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April 5, 2018 5:38 pm

Watchdog: Norwegian Aid Agency Penalized Over Misuse of USAID Funds Is Major Advocate of BDS Campaign

avatar by Ben Cohen

US Marines load USAID packages for victims of Hurricane Maria in Dominica. Photo: Melissa Martens / United States Marine Corps.

The Norwegian aid agency facing a $2 million bill for illegally accepting American taxpayer funds while working with the Iranian military and Palestinian terrorist groups has played a major role in the campaign to demonize Israel as an “apartheid state,” research by an Israeli watchdog reveals.

Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) — run as a “humanitarian solidarity movement” by Norwegian labor unions, and the beneficiary of $120 million of annual aid from governments including the US — agreed on March 30 to pay just over $2 million to the US government as a final settlement, after the agency was discovered to have illegally received US grant money while providing “material support to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” a statement from Geoffrey S. Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on Thursday.

According to the US government’s complaint against the agency, NPA’s activities included assisting the Iranian army with mine clearance techniques, while in the Gaza Strip, senior officials of Hamas, the PFLP and DFLP were enrolled in its political advocacy training programs. The US government said that since 2012, NPA had provided false certification regarding its dealings with individuals and organizations sanctioned for terrorist activities under US law.

“For years, Norwegian People’s Aid obtained grant money from USAID by falsely representing that it had not provided, and would take reasonable steps to ensure that it did not knowingly provide, material support to prohibited parties under US law,” Berman said.

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Research on NPA’s activities on behalf of the Palestinians by the Israeli watchdog NGO Monitor showed that at the same time as receiving US government funding, the agency was also engaged in a full-scale campaign to vilify Israel as a rogue state. The agency has accused Israel of practicing “apartheid” policies, as well as “collective punishment” and “war crimes,” and supports the so-called “right of return” to Israel for the 4.5 million descendants of the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 War of Independence.

NPA is also a vocal advocate of the boycott campaign against Israel, lobbying the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) to divest from Israeli companies and advocating that European governments adopt economic sanctions against Israel, NGO Monitor has documented.

In 2014, NPA remained silent over the hundreds of rocket attacks that triggered Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza that summer. At the height of that conflict, NPA Secretary General Liv Tørres called on the “international community to immediately put pressure on Israel to stop the war crimes and killing of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

The head of the NPA’s board of trustees, Finn Erik Thoresen, has strayed into open conspiracy theorizing. In an April 2014 lecture, Thoresen claimed that Palestinians are “not allowed to use red roof tiles on their houses in the West Bank” in order to make it “easier for the Israeli bombers to identify Palestinian houses when they bomb them, while they avoid hitting the Jewish houses.” (While the Israeli Air Force has often struck terrorist targets in Gaza, similar air raids in the West Bank have occurred very rarely since the 1967 Six-Day War.)

In 2015, USAID — the American government’s agency for international aid — provided NPA with $3.5 million in grants, while the State Department handed the agency a grant of almost $20 million. The Norwegian government provided a further $51 million.

Update April 9: In a statement emailed to The Algemeiner, Håkon Ødegaard – Head of Communications for NPA – emphasized that “our organization is not anti-Israeli, and we have never supported any kind of terrorism nor supported Hamas. We are an organization with a mandate from our members to promote democracy, human rights and peace. We do however support the Palestinian people in their right of self-determination, in line with UN resolutions.”

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