Decaying of organisations: Donors policies, the shrinking of Palestinian CSOs funding

As Israel’s 52-year military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip persists, its vicious repression of Palestinian civil society organizations continues to deepen. For more than two decades civil society has played a key role in providing vital services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, especially the poor and marginalized. In addition to monitoring and documenting the impacts of Israel’s occupation, which affects every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) International donors continued their endeavor to ensure that the assistance they provide is targeted to meet the needs of the Palestinian people in the most appropriate, effective and efficient manner possible.

The lack of control over land, water, physical boundaries and revenue; the administrative and political fragmentation; a discriminatory planning environment of fundamental uncertainty; and the regular and persistent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law prevent the Palestinian society and economy from realizing their potential in all respects. Under these conditions, Palestine would not be viable without external funding from the international community. Palestinian dependency on donors’ aid remains.
According to data provided by the MOFP (Funding update, November 2018), financing of humanitarian action is at an all-time low for the oPt. The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has received just US $217 million, the lowest ever, despite increasing needs. Without adequate funding, humanitarian partners are struggling to respond to the needs of people affected by crisis across the oPt.
UNRWA, as one of the largest and longest-standing humanitarian organizations, provides vital schooling and medical services to millions of impoverished refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories. In 2018, the US government decreased and then cut off funding to UNRWA. Successive funding shortages and subsequent austerity measures and cost reductions have prevented UNRWA programs from expanding in tandem with the growth in the refugee population and their needs.
The Netherlands and Switzerland suspended funding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, after the agency’s own ethics department reported allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and discrimination.
The EU has been a strong supporter of the Palestinians and their quest for self -determination. European-funded interventions have had mixed success with some results, including sustaining the welfare for Palestinians, building the capacities of several Palestinian institutions, ensuring stability and security, as well as preventing fiscal and economic collapse.
On 25 May 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a report titled “The Money Trail – The millions given by EU institutions to NGOs with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel”, in which it accuses the EU and its member states of “giving millions” to NGOs that have “ties to terror” and that promote “boycotts against Israel”. The report echoed and recycled allegations against the EU and European and Palestinian NGOs, The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini responded to the report in a letter to denounce allegations that the EU supports incitement or terror as “unfounded and unacceptable” and wrote that “vague and unsubstantiated accusations serve only to contribute to disinformation campaigns”.
In October, 2018, The European Parliament Budgetary Committee voted to freeze 15 million Euros in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) over anti-Semitic incitement in its school textbooks. Noting that Palestinians’ EU-financed 2017 textbooks “contain, across all subjects, violent depictions, hate speech – in particular against Israel – and glorifications of jihad and martyrdom”.
In January, World Food Program (WFP) cut food aid to about 190,000 poor Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank due a shortage of funds.
the International Platform of NGOs working for Palestine (i palestine) feels extremely astonished, knowing that NGOs beneficiaries of EU funding must comply with the EU’s stringent transparency and accountability rules to prevent aid diversion, including terrorism financing and fraud. These include compulsory financial audits by independent accounting firms, selected and paid for by the EU, which scrutinize and certify all project-related expenditure. They are expected to report on any suspected breaches of EU anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation.
Lately, the serious discussions in the international community shifted from whether  international aid to Palestinians, as one of the highest per capita aid disbursements in the world, were effectively managed and instead rising a question if aids were doing harm and the non-achievement of a lasting and inclusive solution. Talking about “the war against Israel – from attempts to destroy Israel through military power and terror attacks, to a ‘soft power’ political war aimed at erasing Israel through ‘non-violent’ means“.
In parallel, the media in Israel published articles about using two main tactics to damage the professional reputation and integrity of Palestinian civil society organizations.
First, it demonizes NGOs that support BDS, i.e. the Palestinian-led international movement that puts pressure on Israel to end its violations of human rights and international law. The media in Israel lobbies European governments and parliaments to categorically defund Palestinian NGOs that support BDS and when campaigning against BDS, it also targets NGOs that merely call for measures against Israel’s illegal settlements and occupation. Accusations of “terrorist affiliations”.
The second tactic that media in Israel employs to defame Palestinian NGOs is associating them with armed groups, in particular by claiming they have alleged ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU. Media in Israel says it has exposed ties between Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP. However, it has not presented any evidence that the accused organizations ever participated in terrorist activities or violence. It also has not explained how the organizations’ work – field research, documentation, legal work, international advocacy – is in any way related to terrorism.
The tactics target CSOs directly, while others are used to turn public opinion against them. By ‘naming and shaming’ and, CSOs as well as civil society activists are attacked and banned from movement and travel.
In NGO Monitor report in February, reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed British funding to radical NGOs active in the conflict with UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Prime Minister Netanyahu call upon the Danish Foreign Minister to cut funding for Palestinian groups involved in BDS campaigns against Israel.” Also, According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu “forwarded a list of Palestinian and Israeli organizations receiving Danish funding to the foreign minister and which Israel claims are involved with BDS efforts”.
Amid this fierce distortion campaign and funding inadequacy, the CSOs responses in Palestine varied between adjusting, resisting or disbanding. Some CSOs have disappeared as a result of increasing pressure, while others have chosen to find a balanced mix between adjustment and resistance. Some organizations, regretfully, have decided to stop their activities.
According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy is in ‘free fall’, poverty, unemployment and food insecurity are increasing, as are core drivers of humanitarian need. Unemployment in Gaza reached 54 per cent in the second quarter of 2018, with over 70 per cent of young people and 78 per cent of women unemployed. Poverty has soared to 53 per cent and food insecurity to 68 per cent. Severely reduced purchasing power and economic recession and its consequences are all serious signs of imminent humanitarian disaster.

(Source: IPalestine)

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