EU funding criterion accused of ‘criminalising Palestinian resistance’

The European Union has been criticised for caving-in to Israeli pressure following its adoption of a new funding criterion, which critics have warned is intended to criminalise Palestinian dissent. Fresh concerns were raised over terms added by the EU last year, which required Palestinian institutions to ensure that no beneficiaries of their projects or programmes are affiliated with groups listed as terrorist organisations by the bloc.

When the new criterion was introduced, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisations (PNGO) network rejected the terms in a letter signed by 134 Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem two months ago. Although the EU defend its criterion, insisting that the new restrictions would not affect individuals and was aimed at political entities, the NGOs expressed concerns over the document’s ambiguity.

Palestinian institutions said that the new demands were not included in previous agreements with the EU, and that approving them would mean that they would be required to apply a political test on who was entitled to receive donor funds.

“The danger in agreeing to these terms lies in excluding the legitimate struggle of the Palestine people from its international legal framework and including it in the circle of terrorism,” said Muhsien Abu Ramadan, a leading Palestinian analyst, writer and former president of the PNGO network in the Gaza Strip.

Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, dismissed the new criterion: “Palestinian civil society institutions will not distinguish between one citizen and another because of their political opinions, race, religion or anything else.”

While the EU’s funding covers around 70 per cent of the projects in the Palestinian territories, it had not directly involved itself in any controversy over who receives the money. That task was left to accredited Palestinian NGOs.

This change in EU policy is believed to be a consequence of Israeli pressure, according to Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Tariq Dana. “The latest EU move has been a result of constant Israeli pressure on the EU to refrain from funding many Palestinian organisations, especially those engaged in revealing and reporting on Israeli colonial practices, human rights violations and crimes,” explained Dana.

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The City of Jerusalem and the Concept of Trusteeship in Islamic History

يندرج الجهد الذي بذلته وتبذله حكومات إسرائيل وبعض الحركات الصهيونية للاستحواذ على مدينة القدس في منطق الاستملاك (ownership)، وهو منطق يتناقض مع مبدأ الوصاية الذي اتّبعه العلماء والسلاطين المسلمون في تعاملهم مع المدينة خلال أكثر من 1200 عام.

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Date: 
February 4, 2020
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News Language: 
Arabic

A hierarchy of vulnerability

by Alice Rothchild

This piece, by JWE Board Member Alice Rothchild, is crossposted from Mondoweiss.

I was recently passing through customs where I popped my US passport face down on a little machine which then opened a gate that led to two yellow footprints in the next compartment. I placed my feet on the footprints, faced the camera, tried to look like my friendly passport photo, and bam, the next gate opened and I was in. It occurred to me that this is both reassuring and creepy. The fact that I have “papers” means that I officially exist, that I am recognized on this planet as a human with some value and protections. Someone in officialdom (not to mention my husband and daughters) will notice if I disappear.

The fact that surveillance systems (at least in the First World), all recognize my passport and my face, can check the criminal history/no fly/terrorist watch list in two seconds flat, and come back “All good,” is actually frightening.  As you are probably increasingly aware, between our i-phones, social media, public surveillance cameras, credit card history, and every airport we breeze through or wait for hours, our existence, buying habits, and locations are being closely watched and recorded.

International travel easily provokes some serious thinking about borders and freedom of movement. For me it was an ample opportunity to observe and ponder my first world privileges and the insanities and cruelties that pass for borders and the institutions that create and guard them. I am also old enough to wonder, how did we lose the privacy that we used to take for granted? Or maybe didn’t even know we had, until it was lost.

This problem, however, is ironically a privilege that is only available for people with papers and appropriate documentation. I face the exigencies of travel armed with old fashioned paper books, and the most relevant book I read on the issue of borders was Francisco Cantu’s The Line Becomes a RiverDispatches from the Border. Cantu wrote eloquently of his experiences as a US border patrol agent, his realization that there are no “good” border guards (or soldiers at checkpoints for that matter), when the institutions themselves are corrupted. Borders are imposed political boundaries that reflect states of war, conquest, and colonialism. Migrants and asylum seekers (to clarify: mothers, fathers, children, farmers, teachers, churchgoing Christians, unemployed hungry teenagers, etc.), attempting to cross said borders without “papers” are dehumanized by the militarization of the security institutions, reduced merely to numbers, “wetbacks,” often just skeletons lost in the desert. Even death is no longer counted when the human being lying in the sand or the holding cell has no documentation besides the fact of their existence.

