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Palestinian NGOs Supported by US Funds Introduced Children to Convicted Terrorists, Says Watchdog

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

A Palestinian walks past a ceramic sign of a USAID project in the West Bank city of Hebron, Jan. 31, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma

A report from the watchdog group NGO Monitor alleged that funds by the United States government’s multi-billion dollar international aid agency have been channeled to programs by Palestinian non-governmental organizations that introduce children in Gaza and the West Bank to convicted terrorists.

The Thursday report found that a number of secondary recipients of funds granted via the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ran programs that introduced children to convicted terrorists, presented convicted terrorists as role models, and publicly demonstrated support for terrorists and terrorist organizations.

“All this info was public and should have been accessed by USAID and primary grantee officials during the vetting process,” read the report by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor. “This publication serves as a case study, highlighting the vetting deficiencies, which, if unaddressed, threaten the integrity of US funding.”

The report identified six controversial Palestinian NGOs which received funds as secondary recipients of USAID programs. It said Palestinian NGO Juzoor received $2.1 million from USAID in 2013-2019 as a sub-grantee for the $17 million “Palestinian Health Capacity Project.” It also said Juzoor ran a Jerusalem Youth Parliament (JYP), which hosted events with convicted terrorists and members of the US-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

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JYP staff also used social media to celebrate PFLP terrorists and promote the organization, while the NGO was receiving US funds, according to the findings of the report.

In a separate case, US-based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) received $14.4 million from USAID in 2013-2017 for youth programs. Among others, the grant funded the Al-Quds Hilal soccer club that glorified a terrorist who murdered two Israelis as a “martyr hero,” only two days after the deadly attack. The same club shared pictures on Facebook from the “solidarity with prisoner Muhammad Allan” event, in which the club’s children participated. Allan is a Islamic Jihad operative, who was in prison for recruiting suicide bombers.

Another example listed in the report is a $24.5 million USAID grant allocated to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for its “Envision Gaza” 2016-2022 program. NGO Monitor said that CRS partnered with a few secondary recipients, including El-Amal Rehabilitation Society-Rafah, which held a kindergarten event with children pretending to be Palestinian prisoners jailed by Israel. Additionally, participants in the event were seen to hold posters calling for the release of a Hamas leader who was jailed for the attempted kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

The NGO Monitor report comes after the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in March concluded that USAID did not abide by anti-terrorism requirements in the provision of assistance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the GAO report, USAID had “ensured that the awards it funded directly went to individuals and organizations that were checked for links to terrorism” over a four-year period covering 2015-19. However, “USAID did not ensure that awards these entities made to others, known as subawards, were compliant with antiterrorism requirements.”

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