Palestinians summon Dutch envoy over NGO aid cut

Al-Jazeera  /  January 10, 2022

Palestinian Authority says Dutch decision to cut off funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees was ‘unjust and biased’.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has summoned the Dutch representative to object to the Netherlands’ decision to halt funding to a Palestinian civil society group that Israel banned as a “terrorist group” in October 2021.

In a statement on Monday, the PA rejected the “unjust and biased” decision to cut off funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), one of six groups that Israel outlawed last year in what critics said was an assault on Palestinian civil society.

The ban was under the pretext that they are affiliated with the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has a political party, as well as charities and an armed wing.

The PA, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates security with Israel, said UAWC provides vital aid to Palestinian farmers struggling to remain on their land in the face of Israeli settlement expansion.

The Dutch government based its decision on an independent audit of the UAWC that found no evidence the organization was involved in terrorism. It said the audit did however find a “worrisome” number of UAWC board members were linked to the PFLP. Two former UAWC employees were arrested in connection with a bombing that killed an Israeli teenager in the West Bank in 2019.

The UAWC rejected the findings, saying it does not concern itself with the private political activities of its board members or employees.

The armed wing was active as an organized body in the second Intifada – or uprising – when it carried out attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets.

Israel has said the six groups are fronts for the PFLP but has provided little evidence to substantiate the allegations. The designation paved the way for the Israeli military to shut down the groups and arrest their members, but it has yet to do so.

The rights groups have denied the Israeli allegations, which they say are aimed at stifling civil society and pressuring Western donors to cut off funding.

The six civil society groups are based in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Palestinian leaders want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state.