RAMALLAH ø The Palestinian Authority has again rejected a U.S.
demand that Palestinian non-governmental organizations sign a pledge not to
cooperate with those on the State Department's terrorist list.
The Palestinian Legislative Council, dominated by the ruling Fatah Party
of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, rejected a demand by the U.S. Agency for
International Development that Palestinian NGOs sign a commitment not to
engage with individuals or groups deemed as terrorist. The demand was first
relayed by Washington in 2003.
The State Department has deemed several Palestinian insurgency groups as
terrorist. They include the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas
and Islamic Jihad.
Western NGOs that operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have signed
the pledge. But 30 Palestinian NGOs have refused to cooperate, saying they
would thus deem resistance groups as terrorists.
[In an unrelated development, the PLC has called for a criminal
investigation into charges that Palestinian companies connected to several
PA ministers were importing cement for Israeli contractors that were
building the security fence along the West Bank. The Palestinian ministers
were said to have received bribes to import the cement from Egypt to
Azmi Shueibi, chairman of the PLC Economic Committee, said the U.S.
demand violated Palestinian law that bans Palestinian organizations from
accepting aid linked to political conditions. Shueibi said the PA was
concerned that other countries would follow the U.S. example.
"The institutions contacted U.S. AID to express their rejection of the
conditions and push for their cancellation for
several reasons, including the vague U.S. stance regarding the Palestinian
struggle and differences regarding the definition of the term 'terrorism,'"
Officials said several Palestinian NGOs accepted the U.S. AID
conditions, but did not identify the groups. They said PA
officials have tried for the last eight months to persuade all NGOs to
reject the U.S. demands.
The PA has also appealed to U.S. AID to drop the anti-terror clause,
officials said. But they said the efforts failed.