Palestinians affiliated with terrorist groups may participate in EU activities, EU Representative to West Bank and Gaza Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff wrote in an official letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.The letter, dated March 30, to the Palestinian NGO Network clarified that all EU-funded projects, including by Palestinian organizations, must follow EU law, such as a ban on funding terrorist groups. However, the letter points out that there are no Palestinian individuals on the EU’s “restrictive measures list” barring funds to terrorists, such that the NGOs would not be penalized if members of terrorist groups benefit from EU funding.
“While the entities and groups included in the EU restrictive lists cannot benefit from EU-funded activities, it is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefiting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname…corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive list,” the letter reads.The letter also states that “the EU does not ask any civil society organization to change its political position towards any Palestinian faction or to discriminate against any natural person based on his/her political affiliation.”Von Burgsdorff’s message came after months of protests by Palestinian NGOs demanding that the EU erase a stipulation that aid only be sent to organizations with no ties to EU-designated terrorist groups.The Palestinian organizations claimed that terrorist groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated a terrorist group in the EU, US, Canada and Israel and is responsible for many terrorist attacks on Israelis, are political parties.One Palestinian NGO affiliated with a terrorist group is Al-Haq, which engages in lawfare against Israel and encourages BDS, and whose director Shawan Jabarin is a convicted PFLP terrorist. The EU funded Al-Haq to the tune of 296,600 Euros in 2017-2020, according to NGO Monitor.
EU sources insisted that while the letter says there is no legal obstacle to people affiliated with terrorist groups participating in activities they fund, the use of their aid money is carefully vetted.“There is no legal impediment to individuals who are not named in the restrictive measures list to participate in EU funded activities, except for representatives of listed organizations,” a spokesperson for the EU Embassy to Israel stated. “Moreover, the EU has extremely strict monitoring and control mechanisms in place to make sure that all individuals involved in EU funded actions exclusively pursue the objectives and activities approved for EU funding. The EU does not fund any activity that is related directly or indirectly to violence, or incitement.”The spokesperson added that “EU support is subject to stringent and permanent monitoring and both ex-ante and ex-post verification.”If a recipient of EU funding is found to have used the money for a terrorist group, they would have to reimburse the EU and could lose eligibility for more funds in the future.Olga Deutsch, Vice President of NGO Monitor, a research institution dedicated to foreign funding of NGOs, warned that “the EU should be careful not to surrender to local pressure, from Palestinians or anyone else , and make sure public funds do not end up in the hands of those connected to or supporting terror.”Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the EU pledge 71 million Euros to the Palestinian Authority, 10% of which will go to NGOs, Deutsch said.“Making sure this money goes where it is truly needed is the minimum due both European taxpayers and those Palestinians that the EU says it wishes to assist,” she added.Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan brought EU representatives’ attention to funding going to organizations with ties to terrorists in the past.A ministry spokesman said that “over the past two years, there has been no doubt that the connection between terrorist organizations and BDS, including Palestinian NGOs such as…Al-Haq, whose senior members served as terrorist operatives for the PFLP, [has] deep ties to terror…Terrorist organizations have successfully placed over 30 of their members, 20 of which have served time, including for murder, in senior positions within BDS-promoting NGOs.”Over several meetings with EU officials it was made clear that any funding for these NGOs must be stopped immediately and scrutinized carefully to ensure no funds are transferred to terrorists or terrorist-related activities,” the spokesman added.