UAWC: Shocked and saddened by Netherlands’ decision to end funding

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) said it is shocked and saddened by the Dutch government’s decision to end its funding for UAWC, saying with such a “fateful decision, the Dutch government is not just abandoning UAWC, but Palestinian civil society at large.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the UAWC said that “it is shocking and deeply troubling that the Dutch government nevertheless decided to end its funding for UAWC, adding it did so “based on a number of “individual links” that Proximities identified – alleged connections in private capacity of board and staff members of UAWC with the PFLP.”

The Dutch government on Wednesday formally ended its funding to the UAWC, which is one of six Palestinian civil society organizations that were controversially outlawed by ‘Israel’ in 2021.

“The Netherlands will no longer fund the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, or transfer the organization the last tranche of an already budgeted Dutch grant,” wrote Foreign Minister Ben Knapen and Foreign Trade Minister Tom de Brujin in a joint letter.

On 19 October 2021, Israeli War Minister, Benny Gantz, designated six leading Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as “terrorist organizations” under Israel’s domestic Counter-Terrorism (Anti-Terror) Law (2016).

The Israeli War Minister office claimed that the six groups were “part of a network of organisations operating undercover in the international arena” on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist Palestinian resistance group, which was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in 1997 by the US State Department.

The six groups are: Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).

The Israeli military commander also outlawed all six groups under the 1945 Emergency (Defense) Regulations, declaring them “unlawful associations”.

Several UN human rights experts, civil society and development organizations, academics and more from around the world have condemned, over the past months, Israel’s designations, standing in solidarity with the six Palestinian groups and increasing their support for the Palestinian cause.

The Dutch government’s review found no evidence that the UAWC had done so.

“The external review shows that no evidence has been found of financial flows between the UAWC and the PFLP. Nor has any proof been found of organization unity between the UAWC and the PFLP or of the PFLP’s providing direction to the UAWC,” wrote the two ministers in the letter.

The external investigators did, however, find some overlap between the two organizations’ membership.

“There were ties at the individual level between UAWC staff and board members and the PFLP for some considerable time. The great number of UAWC board members with roles in both organizations gives particular cause for concern,” the two Dutch ministers wrote.

The external investigators hired by the Dutch government determined that the UAWC was likely unaware of members’ political affiliation.

But in their letter, the Dutch diplomats said it was “reasonable to assume” that the organization knew of board members’ PFLP ties.

The Netherlands had already suspended its funding for the nonprofit in July 2020 after two UAWC employees were arrested by ‘Israel’ for alleged involvement in a bomb explosion near an Israeli settlement. Both Abed al-Razeq Farraj (57) and Samer Al-Arbid (45) have suffered physical and psychological torture during interrogation.

The investigation by the Dutch determined that their funding had helped pay for the two employees’ salaries, although neither had managed Dutch-backed development projects.

The suspension that lasted 18 months caused serious harm to our organization, projects and beneficiaries, said the UAWC in the statement.

“It has also subjected UAWC to an external investigation, which has burdened our organization throughout 2021.”

“From the onset, this investigation was politically motivated and responded to pressure from the Israeli government and malign organizations affiliated with it,” it added.

“Due to our strategic work to protect Palestinian land threatened by Israeli annexation, UAWC has been a target for many years of Israeli smear campaigns trying to associate our organization with the PFLP.”

The UAWC is considered as one of the largest agricultural development institutions in Palestine as it was established in 1986 by a group of agronomists. When established, UAWC depended on volunteers completely and formed agricultural committees in the West Bank and Gaza to set the priorities of farmers and help the Union in implementing its programs and community activities.

According to its director, some 25,000 Palestinian families benefit from the group’s work.

In its statement, the UAWC pointed out that this is the first time a government ends its funding for a Palestinian civil society “based on political
conditionality.”

By doing so, UAWC said, the Netherlands “tarnishes its reputation as a reliable donor and its status of a value-based country that hosts and promotes international law.”

The UAWC said that it will consider legal steps to challenge the “harmful and unfair decision by the Dutch government, which lacks valid grounds.”

“At this critical hour, we call on other donors to maintain and increase their support for UAWC and all Palestinian civil society organizations. Don’t abandon us.”

(Source / 07.01.2022)

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