UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Sweden funding designated Palestinian NGO

Sweden has been funding the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian NGO that was designated by Israel as an unauthorised organisation in June 2015.

HWC describes itself as a leading Palestinian non-governmental health and developmental organization, with a rights-based approach, providing health services and building development models to all segments of the Palestinian population particularly the poor and the marginalized.

Sveriges riksdag (house of parlament) Arild Vågen, Wiki Commons 

UKLFI has written to the Swedish agencies who donate to HWC to urge them to terminate their funding, pointing out that their due diligence must have failed if they were subsidising a designated NGO.  Furthermore HWC’s financial and administrative director was arrested in October 2019 and indicted on a number of charges including multiple counts of premeditated attempts to cause death and membership of the terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

More information about HWC can be found in NGO Monitor’s report HERE.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida signed a Grant Agreement with HWC for 31.5 million SEK (£ 2,759,330 ) on 8 March 2017 for the period 2017-2019 for a project “Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights among Palestinian society”.

Another Swedish organisation, Individuell Manniskohjalp, had a funding agreement with HWC from 2015 until 2018, entitled “Women’s health programme – promoting and enhancing SRHR for Palestinian women in 8 locations” with a budget of around 2.8 million SEK (£245,274).

HWC’s financial and administrative director, Mr Walid Hanatsheh (also known as Walid Abu Ras), was arrested in October 2019 and indicted on a number of charges including multiple counts of premeditated attempts to cause death. These include involvement in shooting attacks against civilian buses and private vehicles, as well as the 23 August 2019 bomb attack in which Rina Shnerb was murdered; membership in an illegal organization; holding a position in an illegal organization, and possession of weapons, including assault rifles and weapons trafficking.  Mr Hanatsheh, who has been HWC’s financial director since at least 2012, had been arrested many times previously, as reported by Addameer.

It is interesting to note that two financial directors of another Palestinian NGO, UAWC, have also been charged in connection with the murder of Rina Shnerb as PFLP officials. One of these PFLP officials was also the accountant of the Palestinian NGO, Addameer. The transfer of funds to NGOs whose financial directors are members of terrorist organisations must give rise to a risk of diversion to support terrorism. European governments should exercise far greater due diligence if they are sincere in wishing to promote peaceful coexistence.

On 18 June 2015, Israel’s Defense Minister declared that the HWC was an “unauthorised association”.   He stated: “the group of people or institutions or association known as the ‘Union of Health Work Committees-Jerusalem’…or ‘Health Work Committees’…or any other name that this association will be known by, including all of its factions and any branch, center, committee or group of this association is an unauthorized association, as defined by the Defense Regulations”  (see p.6489).

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI commented: “If an NGO is designated, and its finance director has been indicted for terrorist crimes, it is clearly unsuitable for funding. A more appropriate partner for these Swedish projects should be found”.