UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Norway under pressure to stop funding UAWC

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI)  has written to Norway’s Minister for International Development, requesting that Norway ceases to fund a Palestinian NGO, some of whose senior officers are currently accused of involvement in a terrorist attack.

Two of the officials of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) are currently on trial for their part in the terrorist attack which killed 17 year old Rina Shnerb last August, and a third employee was sentenced in June 2020 to 12 months in prison.

Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister for International Development Photo: wiki commons

The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) is Norway’s largest and most important partner in the Palestinian Territories,  and receives around NOK  2 million annually.  Last year it received an additional NOK 2.7 million in humanitarian funds for the work on food security.

When questions were raised in Parliament in March 2020 on the subject of Norway’s funding of UAWC, Dag Inge Ulstein, the Minister for International Development stated that the Ministry  “ is aware of the accusations against one of UAWC’s employees, Samer Arbid. Like more than 50 other people, he was arrested by Israeli authorities in September 2019 for alleged complicity in terrorist acts that had taken place a month earlier. I strongly condemn that attack. At present, there is no evidence that his possible participation has anything to do with his employment with the UAWC.”

Now UKLFI has sent the Minister a letter pointing out that not one but three of UAWC’s  officers have been arrested in connection with terrorism offences. UKLFI has also sent a dossier of information about connections between UAWC and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated as a terrorist entity in Europe, the USA and elsewhere.

UKLFI originally wrote to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), the agency that distributes the Norwegian government grants, on 14 June 2019, warning them about the links between various current and past officers of the UAWC and the PFLP, including Abdul Razaq Farraj, who had been labelled a “danger to the security of the area”.  NPA failed to take any action saying: “We do not find the accusations substantiated in this case.”

Three senior officers of UAWC, including Farraj, have now been arrested in connection with the terrorist bombing which killed 17 year old Rina Shnerb and injured her father and brother on 23 August 2019, just two months after UKLFI’s letter.

Netherlands Representative Office Facebook photo 2 Feb 2017 (with UKLFI labels)

A photograph posted  on Facebook by the Netherlands representative office in Ramallah on 2 February 2017 to celebrate the signing of a contract  worth over $11 million, shows the Dutch representatives alongside officers from UAWC. Farraj and Aboudi, both in the photo, are currently in prison.

Farraj, who was the finance director of UAWC, was arrested by the IDF in late 2019 as part of the 50 person PFLP terror network arrested at that time. According to his indictment, he authorized the 23 August 2019 bombing of the Schnerb family.

Aboudi , the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of UAWC,  was arrested on 13 November 2019 and issued with a four month administrative detention order. On 2 June 2020, Israel’s military court sentenced Aboudi to 12 months in prison and a fine. Aboudi is referred to in Farraj’s indictment as a PFLP member who met with Farraj in September 2019, and was asked to recruit more members to the cell.

Samer Arbid, (not in the photo) was Financial Director of the UAWC from around 2015 to 2016.  He is also currently on trial for commanding  the PLFP terror cell that carried out the bomb attack on the Shnerb family.  A Jerusalem Post article published on 5 October 2019 stated that Arbid is “one of the PFLP’s officials in Ramallah and was previously arrested for involvement in terrorist activities during the Second Intifada under the direct command of the PFLP leadership, preparing explosive devices and committing terrorist attacks.”  Arbid may have been employed by UAWC at the time of his arrest in 2019 because chairman of UAWC, Rezk Al Barghouthi refers to Arbid as a “colleague” in October 2019 at a protest march against his arrest, as reported in the Arab press.

Rezk Al Barghouti is the current Chairman of UAWC.  In 2016 Barghouthi was the spokesman for Ahmad Sa’adat, the Secretary-General of the PFLP and a convicted terrorist imprisoned by Israel, during a ceremony held in Ramallah for Palestinian prisoners.  In 2014, UAWC members, including Barghouthi, participated in a PFLP delegation to Brazil.

The Dutch government suspended its payments to UAWC on 20 July 2020, when it transpired that part of the grants that they paid to the organisation were earmarked for overheads, and therefore they were partially paying the salaries of the officers who had been arrested.

Norway could be in the same position, if the grants that they pay to UAWC also cover overheads.  We are awaiting a response from the Norwegian government.

We would like to thank Med Israel for Fred (MIFF), NGO Monitor and International Legal Forum for their assistance with this project.