Friday, 23 Feb 2018 - 8 of Adar, 5778

Misuse of European Funds Should Serve as Wake-up Call

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In a series of articles on British government aid being diverted to terrorists, the Daily Mail exposed the amount of funding that the UK provides to the Palestinian Authority (PA): £25 million, designated for salaries of 30,000 employees in the education and health sectors.

The article found that 24 schools receiving British foreign aid are named after terrorists responsible for the murder of Israeli civilians. The article also found that incitement to violence against Israelis has increased over time at these schools.

The Daily Mail cited a report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) – an organization that monitors and documents incitement in Palestinian media and society. This is far from the first time that PMW has exposed the outrageous misuse of foreign aid in Palestinian society. Just a few weeks ago, PMW found that a non-governmental organization (NGO) funded by the EU and Norway had put on a play in which students called to “support Jihad and pull the trigger.”

In recent years, European taxpayer monies have been used to pay the salaries of convicted terrorists and their families, under the guise of “salaries for Palestinian Authority employees.” They have also funded so-called educational programs where “curriculum” includes incitement to violence against Jews and cultural events that often turn into festivals of hate.

In parallel to the aid provided directly to formal PA institutions, government funding is also provided to NGOs – with stated objectives of promoting peace, human rights, and democracy. Unsurprisingly, however, these funds are also exploited and instead go towards promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and lawfare campaigns against Israel, as well as glorifying terrorism.

NGO Monitor research reveals that these NGOs receive millions of Euros annually, with eight having ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.

Whether European funding is provided to the PA or to NGOs is irrelevant in the end, as in both cases there is little to no transparency, accountability, or independent evaluation mechanism in place to verify how the funds are spent. Additionally, the decision making processes of the government funders are overly complicated and managed by bureaucrats (who may also be political activists). In many cases, EU parliamentarians, who are meant to provide oversight and a check on executive branch spending, are unaware of exactly what they are truly paying for – a new school or a terrorist’s salary.

In 2013, the European Court of Auditors presented its evaluation of the €2 billion of aid transferred to the PA in the years 2008-2012. Although the report does state that there is little control over the use of money, it ignores the incitement and terror issues and fails to recommend any reforms to funding mechanisms to address these.

The tendency to ignore the problem of aid diversion to terror organizations remains prevalent. The EU responded to the Daily Mail claiming that “all funds the EU allocates to the PA for salaries, pensions and social allocations go through an elaborate system of rigorous verification procedures.”

Does such a mechanism truly exist, and if so, how does the EU explain the fact that money is nevertheless misused for immoral purposes? There are hundreds of examples of this phenomenon and, for some unknown reason, Europe has refused to acknowledge the problem.

Another generic response often provided by European government officials is “we fund projects, not the NGO itself.” This justification is completely disconnected from reality – money is fungible, and an NGO is, therefore, the sum of all of its projects.

The Dutch funding to the joint governmental “Human Rights and International Law Secretariat” is another illustrative example. This funding mechanism (which is made up of the Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Swiss governments) provides funding to NGOs that advocate for campaigns that are in direct contradiction to official Dutch foreign policy. Among these NGOs are organizations that reject the peace process, promote antisemitism, advocate for boycotts of Israel, and have ties to terror groups. Despite the Netherland’s stated commitment to a two-state framework and peace, the government has decided that the NGOs supported by the Secretariat fulfill their funding goals. It is unlikely that any independent evaluation, criticism, or verification of funds took place. Instead, the Dutch government asked the NGOs themselves if they are accomplishing the goals they claim to be pursuing. The organizations obviously responded with a resounding “yes.”

Despite all mentioned above, there is a glimmer of hope that European governments are beginning to understand that money provided for human rights and humanitarian purposes is being misappropriated for corrupt causes. Notably, on March 7, the Swiss Parliament voted to halt funding to NGOs that support terror and that are involved in antisemitism and BDS campaigns against Israel. This decision was based on NGO Monitor’s in-depth research and briefings, which exposed the money trail to the morally-bankrupt NGOs.

Similar discussions to those in Switzerland are taking place in the UK, meaning that there is opportunity for future policy amendments elsewhere in Europe. Israel must continue its strategic dialogues with European government officials in order to curb funding being used for terror, antisemitism, and hatred.

Likewise, European journalists and decision makers should open their eyes, use the available data, and challenge the decision makers on the issue of misuse of government aid. Only then will the average European citizen understand what their taxes are funding.

Itai Reuveni is a senior researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.

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