your pure spirits, the ones who have quick reaction.”
- On June 19, 2014, Abed posted a picture of PFLP member Jihad Al-Ubaidi at his release celebrations, called him a “hero,” and congratulated him on getting married.
- On March 11, 2014, Abed shared an official PFLP poster hailing Saji Darwish and Mu’ataz Washha and wrote, “Saji, I want you to send my regards to all the martyrs, to Mu’ataz, Milad, [Hamas Founder, Ahmed] Yassin, [PLO chairman] Abu Ammar, Abu Ali [Mustafa PFLP Secretary General] and the doctor [George Habash PFLP founder], and all the martyrs. Our pain is grave.”
- On January 25, 2014, Abed posted an official PFLP poster of George Habash that read, “revolutionaries never die” and wrote “in the sixth anniversary of your passing, may the day of your birth and the day of your passing to heaven eternal be blessed…”
- On January 7, 2014, Abed posted a picture of Muhammad Kana’aneh from a PFLP convention in honor of Yasin Abu Khdeir. Kana’aneh was sentenced for about ten-years’ imprisonment and four years of a suspended prison term for “contact with a foreign agent,” “supporting a terrorist organization,” and “assisting the enemy during wartime.” Abed wrote that during Khdeir’s celebrations, Kana’aneh “emphasized that we will not bargain, and we will maintain our principles.”
USAID Sub-grantees via IREX
The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) is a US-based organization that received $14.4 million in 2013-2017 from USAID. In implementing this youth-focused grant, IREX contracted with multiple sub-grantees, many of which glorified violence and expressed support for convicted terrorists – both prior to and during the grant period.
These NGOs include:
- Jabal An-Nar Club: $226,519 in 2014-2017
- Shweki Sport and Cultural Club: $63,360in 2017
- AlQuds Hilal Club: $29,230 in 2017
Al-Quds Hilal Club
- On October 14, 2016, The Times of Israel reported that Al-Quds Hilal Club soccer team posed with a poster hailing Mesbah Abu Sabih, two days after Abu Sabih carried out a combined shooting and vehicular attack on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. In the incident, Abu Sabih murdered two Israelis and wounded five. The poster reads, “Hilal Al-Quds Club mourns the loss of the lion of Al-Aqsa, the martyr hero Mesbah Abu Sabih.”
- On August 17, 2015, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared pictures on Facebook from the “solidarity with prisoner Muhammad Allan” event, in which the club’s various children’s groups participated. The children held signs reading, “No for administrative detention. The fighter prisoner Muhammad Allan, on hunger strike since June 17, 2015, in administrative detention since November 4, 2014.”1
- Allan, an Islamic Jihad operative, was imprisoned in 2006-2009 for recruiting suicide bombers and aiding wanted men. In November 2014, he was placed in administrative detention, after the Israeli security authorities received information that he was in contact with other Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives and trying to promote terrorist attacks. Islamic Jihad is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Canada.
- On November 5, 2014, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared a poster on Facebook that read, “He punished them. The martyr hero, Ibrahim Al-Akari.” Al-Quds Hilal Club wrote, “Jerusalem’s martyr for this day, Ibrahim Al-Akari. Jerusalem breaths martyrs, prisoners and wounded. Congratulations to your family, martyr.”
- Al-Akari was a Hamas operative who murdered two Israelis in a vehicular attack on November 5, 2014.
- On February 1, 2014, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared a photo album about the participation of one of its youth teams in a soccer tournament named for Imad Al-Abbasi.
- Imad Al-Abbasi was sentenced in 2005 to nine years in prison and another two years conditional imprisonment for attempted murder, attempted aggravated assault, attempted assault in aggravated circumstances and carrying a weapon. According to the verdict, Al-Abbasi fired on a car with Jewish passengers and on Jewish houses in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood.
- On January 14, 2014, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared a picture of the club’s scouts visiting and preforming for Yasin Abu Khdeir on the occasion of his release from Israeli prison. The hall where the even took place was adorned with PFLP flags. Al-Quds Hilal reported that the scouts visited and congratulated Abu Khdeir, as well as other released prisoners including Ahmed Khalaf, Jamal Abu Jamal and Bilal Ahmed Abu Hussein. Previously, on January 1, 2014, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared photo albums from these events.
