The EU is providing around 1.2 billion euros in financial support for Palestinian organizations for the years 2021 to 2024. For Brussels, the project funding should “support the prospect of Palestinian statehood, contribute to sustainable economic and social development in Palestine, promote human rights and democratization.” In addition, “effective and accountable governance and institutions should be strengthened in order to support a Palestinian state, which can assume the obligations provided for in the two-state solution”.
However, since 2021, some of these Palestinian institutions, which receive funding from the EU, have been declared by Israeli authorities to be sponsors of terrorism, and their offices have been raided and some have been closed. Some of the Palestinian NGOs are also said to actively support or collaborate with the BDS movement, which the EU classifies as anti-Semitic.
Among the organizations, it is the Al-Haq organization that has come under public criticism. It regularly publishes reports on repression and human rights violations by the Israeli occupying power, but also by the Palestinian Authority (PA). It is funded by the EU, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy and France. For the most part, more precise figures cannot be obtained because neither Al-Haq nor some European governments disclose the funding amounts.
In a joint statement last year, the foreign ministries of Germany and eight other EU countries announced that the material provided by Israel about Al-Haq and the other NGOs contained “no essential information” that would justify revoking the previous funding policy. After the Israeli allegations, some donor countries suspended their support and spent months carefully examining dossiers on the organizations prepared by the Israeli intelligence service. According to the unanimous opinion of several EU member states, including Germany, Denmark and France, as well as the USA, Norway and Switzerland, the Israeli documents contained no evidence of the serious allegations.
An earlier version of such a secret Israeli dossier, with which the government there had already tried in May 2021 to discredit the same organizations with donors, has been published as a leak on the Internet. Surprising, as it was operated with unsubstantiated allegations, not with evidence. Eventually, the donor countries denied the allegations and announced that they would continue funding the institutions concerned. In the so-called C-areas, those 60 percent of the occupied West Bank that are completely controlled by Israel and where most housing units are being built in settlements, the work revolves around access to Palestinian resources, i.e. land and water rights farming and pastoral families. According to Israel, all of this is just a cover to divert funds to the PFLP. The Israeli government has not presented any evidence of this, but has loudly accused the EU of terrorist financing, which Federica Mogherini, as foreign affairs officer, had already firmly rejected in 2018.
Now there are signs that some European governments could change course, including in Berlin. It is now believed that the Palestinian organizations are ultimately an extension of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and are diverting funds to them. The PFLP, a Marxist-Leninist organization founded in 1967, has been listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, but also by the EU and the USA.
The head of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, claims to be a member of the PFLP, the human rights organization has not published any donation declarations since 2009, and the world’s leading credit card companies such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express have been prohibiting money transfers to the NGO for six years .
The EU’s statement of July last year – which Norway followed shortly thereafter – was perceived as a strong statement in favor of the six NGOs. It said quite emphatically that in the absence of convincing evidence of involvement in terrorism, the Europeans would continue their “clear support” for Palestinian civil society. As a reassurance, however, the sentence was also included: “Should contrary evidence be made available, we would act accordingly.”
Israel continued its efforts to persuade foreign partners to stop funding the six NGOs. Further evidence was made available, but not to all EU donor countries: Germany received preferential treatment from the Israeli side. Jerusalem sees the federal government as an important player in Europe and presumably assumes that other countries will follow Berlin’s example.
The Ministry of the Interior in Berlin now considers the Israeli allegations to be plausible. The test question was asked whether the organizations concerned would also be banned in Germany given the current state of affairs. The answer was ‘probably yes’.
The German Foreign Ministry seems to have a different point of view here. The thesis that the six NGOs are ultimately front organizations of the PFLP and are controlled by it in order to divert foreign funding through complex deception maneuvers is still doubted there. Even the new material that Israel presented hasn’t changed much. The conflict between the ministries appears to be continuing. If there is no agreement on the matter or no other solution, for example through intervention from the Chancellery, this should ultimately lead to decisions on further funding being suspended.
Critics believe Israel’s designation of the six NGOs as terrorist was politically motivated. This assumption is supported by the fact that Israel has not arrested anyone from the organizations concerned since then. There are also no legal proceedings against the NGOs. The six organizations were not even given details of the allegations on which the classification as terrorist groups was based.
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