The Belgian government has opened an investigation into four Palestinian NGOs on the suspicion the funds sent to the humanitarian groups are being funneled into the terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Belgium’s Minister of Development Meryame Kitir told the country’s Parliament that Belgian aid money, intended for development, may have financed terrorist activities, according to the news site EU Reporter.
Allegedly, several NGOs were revealed to have “regularly received funding from Western Europe, while operating at least in part as a cover for activities of the Popular Front,” she told members of Parliament.
“I take these allegations very seriously. It goes without saying that under no circumstances can development cooperation funds be used for terrorist purposes or to encourage violent behavior,” Kitir said.
Belgium’s Directorate-General for Development Cooperation does not fund Palestinian NGOs directly, instead using Belgian NGOs as third parties.
The funding was directed to “mitigate the influence of pro-Israel voices” in 2016, by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Six million euro was given over the past five years to Belgian NGOs that work in Israel and the Shomron, and these anti-Israel organizations partnered with Palestinian NGOs that had ties to the PFLP.
The four Palestinian NGOs being investigated are Oxfam partner Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Defense for Children International, which is partnered with Belgian NGO Broederlijk Delen, and HWC and Bisan, which are both partnered with Belgian NGO Viva Salud.
Over the past five years, Belgium donated 660,000 euro via Viva Salud, 1.8 million Eruo via Oxfam, and 1.3 million euro via Broederlijk Delen. An investigation into where the funding went is underway.
The investigation was opened after separate reports from the Israeli government and by NGO Monitor revealed the close links between several NGOs and terrorist organizations.
Legal organization UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and Belgian Friends of Israel also wrote letters to Belgian officials and conducted social media campaigns as a way of highlighting the issue.
UKLFI was involved in successfully urging the Dutch government to suspend payments for the UAWC after it was revealed that some of the Palestinian NGO’s top officials were involved and now standing trial for a PFLP bombing which killed Rina Shnerb, Hy”d, a 17-year-old Israeli girl on a hike with family in August 2019.
Belgian member of parliament Kathleen Depoorter cited the Dutch example in her calls for investigation.
“I have asked the minister to inspect these reports and that she also submit her own investigation into the abuse to Parliament. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise and these Palestinian organizations deserve a fair chance, but we expect appropriate action if the facts are proven,’’ she said.
‘’I am pleased that the matter is being investigated, but I also expect quick answers and appropriate steps from the minister,” Depoorter added.