UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Palestinian NGO may lose EU funding following Dutch investigation

The future funding of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) is in the balance as the Dutch Government carries out an independent investigation  into possible links between it and the designated terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Not only Dutch funding, but also funding from the UAWC’s other major donors may be terminated, depending on the results of the Dutch investigation.   The Netherlands is just one of several countries and organisations who fund the UAWC,  including the EU, Germany, Canada, Spain, Switzerland and Oxfam.

Battir, West Bank  (formerly ancient Betar, ancient Jewish village and fortress). Photo: Wiki commons

The UAWC  does not publish any data on its income and expenditure, although the Dutch Parliament has promised to release UAWC’s accounts, in response to requests from its MPs.

The Dutch investigation will also look into the way in which UAWC implements its own policy that employees are not allowed to be politically active.  An NGO Monitor report released in January this year showed that the links between UAWC past and present employees and the PFLP were endemic.

During July and August, six Dutch MPs asked questions in parliament,  following UKLFI’s letters to the Dutch Government,  highlighting the fact that UAWC employees were on trial for the murder of Rina Shnerb, and other links between UAWC and the PFLP.

The Netherlands government has now indicated that the investigation will affect other funders of the UAWC.  Sigrid Kaag, Secretary of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, and Stef Blok, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated: “Other donors have been invited to participate in the study and to share all available information. The EU has already indicated that it would like to be kept informed of the results of this survey”.

Oxfam’s Global Program Director has also informed UKLFI that it will review the findings of the investigation by the Dutch government carefully following the completion of their inquiries.

The Dutch government has also confirmed that it will not make further direct or  indirect contributions to UAWC pending the outcome of the external investigation.  As well as ceasing direct payments, the Netherlands will not make any payments to the UAWC via two other Dutch funded programmes: the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Sustainable Development Goals Partnership.

Other interesting information that emerged from the Dutch parliamentary answers includes:

  • The salaries received by the two employees (who had been arrested in connection with the Shnerb murder) from Dutch funds was approximately USD 121,692 over six years from January 2013 to September 2019

  • This amounted to 27% of the total salary paid to these two employees, so their salaries were on average around USD 40,000 per year. This is in comparison to average salaries in the Palestinian Territories  of USD 20,500.

  • The Netherlands Government found out that it had been paying part of the salaries of  two suspected terrorist murderers on 8 July 2020, and on 13 July 20202  this information was sent to Minister Sigrid Kaag.

  • UAWC was going to receive Euros 1,658,888 from the Netherlands for the Land and Water resource programme in 2020.  It has already been paid Euros 1,274,056 of this sum on 30 Jan 2020.

  • Netherlands is one of five donors (including the EU), to the Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers Organisations project, and finances 20% of its budget.  UAWC already received 320,475 Euros this year out of a total of 391,915 for 2020.  The Dutch also contribute 5% of the EU’s share of this budget.

  • On 1 July 2020 a new Dutch funded project was going to start, called the Value Chain for Palestinian Olives, whereby UAWC would receive funding. No payments have yet been made.

  • The UAWC did not report any irregularities to the Dutch Government under their Contribution Agreement clause 6, which states that the UAWC should notify the Minister immediately in writing if it suspects or has discovered irregularities (including fraud or a violation of contract awards procedures). This is despite the arrest of two of its employees for murder.

  • The Dutch Government has provided an overview of all its correspondence regarding UAWC since I January 2018 and it is notable that four items in 2018 and early 2019 involved the confiscation of machines, demolition of roads, and water systems that had, presumably, been constructed illegally in Area C.

  • On 12 July 2020 Sigrid Kaag was updated about UKLFI’s letter regarding the suspected terrorists employed by UAWC

It appears that the Dutch independent investigation will have far reaching consequences, and will affect not only the funding from the Netherlands, but also funding from all of UAWC’s international donors.

Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association has expressed its concern.