EU spent €5m. promoting east Jerusalem as Palestine's capital in 2019

Grants designed to preserve the Palestinian identity of east Jerusalem with the aim of promoting it as the capital of a future State of Palestine were handed to a number of NGOs in the region.

‘SO, WHY are east Jerusalem Palestinians determined to remain in the city?’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
‘SO, WHY are east Jerusalem Palestinians determined to remain in the city?’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Union spent close to €5.5million in 2019 on grants to NGOs dedicated to promoting Palestinian culture and preserving Palestinian identity in Jerusalem's Old City and surrounding areas, a report into EU spending in the region has revealed.
In late June, the Commission updated its financial transparency system, filing details of the grants handed to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 2019. Analysis of that data by NGO-Monitor has revealed that out of 42 grants issued for projects in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, totaling €37.15 million in grant funds, seven of those, at a total value of €11.8 million were for projects focused on Jerusalem.
Among them was a grant of €1,184,538 handed jointly to PalVision, the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and ACT For Alternative Dispute Resolution And Studies "To contribute to preserving the Palestinian character and cultural heritage of east Jerusalem (EJ) by strengthening the Palestinian identity and enhancing the sense of belonging among Palestinians."
The objectives listed under the project are: "To protect Islamic and Christian Waqf religious and cultural heritage properties against Israeli violations and threats" and "To enhance Palestinians ability to identify and value their cultural heritage and have a good understanding of what can be done to protect their cultural heritage.”
Similarly, €2,086,757 was handed jointly to the Society of St. Yves; Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC); Land Research Center (LRC); Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC); and Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ) with the overall objective of supporting "the marginalized Palestinian communities of east Jerusalem, increase their resilience, prevent forcible transfer and reinforce the Palestinian identity of east Jerusalem."
Specific objectives outlined for the project were: "1.To challenge the Israeli policies targeting the marginalized Palestinian communities in east Jerusalem, reduce their impact, and empower those targeted communities through legal aid and advocacy 2.To document, challenge and ultimately transform Israeli policies and me [sic].”
A project billed as promoting "inclusive education for east Jerusalem children" listed as it's objectives being to "Contribute to preserve the Palestinian identity of occupied east Jerusalem. While promoting equity and inclusion adopting a rights-based approach, thus addressing the needs of Palestinian students and the overall young community of east Jerusalem (EJ)."
The listing continued: "The project intends to contribute to improve the educational offer provided by the Awqaf system of EJ thus promoting its role as one of the main pillars to protect the Palestinian identity of EJ." That project, run by the Jerusalem Autistic Child Care Organization and Terre des Hommes Italy was awarded €1,897,650.
Researchers with NGO Monitor noted that the grants come within the framework of the European Commission's strategic approach to sustain the presence of the Palestinian population and protect the Palestinian identity of the east Jerusalem, with a view to the locale becoming the capital of a future State of Palestine.
Annex 3 of the commission's Multi-annual Action Document for "Support to East Jerusalem in 2018, 2019 and 2020" details "The proposed Action seeks to prevent the population in east Jerusalem from being further coerced into leaving the city, thus jeopardizing the chances to safeguard the Palestinian identity of Jerusalem in future status talks and consideration of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."
It also notes that the European Joint Strategy on the issue is "closely aligned" to the Palestinian's National Policy Agenda, which places the expansion of Palestinian sovereignty over east Jerusalem as a priority, based on 1967 borders.
But research by NGO Monitor shows that this sort of involvement in a regional dispute is unprecedented within the European institutions. Of the 38,447 grants listed on the transparency system funded worldwide in 2019, the researchers could find no other examples of the monies being used for "religious and cultural heritage" within such a highly disputed framework.
"Unfortunately, this is another example of how aid becomes completely politicized once it involves Israelis and Palestinians," Vice President of NGO Monitor, Olga Deutsch told The Jerusalem Post: "There is no other place in the world where the EU would try to preserve religious sites of one religion alone, or work to make children books more violent. 
"On the ground, this aid, instead of reaching thousands that truly need it, only goes to further deepen the divide between the two people. We call on the EU to reexamine how it engages with the civil society so its public funds are used to build, unite and empower people."