This led me to reflect more seriously on the “borders” with which I have the most familiarity, in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Over the past twenty years, I have seen many of those “borders” morph into military installations with the potential for intensive scrutiny and control. This is further complicated by the fact that the State of Israel does not have internationally-accepted and agreed upon borders and even the language describing the land and its legal status is disputed.

The Mediterranean Sea is an obvious boundary that delineates the western portion of the country. Landing in Ben Gurion Airport south of Tel Aviv is an easy entry point for folks the state deems to be acceptable, from happy young adults on Birthright trips to respectable Israel-loving tourists to Christians in search of Jesus and a spiritual moment walking the sacred stones of Jerusalem. But (in my personal experience) there is also a high degree of surveillance that zeros in on travelers who are Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians who have passports from other countries, human rights activists, and supporters of the boycott, divestment, and sanction movement (BDS).

There is also the question of the passport history, i.e., it must be “clean.” The last time I visited Lebanon I had to have a separate unused passport so that neither Lebanon nor Israel knew where I had been. The kinds of folks that are pulled aside are often subjected to hours of hostile questioning, repeated combing through and x-raying of the luggage, demeaning body searches (including strip searches), and if all does not go well, some time in detention while deportation and a ticket home is arranged.

When it comes to papers, in East Jerusalem, which is the “eternally united capital of Israel” according to the Israeli government and “occupied territory” according to international law, the Palestinian people living there carry an East Jerusalem residency card. This can be easily rescinded by the authorities in response to a long and constantly changing list of accusations that include lack of loyalty to the State of Israel, or living, studying, or working abroad for some unclear amount of time. East Jerusalemites are also subjected to increasing amounts of mass surveillance, facial recognition, and monitoring of social media. That is also true of Palestinian citizens of Israel. (See the 2018 conviction of Dareen Tatour, an Israeli citizen living near Nazareth, for a poem and social media post.)

Entering Gaza or the West Bank (Judea and Samaria per the Israeli government) is even more byzantine. It is almost impossible to obtain permission from COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) to cross the Erez checkpoint (a massive military installation) and walk the ¾ mile caged corridor across the no man’s land that is the northern perimeter of Gaza. This is true whether you are trying to get in like me (bringing medical aid and expertise, humanitarian assistance, or journalistic investigations) or out (seeking work, healthcare, university studies, or a visit to your dying grandmother in Hebron).

Access to the West Bank largely depends on who you are and where you are going. The West Bank is divided into three areas with different rules.  Jewish Israeli settlers (mostly living in Area C)  easily enter on bypass roads, major highways that connect Jewish settlements with each other and with the state within the 1948 armistice line. Israeli citizens are forbidden to enter Area A (Palestinian cities), although human rights activist types often do. Foreign visitors are less restricted but it is best not to mention your intention to visit the region when trying to get into Israel proper, often referred to as ‘48.

For Palestinians living in the West Bank, life is more complicated, restricted by permitting requirements that curtail movement within the occupied territories (and a host of other things like digging a well, building a home, harvesting olives on family land, etc.). There are also restrictions on their ability to leave, which they are required to do via Jordan. The occupied territories is also constrained by the massive Israeli surveillance industry where the latest in internet and social media trawling, language analysis, avatar creation, etc, is tested and used. Biometric data is clearly the new frontier and Israeli and global corporations are eager to do business “in the field.” There is reportedly a network of over 1700 cameras across the occupied territories, perhaps using the same kinds of technology that let me enter foreign countries with a nod and a smile.

