EU renews funding for Palestinian group accused of terror backing by Israel

The European Union on Tuesday informed a Palestinian civil society organization accused by Israel of terror funding that EU funding to the group would soon resume after an investigation by Brussels found no evidence of irregularities.

Brussels suspended its funding for Al-Haq in May 2021 after years of Israeli accusations that the group was controlled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is widely recognized as a terror group.

The European Commission’s anti-fraud unit — known by its French acronym OLAF — opened an investigation to assess whether or not EU funds were being transferred to the terror group. The probe was subsequently closed, meaning funding will resume, Al-Haq was told.

“OLAF concluded that there is no suspicions of irregularities and/or fraud affecting EU funds in the implementation of [Al-Haq’s] EU funded project,” the European Commission wrote in a letter to the organization on Tuesday.

A second source familiar with the matter confirmed on Friday that EU funding had been renewed and that the letter’s contents were genuine. The source spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.

The European Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, February 27, 2022. (Stephanie Lecocq,Pool Photo via AP)

Al-Haq is one of the oldest Palestinian rights groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza. The organization was founded by lawyer Raja Shehadeh in 1979.

The group has been involved in filing reports with the International Criminal Court, which opened an investigation last year into possible war crimes in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza since 2014.

In late October, the Israeli Defense Ministry classified Al-Haq and five other Palestinian civil society organizations as terror groups. The designation meant that the organizations’ employees could be arrested and funding confiscated.

Israel’s decision to blacklist the six organizations, some of which received European funding, sparked international criticism. But Israeli officials doubled down on the claim, telling reporters that the evidence behind the decision was “ironclad.”

Brussels has not been convinced by the evidence Israel has shared. EU High Commission Josep Borrell said that Israel had yet to send definitive proof.

“We are asking for answers from the Israeli government, and we have not yet received convincing answers,” Borrell said in a closed-door meeting of international donors to the Palestinians in Oslo in late November

The six Palestinian organizations in question — Al-Haq, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Bisan, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — are prominent and well-established groups.

Palestinian celebrate during a rally marking the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in Gaza City on, 7 December 2013. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

The PFLP, which avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, has a long history of violent attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. The United States, the European Union, and much of the international community classify it as a terrorist organization.

Israeli officials have pointed to previous convictions of high-ranking members of the nonprofits — including Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin — for belonging to the PFLP. The Palestinian nonprofits strongly dispute the charges against them, accusing Israel of seeking to crack down on criticism of its policies.

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