- Abu Khdeir, was a member of the PFLP cell that murdered Israeli civilian Yigal Shahaf in an October 10, 1987 shooting in Jerusalem. Abu Khdeir was convicted of supplying the murder weapon and participating in other attempts to murder Israeli civilians in Jerusalem. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison but was released as part of a 2011 prisoner exchange.
- Khalaf was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to 21 years in prison for aggravated assault. According to the PFLP, he was imprisoned for “stabbing a Jewish settler and throwing a Molotov cocktail on settlers’ stores in Alsilsila Gate” in Jerusalem. Khalaf was released as part of the 2011 exchange.
- Abu Jamal, a PFLP member, arrested in 1994 and sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to stab an Israeli soldier. In November 2014, Abu Jamal was arrested again by Israeli forces after he lead stone throwing against Israeli police in Jerusalem.
- Abu Hussein was arrested in 1988 and sentenced to 36 years in prison for the murder of Farouq Raoud Abd Al-Hameed Abu Khdeir. Abu Husein was released in the 2011 exchange.
- On January 6, 2014, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared a picture of Ahmed Khalaf and wrote, “The Jerusalemite released prisoner Ahmed Khalaf. Congratulations for him and all our brave prisoners…”
- On December 29, 2013, Al-Quds Hilal Club posted a list of eight prisoners released in the 2011 prisoner exhange, labeling them “heroes.” These included Mahmoud Nofal Muhammad Daajneh, Ramadan Mohammed Odeh Yaacoub, Muhammed Mustafa Ahmad Afaneh, and Ahmed Fareed Muhammed Shehada.
- Daajneh, Yaacoub and Afaneh were imprisoned for the murder of Sarah Sharon in 1993. Daajneh and Yaabcoub were sentenced to life, Adaneh to 40 years in prison.
- Shehada was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the murder of Yosef Farhan in 1985.
- On July 10, 2012, Al-Quds Hilal Club shared a picture of Mahmoud Sarsak and wrote, “Finally, the hero prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak sees sunlight…this report deserves at least about 100 likes, congratulations, the choice of freedom has again overcome the oppression of the prison guard.” Al-Quds Hilal Club praised and campaigned for Sarsak multiple times.
- Sarsak was accused by Israel of being an Islamic Jihad member. Senior Islamic Jihad officials were present during a reception following his release. Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam praised him as “one of our noble members.”
Shweki Sport and Cultural Club
- On May 2, 2017, Shweki Sport and Cultural Club posted a picture on Facebook of executive committee member Ibtisam Saleh participating in an event supporting Karim Younes. Younes is serving a 40-year sentence for the kidnapping and killing of IDF soldier Avraham Bromberg in November 1980.
- On January 9, 2017, Shweki shared two pictures on Facebook of a member of its scouting group, Khaled Zabda, and executive committee member, Muhammed Naser, participating in the “knock on every Shweki prisoner’s house door” campaign. The organization wrote, “May God release them from prison.” One of the pictures shows Zabda and Naser visiting the family of Fadi Ibrahim Nayfeh.
- According to Israeli court documents, Nayfeh fired on an Israeli bus in 2002. According to the Palestinian Information Center, Nayfeh was sentenced to 26 years in prison for “committing military actions during the intifada.”
- On March 4, 2017, Shweki shared a picture of club executive and general committee members with Sa’ed Al-Din Al-Khouli. The club wrote, “The members of the executive and general committees of the Shweki Sport and Cultural Club congratulate the prisoner Sa’ed Al-Din Al-Khouli for his release after completing 13 years in the occupation’s prisons. We ask from God to hastily release all our brave prisoners.”
- According to a January 15, 2013 Nazareth District Court’s ruling, Al-Khouli “was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a military court for five felonies regarding shooting attacks, throwing a bomb at IDF forces in Tulkarm and its surroundings. In addition…was involved in arms deals…and among others, purchased five Kalashnikov rifles. According to the Shabak, Al-Khouli is ‘a dangerous and determined military terrorist individual who has greatly labored to advance and direct hostile actions against security forces.’”
