It was an inspired moment. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs had gathered to discuss the next year's budget; and as they debated humanitarian issues in China, Poland, and Belarus, Green Left member Tom van der Lee had an idea: Let's send money, he suggested, to groups that seek the destruction of Israel.
That wasn't quite the way he said it, of course; what he actually recommended was that the Netherlands send financial and diplomatic support to six humanitarian organizations that Israel had just designated as fronts for terrorist groups. In so doing, he lent strength to similar anti-Israel motions by other political parties, including the pro-Islam DENK and Socialist Party, whose leader Jan Marijnessen's long history of anti-Israel remarks include blaming Israel for the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.
But the real story didn't really begin with last month's Dutch Parliamentary budget meetings in The Hague.
It began, rather, on August 23, 2019, when 17-year-old Rina Schnerb went hiking with her father and older brother Dvir near a popular spring near the West Bank.
Then something exploded.
Terrorists, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) later determined, had placed a bomb by the spring, then set it off remotely, killing Rina and severely wounding her brother and her father, a rabbi. The death of a teenage girl fired the fury of Israeli intelligence, who set out to determine, as fast as possible, all who were responsible for her murder.
The result: investigations into a number of Palestinian organizations, including the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work committees (UAWC), the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC), the Defense for Children International, Palestine (DCI-P), the Health Work Committees (HWC), Society of St. Yves, Al Haq, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. In October, Israel's government declared six of these NGOs to be terror organizations, operating as fronts for the PFLP – long recognized as a terrorist group by the European Union, the U.S., the U.K. and others. As part of its evidence, the Israeli government cited the PFLP member Samer Arbid's involvement in the attack that killed Rina Schnerb.
Arbid also allegedly has connections to the UAWC and Addameer. Several other PFLP members have since also been arrested for terrorist activity, many of whom were also connected to one or more of the newly-banned NGOs.
Israel then immediately asked Western organizations and governments to end all subsidies and support to any of these so-called "human rights" groups. While they may provide humanitarian aid, they were simultaneously funneling money – "euro sums in the eight figures," according to Reuters – to families of terrorists and militants, part of a program some refer to as "pay-for-slay." In addition, many have forged documents as part of their fundraising efforts.
"PFLP institutions successfully deceived organizations in Europe in a number of ways - by reporting fictitious projects, transferring false documents, forging and inflating invoices, forging bank signatures, declaring inflated wages, and more," Israel's Shin Bet said in a statement, Moreover, Shin Bet added, "The considerable financing that was received was transferred... to payments for the families of Popular Front 'martyrs', salaries for militants, recruiting new members, advancing and strengthening terrorist activity, funding Popular Front militants in Jerusalem and the dissemination of Popular Front messages and ideology."
Israel was right to be concerned about foreign funds. Between 2017 and 2020, the UAWC received nearly €12 million from the Netherlands alone, and in 2009, the Dutch government awarded Al-Haq the Geuzenpenning, which honors pro-democracy efforts and the fight against racism. Norway, according to the British UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), is another of the UAWC's benefactors, providing more than 2 million Norwegian crowns (about $220,000) annually, even as several other UAWC members have been arrested for terrorist activity. Other European countries that have long provided support to Palestinian NGOs – including some of those on Israel's recent terror list – include Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Belgium, and Sweden. In all cases, funding was designated to be used for humanitarian causes, but it is not at all clear that that was where the money actually went. Evidence over the years indicates that funds were used to support terrorists and their families. What's more, a 2020 investigation by Israeli think tank NGO Monitor revealed that Dutch funds had paid the salaries of UAWC members – including the men who killed Rina Schnerb.
To its credit, Holland did briefly stop payments in July 2020 once these connections were discovered. But less than a year later, under pressure from DENK party leader Tunahan Kuzu and others, Foreign Affairs Minister Sigrig Kaag reinstated the flow of funds. Kaag's husband, Anis al Qaq, is a former Palestinian Authority ambassador to Switzerland and served in Yasir Arafat's cabinet.
Now the question returns: should European governments and NGOs continue sending money to organizations that combine genuine humanitarian efforts with aid to the families of terrorists and militant communities, and the financing of terror attacks? While some argue that Israel has failed to prove any real links between the PFLP and these smaller groups, a Washington Institute report refutes that claim, noting that "Much of the evidence has or will come out in court ... and significant portions have been shared with American and European counterparts ... [The] Israeli charges have not come out of thin air. Between findings from intelligence surveillance, seized documents and computers, and detainee interrogations, Israeli authorities appear to have compiled compelling evidence to underpin these designations."
Anyone with true humanitarian concerns should understand what is at stake here: not just the continued existence of Israel, not just the hope for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, but the future of the Jewish people themselves. Notes the Washington Institute report, "At a minimum, governments, civil society organizations, and human rights groups need to address the evidence underlying the Israeli allegations to determine if the organizations with which they have been partnering to further human rights employ the same people who are criminally responsible for PFLP attacks. To date, they have not."
And so it seems various terror organizations in Palestine that pose as humanitarian groups will successfully raise subsidies from do-good governments abroad, and then use these funds to pay rewards to men who bomb the Jews. For as long as Europe continues sponsoring them, then, the Holocaust continues.
IPT Senior Fellow Abigail R. Esman is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands. Her new book, Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism, was published by Potomac Books in October 2020. Follow her at @abigailesman.
Copyright © 2021. Investigative Project on Terrorism. All rights reserved.