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Belgium investigates  funding to Palestinian NGOs accused of terrorist links

Belgium’s Minister of Development, Meryame Kitir, has told a Committee of the Federal Parliament that an investigation is underway into whether Belgian development aid may have been used to finance terrorist activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

During a session of the External Relations Committee, Belgian MP, Kathleen Depoorter, asked Kitir about the allegations concerning humanitarian funds being diverted to terror groups. Depoorter told the Committee that a number of NGOs were alleged to have  “regularly received funding from Western Europe, while operating at least in part as a cover for activities of the Popular Front”.

Minister Maryame Kitir

Belgium’s Directorate-General for Development Cooperation does not fund Palestinian NGOs directly, but funds them via third parties. Minister Kitir told the Committee that in the past five years 6 million Euro was spent on funding Belgian organisations active in Palestinian territories.

The Minister said the four Palestinian NGOs with active links to Belgium are:

  1. HWC, a partner of the Belgian NGO Viva Salud

  2. Bisan, a partner of Viva Salud

  3. Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), a partner of Broederlijk Delen

  4. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a partner of Oxfam through humanitarian funding.

The Minister explained that over the past five years 660,000 euros were donated through Viva Salud, 1.8 million euros went via Oxfam and 1.3 million euros through Broederlijk Delen, and that an investigation into the use of this money is now under way.

Minister Kitir told the Committee: “I take these allegations very seriously. It goes without saying that under no circumstances can development cooperation funds be used for terrorist purposes or to encourage violent behaviour.”

Belgium’s  investigation comes as a result of reports sent to the Belgian Government by the Israeli Government and reports by NGO Monitor that highlighted the close links between several Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP, which is designated by the EU as a terrorist organisation.  UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) also wrote to Kitir and to the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid in Jerusalem about one of the NGOs in question.

Belgian Friends of Israel (BFOI) has also briefed several Belgian Members of Parliament and alerted them to the situation, as well as running a Twitter campaign, calling out Kitir for continuing to fund the NGOs linked to terrorism.

Belgian MP Kathleen Depoorter pointed out that the reports of links between the Palestinian NGOs and the terrorist organisation caused quite a stir in the government in the Netherlands and payments have now been suspended. Speaking after the hearing, Ms Depoorter said: “I have asked the minister to inspect these reports and that she also submit her own investigation into the abuse to parliament. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise and these Palestinian organizations deserve a fair chance, but we expect appropriate action if the facts are proven.” She continued: “This matter is very serious and should not be taken lightly. I am pleased that the matter is being investigated, but I also expect quick answers and appropriate steps from the minister.”

UKLFI was instrumental in campaigning for the Dutch government to suspend payments to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a Palestinian NGO representing farmers, particularly after several of its top officers were indicted for and are now on trial for their participation in a PFLP terrorist attack which killed Rina Shnerb, a 17 year old Israeli girl in August 2019.

Caroline Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel commented: “We are pleased that after a great deal of effort on the part of many organisations, including NGO Monitor, Belgian Friends of Israel and UK Lawyers for Israel, the Belgian Government is now investigating these serious claims of misuse of government funding.”