Jabal An-Nar Club
- On April 27, 2017, Jabal An-Nar Club’s posted on Facebook, “In addition to the [club’s scouts], a group of Jabal An-Nar Club volunteers participated in the march of solidarity with hero prisoners that started from the club’s headquarters to the center of town, where a protest tent was erected…” The organization shared a video of its youth group in the protest tent, chanting, “we are with the prisoners until death… we are behind you until liberation…Resist until death…Intifada until death” (emphasis added).
- On June 17, 2013, Jabal An-Nar shared a Facebook post hailing Muhammad Jamjoum, Fuad Hijazi, and Ataa Al-Zir, commemorating their 1930 execution by British authorities. According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the three “committed particularly brutal murders [of Jews] at Safed and Hebron” during the 1929 Arab Riots.
USAID sub-grantees through Catholic Relief Services
USAID is currently providing $24.5 million to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for its 2016-2022 “Envision Gaza, 2020” program. In this context, CRS has partnered with several sub-grantees, including those that celebrate Palestinian terrorists. These include:
- Save Youth Future Society: $173,488 in 2016
- El-Amal Rehabilitation Society-Rafah: $76,051 in 2016
El-Amal Rehabilitation Society-Rafah
- On April 18, 2019, El-Amal Rehabilitation Society shared pictures from an event featuring students from its school for the deaf, participating “in the activities of the Palestinian Prisoner Day in cooperation with the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces [PNIF] in Rafah and the vocational training center under the [Palestinian] Office of Social Affairs, Rafah Office.” During the event, children portray captured IDF soldiers, as well as Palestinian prisoners.
- On May 18, 2017, El-Amal Rehabilitation Society shared pictures from an event expressing “solidarity with prisoners on dignity strike [hunger strike] against prison guards.” El-Amal “management and staff” participated in the event, including Ziad Al-Abed, El-Amal chairman of the board, alongside “students from El-Amal School for the Deaf.” Multiple signs supporting terrorist organizations were featured. During the event, several children portrayed Palestinian prisoners behind bars in Israeli jails, while another child played an Israeli soldier arresting a Palestinian. El-Amal Rehabilitation Society staff is seen holding a poster in support of Palestinian prisoners as Karim Younes and Ahmed Sa’adat.
- On December 6, 2015, El-Amal Rehabilitation Society shared pictures on Facebook from an event of its School for the Deaf on “solidarity with the Palestinian people and prisoners.” During the event, the children preformed the song “Water and Salt” [which hunger-striking prisoners consume] and a play where one child in an IDF uniform held a toy gun to another child’s head.
- On April 27, 2014, El-Amal Rehabilitation Society shared pictures from an El-Amal kindergarten event. During the gathering, the children pretended to be Palestinian prisoners jailed by Israel. Additionally, they held posters calling for the release of Fouad Al-Shobaki and Alaa Ibrahim Al-Hams.
- Al-Shobaki was responsible for massive arms smuggling operations, including the 2002 shipment of Iranian arms to the PA on the Karine-A vessel.
- According to Arab media, Al-Hams, a leader in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was arrested in January 2009 and sentenced to 29 years in prison for participating in an attempted kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.
- On December 8, 2011, El-Amal Rehabilitation Society shared a picture of an El-Amal Rehabilitation Society event for the International Day of Disabled Persons. On the podium are students of El-Amal’s school for the deaf. In the photograph, two children dressed in military uniform point a toy gun at a third child who is kneeling and blindfolded.
Save Youth Future Society
- On October 21, 2016, Save Youth Future Society posted, “May every year the Palestinian mother, and the mothers of martyrs and prisoners be well, they are mothers of us all. #Mother’s_Day.”
- On October 30, 2013, Save Youth Future Society celebrated the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, writing, “Congratulations for the prisoners of freedom. Freedom, and we will be happy when all our brave prisoners have freedom…”All of those released were convicted of murdering Israelis.