'Aid must be subject to appropriate scrutiny,' activist says

UK watchdog asked to look at Foreign Office over opaqueness on Palestinian aid

Activists say the ministry, which handles humanitarian assistance abroad, is not providing timely information on whether its money funds terrorism

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London, UK, August 14, 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London, UK, August 14, 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pro-Israel activists in the United Kingdom have complained to a national watchdog that monitors transparency in government over a ministry’s alleged failure to provide information on funding suspected to be going to Palestinian terrorists.

B’nai B’rith UK and the nonprofit We Believe in Israel last month contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office with a request to look into why the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has not responded to requests to provide — under the Freedom of Information act — clarity on “how British aid to the Palestinian Authority is being audited, with a view to establishing whether or not taxpayers’ money is being used to support, facilitate, or incentivise terrorism,” the pro-Israel groups wrote in a statement Wednesday.

The Department for International Development, a now-defunct government office that has been absorbed into the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, had ignored a similar request by UK Lawyers for Israel in 2018. But the department eventually divulged relevant documents following intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office, acting at the behest of the lawyers’ group.

“Following the shocking murder of the Dee women earlier this year, it became apparent that British aid to the Palestinian Authority must be subject to appropriate scrutiny,” Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, said in the statement.

In April, Palestinian terrorists killed Lucy Dee, a dual citizen of Israel and the United Kingdom, and her two daughters, Maia and Rina, in a shooting attack in the West Bank.

Israel and many Western countries accuse the Palestinian Authority of incentivizing terrorism, including by paying stipends to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons or their families.

“Our government must not be complicit with this, and the purpose of our FOI request was simply to scrutinize how our taxpayers’ money is used when sent to the PA,” Akehurst said.

He said the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has failed to acknowledge his group’s request within 30 days, which “is unlawful and constitutes a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. As such, it has now been referred to the ICO.”

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