As Trump announces new travel bans and further restricts Palestinians in the West Bank with his bogus “plan of the century,” in the world of citizenship, visas, and permits clearly there is a hierarchy of vulnerability, who gets into which fortress, who is left banging on the doors, who is trapped in an increasingly impoverished ghetto.  Having papers is both an opportunity and a marker in our increasingly surveilled world. At the same time, we do know that migration (considered “legal” and/or “illegal”) is part of our human history and is only going to increase with rising temperatures, droughts, water and food shortages, and economic catastrophes. While data shows that refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers largely contribute to and enrich the societies they join, in our Trumpian universe their value and humanity is demeaned and demonized.

Which brings me back to Francisco Cantu. He wrote,

“Possessing freedom of movement frees us from the burden of a migrant identity, frees us from the fear that our lives might become defined by undocumented-ness and pervaded by the constant threat of arrest, deportation, and anonymity.”

On the other hand, having freedom of movement is a privilege that is fraught with modern dangers in the context of ever expanding state and global surveillance. Think about this the next time you wave your passport at some anonymous globally interconnected little box or stand with protesters opposing Trump’s wall, monitored by cameras that have become a “normal” part of our environment. As we examine all these systems of control, we must remember that our first loyalties must be to human life and not to the inhuman institutions that currently dominate the world in which we live.

Alice Rothchild is a physician, author, and filmmaker who has focused her interest in human rights and social justice on the Israel/Palestine conflict since 1997. She practiced ob-gyn for almost 40 years. Until her retirement she served as Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School. She writes and lectures widely, is the author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion, and Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine. She directed a documentary film, Voices Across the Divide and is active in Jewish Voice for Peace. Follow her at @alicerothchild

The post A hierarchy of vulnerability appeared first on Just World Educational.

What we Palestinians think does not matter – all that matters is Israel

Palestinian political analyst Diana Buttu lays out what Trump’s apartheid plan aims to accomplish: “to confine as many Palestinians as possible on as little land as possible, while legalising Israel’s illegal settlements and depriving Palestinians their guaranteed right to return to their homeland.”

Bay Area’s Rick Sterling and Chuck Scurich join JWE board

Just World Educational is delighted to announce that two fine peace-and-justice activists from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chuck Scurich and Rick Sterling, have joined our board. They bring to the board not only a new footing in the Bay Area but also two strong, decades-long records of activism in progressive, Middle East-related, and antiwar causes and considerable skills in media and other forms of public engagement. (Also, a bit of needed gender balance.)

Rick Sterling (shown at right, above) grew up in Vancouver, Canada but has lived for many years in the Bay Area. For over two decades he worked in the aerospace industry, and he has also done a considerable amount of research and writing on international issues. His articles on the Middle East, Latin America and US-Russia relations have been published at Global Research, Consortium News, TruePublica, and elsewhere.

He is currently board chair of the Mount Diablo Peace & Justice Center, where he also heads the Task Force on the Americas. He is a member of Rossmoor Voices for Justice in Palestine and sits on the steering committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement.

Chuck Scurich (shown at left, above) grew up in the Bay Area. He gained his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley in 1967 and completed a Peace Corps tour in Honduras in 1969. He then worked at his construction company, Steelform Contracting, until he retired in 2009.

Chuck has been involved in progressive activism since his student days, fighting for Free Speech and protesting against war. He is a longtime supporter of independent media with a special interest in the Middle East. He has been a supporter of the Berkeley-based radio station KPFA for over 50 years and is currently also part of the Spanish team at Democracy Now! In 2006, he visited Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and in 2009 visited those locations along with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

With our Board’s annual meeting coming up next month, we are delighted that Rick and Chuck will be adding their voices, passion, and weighty experience to our deliberations and planning.

The post Bay Area’s Rick Sterling and Chuck Scurich join JWE board appeared first on Just World Educational.

Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance: The EU’s Additional Condition on Aid to Palestine

The EU recently notified the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) network of an additional condition to the annex attached to the EU’s funding contracts, namely that civil society organizations are obligated not to deal with individuals or groups designated as “terrorist” by the EU. This includes staff, contractors, beneficiaries, and recipients of aid.  The move not only further restricts the freedom of Palestinian civil society, but also criminalizes Palestinian resistance even in its most peaceful forms. 1   

What motivated the addition, what effects will it have on Palestinian civil society, and what can Palestinians do about it? Al-Shabaka spoke with policy analyst Tariq Dana, an assistant professor at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, about these questions as well as issues of international aid to Palestine more broadly. 

