Palestine: Israel blocks the work of EU-funded groups

Palestine: Israel blocks the work of EU-funded groups

EU financial support for local Palestinian NGOs and intergovernmental organizations is proving to be a sticking point in Brussels-Tel Aviv relations. EU-funded organizations have complained about the obstacles their operations face.

EU funding for Palestine is available under different titles and “It plans to provide up to €1.177 billion in financial support from 2021 to 2024an EU official told EURACTIV.

The main objectives of these funds arePromoting a Palestinian state perspective, contributing to the sustainable economic and social development of Palestine, promoting human rights and democratization, and strengthening effective and accountable governance and institutions in support of a Palestinian state capable of fulfilling the obligations of the two-state solution“, he explained.

However, many NGOs working on the ground believe that the statements made by the European institutions, which, for example, criticize the Israeli settlements, are not enough to solve the problem.

«The EU must take concrete action to end illegal land grabbing, asset confiscation and demolition of civilian infrastructure. Donors like the EU should demand a full report on the financial value of destroyed buildings and their compensationVittorio Infante, EU conflict and humanitarian policy adviser at Oxfam Europe, told EURACTIV.

The case of the six organizations

Last October, the Israeli government designated six Palestinian organizations as terrorist groups. Some of them receive EU funds.

According to Israel, these groups have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is on the US and European blacklists for terror.

As a precaution, the EU had frozen the funds it paid out to them, but financial flows resumed last summer due to a lack of evidence from Israel to support its allegations.

These organizations include Al Haq, Defending Human Rights, a Ramallah-based NGO since 1979 that campaigns for human rights and the rule of law in the occupied territories.

Meeting with reporters in Ramallah, Al Haq director Shawan Jabarin said organizations like Al Haq are being targeted for accusing the Israeli state of pursuing “apartheid-like” policies in the occupied territories, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claimed last year and that theyActively refer cases to the International Criminal CourtPromote accountability and respect for the rule of law in the country.

«They also target our employees, for example by threatening them or their families or restricting permissions because of their connection to us.said the director of Al Haq.

The work of the institutions operating in the West Bank is particularly difficult, local NGOs said during several visits to the region.

In the village of Al Walaja, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where a large Israeli settlement is expanding, local organizations are asking journalists not to be quoted for fear of being attacked by the Israeli government.

Palestinian families must obtain Jerusalem ID cards from Israeli authorities in order to be classed as residents, but they face major bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining one and face the daily risk of deportation.

«The Israeli government is trying to divide the families of this village. Sometimes they give the Jerusalem ID card to the parents but not to the children and vice versasaid an official of one such organization, speaking anonymously.

«Very often, a family that applies for a Jerusalem ID card but does not receive it cannot obtain a Palestinian ID card from the Palestinian Authority and thus becomes stateless.‘ the source told reporters.

Similar problems are affecting the Aida refugee camp, run by UNRWA (United Nations National Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and located near the settlements of Har Homa and Gilo, and near key checkpoints between Bethlehem and Jerusalem located.

During a tour of the camp, UNRWA officials told reporters that the camp has been subject to numerous incursions by Israeli forces. These operations result in killings and arrests, among other things, and Israeli control over the area affects their work.

According to them, the camp recorded about 7,600 raids in 2021 and about 6,300 since the beginning of the year.

«Employees who are Palestinians sometimes take three hours to get to the office, a journey said to take just thirty minutes because they cannot cross certain roadssaid a UNWRA official.

The camp is regularly funded by the EU and received 97 million euros in 2022.


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