GAZA CITY ø The United States has failed to persuade Palestinian
non-governmental organizations to sign a commitment that they will not aid
groups deemed by the State Department as terrorist.
The result could jeopardize U.S. plans to transfer tens of millions of
dollars to the Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during
Over the weekend, the NGOs reiterated their rejection of the terms set
by the U.S. Agency for International Development for the receipt of U.S.
aid. The terms were drafted after the Al Qaida suicide strikes on New York
and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001 and presented to NGOs last year.
"It is not clear on what basis and upon which criteria the definition of
'terrorist acts' has been determined, especially in light of Israeli
portray the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence
as 'violent and terrorist acts,'" a statement by NGOs said. "Palestinian
NGOs are developmental organizations that aid and empower Palestinian
society through service-oriented activities and awareness raising, based on
the principles of democracy, social justice, and respect for human rights."
The U.S. 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
the Fatah-sponsored Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
Raji Surani, director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human
Rights, said the U.S. demands will divide Palestinian society. Surani said
U.S. AID has demanded that NGOs provide no assistance to or engage in
contact with Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Hamas's Yusef Al Qiyadi, both
of whom are in Israeli prisons.
On Monday, a coalition of NGOs was expected to announce plans
for a campaign against the U.S. demands. The groups, included those linked
to the Palestinian Authority, plan to lobby Washington to drop the AID
conditions and hold protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said the NGOs have been under pressure from Fatah
and Hamas not to sign the U.S. commitment. Hamas is regarded as a leading
funder of social programs in the PA areas.
Israel has sought to increase efforts to stop Palestinian insurgency
financing but has failed to pass a law similar to the U.S. Patriot Act,
which would grant the government wide authority to seize suspected
insurgency assets. Last year, Israeli forces seized a large amount of money
at the headquarters of PA Preventative Intelligence in Gaza City.
On Sunday, the Cabinet decided to accept the recommendation of Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz that these funds will be used for what a government
statement termed the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. The
statement said the funds will be added to the budget of Israel's Coordinator
of Government Activities in the Territories, which oversees civilian
projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.