The EU claimed that the new clause isn’t new, as it is consistent with EU policy since 2001 to avoid financing groups classified as “terrorist organizations.” Is this the case? 

It is important to distinguish between EU policy and the policies of different member states that don’t necessarily reflect EU consensus toward a particular issue.  In the early 2000s, when USAID started to impose the “anti-terrorism” clause vis-à-vis Palestinian NGOs, a few European states followed the American path and enforced tougher requirements on Palestinian civil society organizations. However, the EU was not directly involved in this controversy at the time, and preferred to emphasize professionalism, transparency, and effectiveness of the NGOs’ applications as the main criteria to receive funds and implement projects, rather than focusing on the political identity of the organizations and their staff. The timing of the recent EU move of financial conditionality and the political attack on Palestinian civil society is largely suspicious because it comes at a very difficult time for the Palestinians.  

What has brought about the addition to the policy, then? 

The addition must be situated in the context of ongoing Israeli colonization and the ability of its colonial enterprise to invent new mechanisms of control. The latest EU move has been a result of constant Israeli pressure on the EU to refrain from funding many Palestinian organizations, especially those engaged in revealing and reporting on Israeli colonial practices, human rights violations, and crimes. 

Israel has in fact adopted a wide range of aggressive measures to restrict civil society space in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including arbitrary detentions and arrests of civil society activists, “security” justifications to hinder the work of local organizations, waging smear campaigns to delegitimize these organizations’ work, and pressuring international organizations and donors to defund Palestinian NGOs. This is particularly evident with regard to legal organizations that use international law to report human rights violations such as Al-Haq and Addameer, and development organizations that implement projects in Area C to support the steadfastness of local communities suffering from the Israeli military and settlers such as the Bisan Center for Research and Development, whose director, Ubai Aboudi, was recently arrested by Israel and is being held without charge in administrative detention. 


The EU move must be situated in the context of ongoing Israeli colonization and the ability of its colonial enterprise to invent new mechanisms of control
Click To Tweet


Some influential right-wing organizations in Israel, such as NGO Monitor, which attacks Palestinian nonprofits and their international partners with false claims of, for instance, “terrorism” and “anti-Semitism” and which has the support of the Israeli government, have also been lobbying and mobilizing against funding even the most moderate currents within Palestinian civil society. Problematically, the EU definition of “terrorism” echoes the Israeli perspective and therefore largely serves these interests to suppress Palestinian critical voices. 

Moreover, while the EU move reflects another victory for Israeli propaganda, it is also yet another PA loss in its never-ending rounds of defeat. The PA has for years excluded resistance and suppressed different forms of popular struggle while at the same time claiming to embrace “diplomatic struggle” to pressure Israel to abide with international law. What we have actually been witnessing is a shameful number of repeated defeats and unwillingness to pursue effective policy and diplomacy. Thus, there is no doubt that the addition to the EU policy intensifying the constraints on funding Palestinian civil society has partly been a result of the PA’s meaningless politics. 

How have the PA and Palestinian civil society responded to the EU move? 

So far, Palestinian civil society has mobilized its constituents and networks to reject this move. The Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding issued a statement harshly criticizing the EU policy, asserting its outright rejection of politically conditional funding. The statement proclaims the organizations’ commitment to this position to the extent that they will remain steadfast even if it “leads to the collapse of our organizations and the inability to perform our vital work.” For its part, the PA has only verbally denounced the move and has not presented any plan to translate its position into a concrete step to stop the EU. 

How will the EU policy affect Palestinians and Palestinian civil society? 

