The European Parliament Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to ensure EU funds do not reach anyone affiliated with terrorists. It also rapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, for inciting hate and violence in its textbooks.
The legislature’s annual budgetary report says the EU must “thoroughly verify” that its funds are not “allocated or linked to any cause or form of terrorism and/or religious and political radicalization.” Any funds that did go to any person or organization with terrorist ties must be “proactively recovered, and recipients involved are excluded from future union funding.”
The article in the report came following an ongoing dispute between Palestinian NGOs and the EU over the affiliations of some of the organizations’ leadership and employees. Palestinian NGOs demanded that the EU erase a stipulation that aid can be sent only to organizations without ties to EU-designated terrorist groups, claiming that groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is designated a terrorist group in the EU, US, Canada and Israel, and has been responsible for many terrorist attacks on Israelis, are political parties.
Last March, EU Representative to West Bank and Gaza Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff wrote in an official letter to the Palestinian NGO Network that as there are no Palestinian individuals on the EU’s “restrictive measures list” which bars funds to terrorists, NGOs would not be penalized if members of terrorist groups benefit from EU funding.
The Foreign Ministry summoned EU Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret to protest the policy, following Jerusalem Post reporting on the letter.
The new guideline doubles down on the European Parliament’s commitment to prevent EU donations from ending up in the hands of terrorists, by calling for proactive recovery of funds.
The recommendation is in a report on the European Commission’s 2019 budget, called a “discharge,” which is part of the legislature’s oversight on how the EU implements its budget.
Matthis Schussler, executive director of the Brussels office ELNET, an organization dedicated to strengthening Israel-Europe ties, said: “Following last year’s precedent vote to prevent EU funding for entities linked to terrorism, we are very happy to see this time the Discharge Report goes even further.... Strong and unambiguous wording enables the parliament to hold the European Commission accountable on its funding for the PA. This again underlines the importance of thorough checks and monitoring.”
NGO Monitor vice president Olga Deutsch called on the European Commission to implement the recommendations quickly, pointing out that just last year it investigated an EU grantee with senior employees involved in the terrorist attack that killed Israeli teen Rina Schnerb.
“NGO Monitor’s research showed that in the last 10 years the EU alone allocated at least €38 million to projects involving terror-linked NGOs,” Deutsch said.
ALSO IN the budget review was a call for EU aid to UNRWA to be conditioned on the UN agency removing incitement from its school textbooks.
The European Parliament “is concerned about the hate speech and violence taught in Palestinian school textbooks and used in schools by UNRWA... [and] insists that UNRWA acts in full transparency... to ensure that content adheres to UN values and does not encourage hatred.”
It “requests that all school material which is not in compliance with these standards be removed immediately; insists that the earmarking of EU funding such as PEGASE for salaries paid to teachers and public servants in the education sector must be made conditional on educational material and course content complying with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and nonviolence.”
UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority lobbied heavily against the language of the 2019 discharge report.
In a letter to members of the European Parliament, UNRWA’s Brussels office wrote: “UNRWA is firmly committed to adhere to the highest standards of neutrality.... All learning materials align with UN values.”
PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee last week that its textbooks are updated annually and the complaints are “outdated.”
“I hope the European Parliament looks at Israeli schoolbooks to see if they promoted peace,” he suggested.
IMPACT-se, an organization that analyzes textbooks in the Middle East, released two reports this year finding that UNRWA created, printed and distributed material rejecting peace, glorifying terrorism and inciting violence.
UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini admitted in January that there were “inappropriate pages from textbooks,” and said they were “mistakenly distributed.” UNRWA said the material, which was given out at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, came from host countries; that they “acted quickly to remedy the situation”; and developed an online learning platform to ensure students only get approved educational materials.
However, IMPACT-se continued to find materials that incite violence the following month.
IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff called the resolution “a really important step in the fight to prevent UNRWA from inciting many thousands of children every school-day to violence, extremism and antisemitism. It is the very first time a legislature has stepped up and said to UNRWA, ‘Enough.’”
MEP Frédérique Ries, from the Liberal Renew Europe Party, said it was unacceptable that European taxpayers’ money is “used to fuel hate and antisemitism.”
“We need to ensure Palestinian textbooks used by UNRWA teachers are tools for peace,” Ries stated. “That is what today’s vote in the parliament means. We want to send a strong message to the commission and to UNRWA.”
MEP Miriam Lexmann, from the European People’s Party, said that “a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be achieved only through educating societies to live in peace with one another and with cultural tolerance.”