UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Netherlands suspends funding to UAWC

The Netherlands Government has suspended payments to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), while it investigates its terrorist connections.  This follows representations by UK Lawyers for Israel to the Netherlands government in 2019, and again in 2020, pointing out the many links between UAWC and the PFLP.

UKLFI highlighted the fact that two Palestinian former employees of UAWC,  Samer Arbid and Abdul Farraj were on trial for a bomb attack which occurred in August 2019, when 17 year old Rina Shnerb was killed and her brother and father injured.   It has now emerged that their salaries were partly paid by the Dutch government and that in 2017 they received passes from the Dutch Representative Office in Ramallah, whereby they could identify themselves as “employees of a partner organization of the Dutch representation”.

UKLFI has been informed by the Dutch Government that on 3 October 2019 UAWC informed the Netherlands that one of its employees had been taken into custody by the IDF on suspicion of involvement in the attack that took place on 23 August. Later that month a second employee was arrested.  “Due to the severity of the allegations against both employees, the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah entered into dialogue with the UAWC to obtain further information on the arrests and on the action taken by the UAWC in response to the allegations. The action by the UAWC included reminding all UAWC staff of the ban on active membership of political organisations, including the PFLP. The contracts of both individuals with UAWC were also ended.”

However, UKLFI had warned the Representative Office in Ramallah in May 2019,  of a multitude of links between UAWC and the PFLP – these went far deeper than just two bad apples.  For example:

  1. UAWC is the official agricultural affiliate of the PFLP. A research paper for US AID stated “The PFLP’s agricultural extension services are provided by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)”

  2. UAWC was founded in 1986 by “agronomists loosely affiliated with the PFLP.”

  3. UAWC continues to be listed as an “affiliated institution” of the PFLP

  4. UAWC is an official member of Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) and was one of 135 PNGO members, who refused to sign the 2020 European Union (EU) grant agreement because an amendment stipulated that  organizations must refute ties to terrorist groups.

There are many examples of links between individual officers and employees of the UAWC and the PFLP, which are set out in NGO Monitor’s report HERE.

Geoffrey van Leeuwen, director of the Netherlands North Africa and Middle East Department, has now written to UKLFI saying: “Given the seriousness of the situation, the Minister has decided to conduct an external review of the matter. Further payments by the Netherlands to UAWC are currently suspended pending the outcome of this review.”

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI, commented: “We are pleased that the Netherlands has suspended payments to the UAWC and is now conducting a review of the matter.  This  is a very important step, and other major donors to the UAWC including the EU should take note. It is outrageous that the Dutch and other donors should fund an organisation if it has such close links to a terrorist group whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.”