The European Union for the first time cancelled a grant to a Palestinian nonprofit for refusing to sign a clause that would obligate it to ensure no terrorist organizations benefit from the funded programs.
Brussels’ decision comes on the heels of a bitter controversy last month over its support for Palestinian NGOs, which resulted in Israel rebuking the EU ambassador in Tel Aviv over the bloc’s ostensible “funding of terrorist organizations.”
The nonprofit, called Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, had secured €1.7 million (about NIS 6.5 million) for a three-year project called “Mobilizing for Justice in Jerusalem,” which sought to expose alleged Israeli human rights violations and “international crimes” in the capital.
But the EU informed the group in a letter Friday that due to its refusal to sign Article 1.5 of Annex II of the “General conditions applicable to European Union-financed grant contracts for external actions,” it was obligated to “consider your application no longer valid,” the NGO said in a press release issued Tuesday.
Article 1.5, which was introduced to the EU contracts with NGOs in 2019, stipulates that grant beneficiaries must ensure no funds go to groups listed as terrorist organizations.
The EU terror blacklist, formally called the “list of EU restrictive measures,” includes several Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Badil refused to sign the clause because it “criminalizes the Palestinian struggle against oppression and requires the recipient organization to perform ‘screening’ procedures which amounts to policing its own people,” according to its press release.
“The inclusion of this article to contracts with Palestinian organizations contradicts the national role of Palestinian civil society institutions in the struggle for freedom from Israeli colonialism and apartheid,” Badil’s statement read. “Further, the article violates both Palestinian and international law, as well as the declared obligations of the EU itself.”
According to the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which fights anti-Israel civil society organizations, Badil is one 130 Palestinian groups refusing to sign Article 1.5.
“I congratulate the EU on taking a firm stance against the disingenuous campaign it faces on this issue,” Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said Wednesday.
Jerusalem has been working to ensure Brussels “does not yield to the illegitimate demands of the involved Palestinian organizations, and continues to insist that EU taxpayer funds should not be used to fund NGOs with ties to terror,” she added. “The EU’s recent refusal is another step in this right direction.”
An Israeli watchdog monitoring EU funding of Palestinians groups on welcomed the EU’s decision to cancel funding for Badil’s project as well.
“We applaud the EU for standing strong in the face of pressure and enforcing its anti-terror clause,” said Olga Deutsch, vice president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.
“There is no question that radical groups like Badil, who not only have a history of promoting anti-Semitism and rejection of Israel, but who will not commit to not working with terror, have no business receiving funding from the EU or any other government,” she went on.
“We hope that the EU will further examine the 25 million euros that we found it gave such groups since 2011.”
Founded in 1998, Badil is “an independent, human rights non-profit organization committed to protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons,” according to its website.
Cognizant of the EU requirement to ensure no funds are going to illicit means, Badil had proposed an alternative to Article 1.5, which would have seen the group commit not to transfer any funds to political groups and only use them to “promote human rights and democratic principles and values in accordance to international law standards and best practices.”
But the union rejected this suggestion, saying the requirement to sign the anti-terrorism clause applies for EU funding worldwide and is not specific to Palestinian NGOs. “Certain provisions cannot be amended or derogated,” an EU spokesperson told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “Therefore the process was canceled.”
However, the nonprofit lamented, “The EU’s rejection of Badil’s proposed alternative language to Article 1.5 reveals that the article is more than just a passing text to ensure that funds are not transferred to political parties, according to the EU’s claims, but rather the acceptance and adoption of the allegations of the Zionist lobby and Israeli campaigns.”
The group went on to demand that all Palestinians NGOs that signed the article immediately cancel their agreements with the EU.
The union’s support for Palestinian groups, including some accused of having links with terrorist groups, has long been a sticking point in its relations with Israel.
The Foreign Ministry on May 7 summoned the EU’s ambassador in Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, for a dressing down after a letter emerged in which a senior EU official stationed in East Jerusalem assured the Palestinians that membership in or affinity to a terrorist organization does not automatically prevent a person from being eligible to participate in EU-funded programs.
“Israel utterly condemns and categorically objects to the Union’s policy on the funding of terrorist organizations. The policy essentially grants permission for incitement, support, and involvement with terrorism,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.