By Khaled Abu Toameh, June 3, 2004.
The Palestinian Legislative Council has rejected a
US-sponsored demand that Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
refrain from transferring funds to individuals or groups that engage in terrorism.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) pledge, entitled
“Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing,” lists a range of commitments
required from NGOs that operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They include
a pledge that NGOs will not engage in activity with groups deemed as terrorist,
such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
About 30 Palestinian NGOs have declared that they would not sign the
anti-terrorist commitment. Many of the groups obtain funding from the US
agency and American philanthropists. On Wednesday, the PLC held a session in
Ramallah during which its members discussed the USAID demand and decided
to support the Palestinian NGOs’ position in rejecting it.
Azmi Shuaibi, chairman of the PLC Economic Committee, said the anti-terrorism
commitment is in violation of the Palestinian Authority law that forbids
charitable organizations and NGOs to accept conditional aid. He described
the commitment as an illegal and immoral demand.
He noted that the Palestinians have already rejected this demand and accused
Israel of exploiting the issue to “distort the Palestinian national struggle” by
defining it as terrorism.
Shuaibi said the decision to vote against the anti-terrorism clause was also
taken out of fear that other donor countries might follow suit and ask the
Palestinians to sign the pledge.
Shuaibi told the PLC that the PA and Palestinian NGOs have been negotiating
with USAID in an attempt to persuade the American agency to change its
policy, but to no avail.
He said that USAID made some amendments to the clause, but the Palestinians
remain unsatisfied. He described the amendments as “ambiguous and
politically-motivated.” Hassan Asfour, chairman of the network of Palestinian
NGOs, said during the meeting that the PA cabinet has also rejected the US
anti-terrorism commitment at his recommendation.
The new terms were set by USAID after the 9/11 attacks and presented to
NGOs in 2003.
Palestinian NGOs have rejected the demand as “provocative,” saying
they will never sign the pledge.