They refuse politically conditional funding and classification of Palestinian movements according to European standards of ‘terrorism’
In mid-December of last year, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) network refused new terms added by the European Union in 2019, which obligate Palestinian institutions to ensure that no beneficiaries of their projects or programs are affiliated with groups listed on the European Union’s terrorist organizations list.
In a meeting between the PNGO and EU last month, the PNGO delivered a message summarizing its objections, which was signed by 134 Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
Amjad Shawa, the head of the PNGO, told The Media Line that currently there is a dialogue with the EU to remedy the crisis, as the examination of beneficiaries from the Palestinian civil institutions’ projects and services is dangerous and a violation of Palestinian law.
“In principle, Palestinian law prevents us from receiving any politically conditional funding. Our approval of the new clauses means undermining the work of Palestinian institutions whose role is huge in society,” Shawa said.
The EU, said Shawa, claimed that its new restrictions don’t affect individuals; the EU terrorist organizations list doesn’t include names of Palestinian political leaders but of political entities. “However, there’s no guarantee. We appreciate the EU and its support, but we demand that the latter summarize these clarifications and include them with the agreement.” Shawa added: “Palestinian law is the decisive point. This policy violates our position and our independence.”
A Palestinian senior official, who asked to remain unnamed for work-related reasons, confirmed to The Media Line that the list is regularly updated by the EU, which means that Palestinian names may be added later.
The newly imposed clauses in EU contracts with Palestinian NGOs demand that contractors, subcontractors, those participating in their training workshops, and those obtaining financial support from them, exclude groups that appear on the EU terrorist organizations list, such as Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The EU spokesperson’s office asserted to The Media Line that the new clauses aren’t really new, as they’re consistent with EU policy since 2001 to avoid financing groups classified as terrorist organizations. “We don’t have a single name of a Palestinian persona, but only movements and armed wings. We are not asking them [the NGOs] to recognize any [Palestinian] political party as a terrorist group, but [only] to refrain from funding them in any way.”
In addition, the spokesperson’s office explained that what the EU is asking for is in line with Palestinian law, which prevents civil society organizations from funding any political party.
“We [including acting European Union Representative Thomas Nicholson] met in December with representatives of Palestinian civil society institutions and discussed their reservations regarding the new funding terms.” The office added, “The EU is waiting for a response on their position in light of the clarifications we have made, in order for the European-Palestinian partnership to continue, especially in areas threatened by Israeli actions.”
Officials in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office said that “Israel has repeatedly raised its concerns over the financing of … NGOs that, under the false pretenses of human rights, promote anti-Semitism, BDS and lawfare against Israel. In some cases, activists in these groups are members of designated terrorist organizations with past involvement in terrorism. Israel has asked the EU and European countries to stop supporting such groups and to demand a complete end to such activities before they donate further funds. In the case you have inquired about, there is clear proof that most of the so-called human rights groups refuse to even accept the minimal condition of refraining from cooperating with designated terrorists.”
Reportedly, Palestinian institutions said that the new demands were not included in their previous agreements with the EU, and that approving them would mean accepting the exchange of donor funds for a political stance, condemning the actions of the Palestinian resistance and accepting their stigmatization.
Muhsien Abu Ramadan, a leading Palestinian analyst, writer and former president of the PNGO in the Gaza Strip, told The Media Line that in discussions with the PNGO, the EU clarified that these are routine international procedures and won’t directly affect the work of the NGOs. “But the danger in agreeing to these terms lies in excluding the legitimate struggle of the Palestine people from its international legal framework and including it in the circle of terrorism.”
Abu Ramadan added that approval by the Palestinian NGOs would mean they agree to criminalize legitimate Palestinian resistance and that it would turn them into tools of the security police to determine the beneficiaries of their work. “The EU’s conditions are similar to USAID terms.”
Additionally, he pointed out that the new terms would contribute to the dismantling of the Palestinian people and cause the fragmentation of Palestinian society. “If we have one person who is sick but politically involved, based on the EU new terms, Palestinian NGOs can’t help that person, while at the same time, other Palestinians are benefiting from the same service.
Nevertheless, Abu Ramadan affirmed the EU’s role as the largest funder of Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza; its funding covers around 70% of the projects in the Palestinian territories.
Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told The Media Line that the PA is partaking in ongoing discussions with the EU, and that aside from its rejection of politically conditional financing, the PNGO rejects the existence of lists that classify Palestinian people or movements according to European standards of terrorism.
“Palestinian civil society institutions will not distinguish between one citizen and another because of their political opinions, race, religion or anything else,” Barghouti stressed.
On December 3, Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, in a letter addressed to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, called on the EU to reconsider the new conditions and to ensure equal, impartial and transparent access to funding for all.
According to a publication sent to The Media line by Erekat’s office, Erekat denounced such restrictions, which, it was claimed, directly affect Palestinian rights pursuant to international law, in particular the right to self-determination, stressing that it is not in line with the European Union’s commitment to a two-state solution and peace and stability in the region.