A Palestinian umbrella organization and a political party criticized the European Union on Wednesday for a scheme intended to foster cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian civil societies.
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network, a body representing 135 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, issued a statement condemning the EU for demanding that Palestinian nonprofits collaborate with Israeli organizations as a condition for funding as part of the Partners for Peace Program.
PNGO expressed “extreme concern” over the fact that Partners for Peace encouraged “normalization between Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations, while many Israeli organizations deny the rights of the Palestinian people, who suffer the worst forms of aggression by the occupation.”
According to its website, programs funded by Partners for Peace in 2012 encouraged gender equality, peace education for Palestinian youth and journalist training. The EU also contributed up to 80 percent of the funds for collaboration between Israel’s Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Red Crescent on healthcare, among others initiatives.
But PNGO said in its statement that such cooperation was “an attempt to involve civil society organizations in nationally unacceptable normalization with the occupation and its institutions, giving the impression that normal relations exist between the occupation and the people living under occupation.”
Issam Abdul Rahman, media coordinator for PNGO, said that despite the unequivocal language of the statement, his organization did distinguish between Israeli organizations “that recognize Palestinian rights” — which it regarded as legitimate partners — and those that don’t.
“We take issue with politically conditioned funding,” Abdul Rahman told The Times of Israel, mentioning a condition placed on NGOs by USAID — a US government agency which funds dozens of Palestinian civil society organizations — to sign a document renouncing terrorism.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing organization, also condemned the EU scheme, claiming it discriminated against non-Jewish NGOs within Israel. In a statement published by Ma’an News Agency Wednesday, PFLP called that decision “blatant foreign intervention in an internal national matter” and “a violation of international and humanitarian law.”
According to the PFLP, the USAID condition was nothing more than an attempt “to impose political solutions prepared in the kitchens of Western intelligence agencies to weaken the rights and principles of Palestinians, especially the right of return.”