Netherlands defunds Palestinian NGO Israel declared terror organization

Contrary to what Israel has said, the Dutch investigation did not find that UAWC itself was linked to the PFLP, organizationally or financially.

A woman walks past a national flag, the day before a general election, in Delft, Netherlands, March 14, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A woman walks past a national flag, the day before a general election, in Delft, Netherlands, March 14, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The Netherlands stopped its funding of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), one of six Palestinian NGOs Israel banned last year due to ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization.

The Dutch government had donated €21.5 million to UAWC, but suspended funding in 2020 after two senior UAWC officials were indicted for taking part in a bombing that killed Rina Shnerb, 17, in August 2019.

In a letter to the Dutch parliament released on Wednesday, two ministers wrote that the investigation found that 34 UAWC employees were active in the PFLP in 2007-2020, some at the same time as holding leadership positions in the terrorist group.

"The large number of board members of UAWC with a dual mandate is particularly worrying," Development Cooperation Minister Tom de Bruijn and Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Knapen wrote.

However, contrary to what Israel has said, the Dutch investigation did not find that UAWC itself was linked to the PFLP, organizationally or financially.

MEMBERS OF the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aim their weapons at an effigy depicting US President Donald Trump as they ride a truck during a protest in Gaza City. (credit: REUTERS)MEMBERS OF the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aim their weapons at an effigy depicting US President Donald Trump as they ride a truck during a protest in Gaza City. (credit: REUTERS)

Still, the Dutch government criticized the UAWC board, saying that its behavior was a betrayal of trust. The ministers pointed out that the NGO’s own guidelines say employees may not be politically active and said the board should have been more transparent about those ties, and as such, they have decided to permanently stop funding UAWC.

The report also finds that several other Palestinian organizations could be viewed as "the social branch of the PFLP,” and De Bruijn wrote that the Dutch cabinet will look at its donations to other Palestinian NGOs, as well.

The full report was not made available to the public.

The Netherlands does not directly fund any other organizations banned by Israel in October, but it does finance Defense for Children International - Palestine through the UN and Al-Haq through a Dutch organization called SOMO, Dutch newspaper NRC reported.

The letter also said that the Netherlands will invest in new water and agriculture projects for the Palestinians.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the Dutch government’s decision “important and correct.”

“UAWC is an organic part of the terrorist group PFLP, as the five other organizations Israel declared terrorist organizations are,” the ministry spokesman said. “Israel will continue the conversation with the Netherlands and other countries about these organizations and how aiding them violates Israeli law.”

In addition, the Foreign Ministry praised the Netherlands’ intention to continue to aid Palestinian civil society through “legitimate aid organizations.”

Israeli think tank NGO Monitor, which has long tracked the ties between the UAWC and other organizations to the PFLP, called the Netherlands’ decision “an important development.”

“Now is time for UAWC's other funders to follow suit,” NGO Monitor’s spokesman stated. “In addition, the Netherlands and all other donor governments need to immediately review their vetting and auditing processes for NGO partners to ensure funds are safeguarded from diversion to terror organizations.”

Other governments that NGO Monitor found were funding UAWC are Canada, the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Belgium.

UAWC director Fouad Abu Saif told NRC that he was surprised the funding had been cut off and claimed that he did not know about employees’ ties to the PFLP.

"With this decision, the Netherlands is yielding to Israeli propaganda and pressure," said Abu Saif. He strongly denies that employees were active for PFLP while working for UAWC. "Employees should not be members of or active in any political group," Abu Saif said. “We as an organization cannot and should not check whether people have political sympathies.”