The EU move comes at a very difficult time for the Palestinians: Israel is preparing to annex most of Area C and the Jordan Valley; the Palestinians are weak, fragmented, and divided; the PA has become a de facto enforcer of Israeli security; and the Palestinian cause has in recent years become marginalized and no longer a regional priority. The EU restrictions add to these factors by criminalizing many Palestinian organizations that embark on moderate forms of resistance through international law and advocacy and supporting the survival of communities. These restrictions will therefore not only contribute to further marginalization of the Palestinian cause but will also facilitate the institutionalization of Israeli colonial expansion because many organizations will not be able to sustain their operations in monitoring and reporting Israeli crimes if they fail to find alternatives to the EU funds.  


Although Palestinian civil society should be an arena of resistance to and mobilization against fragmentation, it has become part of the fragmentation
Click To Tweet


More specifically, while the EU list of targets includes many Palestinian resistance movements, various individuals and families will be affected by the addition to the policy. For example, people who were arrested at some point in their past, including those held in internationally-denounced administrative detention and currently engaged in civil society activism, can be classified as “terrorists” and therefore disqualified from receiving funding. In addition, organizations and groups that support the BDS movement and its activities are typically seen as a threat to Israeli interests and campaigns to delegitimize their activism, not only in Palestine but also in several EU states, will likely increase.    

It is also important to note the contradiction between EU rhetoric and policies. For instance, the EU proclaims it will not recognize Israeli annexation of Area C or the Jordan Valley, but by cutting aid it hinders the work of Palestinian NGOs that support communities threatened by Israeli dispossession in these areas. In effect, the EU will be complicit in the dispossession process, even if it claims it doesn’t recognize any potential annexation.    

What is the state of Palestinian civil society at this crucial moment? 

Activists and scholars have repeatedly warned of continuing Palestinian NGOs’ dependency on Western conditional aid to fund local organizations and projects. While acknowledging efforts by grassroots initiatives to reorganize along local resources and voluntary action to initiate and sustain some vital projects, these initiatives have not developed into a collective and strategic trend. The largest and most influential segment of civil society continues to depend on international aid, which is largely politically and ideologically conditional and therefore imposes various limitations on the work of civil society actors. 

The dominance of these NGOs has created a stagnant society, depoliticized social constituents, produced a new detached elite, and wasted millions in meaningless projects. For example, the role of civil society in the Fatah-Hamas divide was clearly absent, and the organizations failed to launch strategic initiatives to counter the effects of the divisions. The result is that Palestinian civil society is much more fragmented than a decade ago, whereby organizations active in the West Bank have different priorities and agendas than their counterparts in the Gaza Strip. Thus, although civil society should be an arena of resistance to and mobilization against fragmentation, it has become part of the fragmentation.

What should be done to strengthen Palestinian civil society and counter fragmentation? 

The EU restrictions might be harmful to many local organizations, but this should be seen as an opportunity to collectively strategize beyond conventional Western official aid and its constraints. The pressure created by the systematic cuts to aid funds by international donors will likely and desirably push many organizations to search for alternative resources from within Palestinian society in Palestine and in the diaspora, and to partner with authentic civil society movements and solidarity groups worldwide that would offer international platforms for advocacy activism and possibly financial resources to help rebuild Palestinian civil society along new lines. 


The new EU conditions should be seen as an opportunity to collectively strategize beyond conventional Western official aid and its constraints
Click To Tweet


It is vital for civil society organizations to give primacy to the types of civil society action that emphasize people-centered, participatory, and democratic structures and grassroots social organization. There should be organized efforts for internal dialogue centered on an understanding of civil society that prioritizes the national liberation agenda, popular mobilization, engagement, resistance, and anti-colonial politics and knowledge. This must be accompanied by envisioning alternatives to the current aid system by re-inventing new solidarity-oriented sources to fund civil society activities. This could include self-finance schemes that would involve more Palestinians in the diaspora, international solidarity groups, and social justice movements that would help reduce reliance on conditional funding.

Notes:

  1. To read this piece in French or Italian, please click here or here. Al-Shabaka is grateful for the efforts by human rights advocates to translate its pieces, but is not responsible for any change in meaning.

The post Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance: The EU’s Additional Condition on Aid to Palestine appeared first on Al-Shabaka.

Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance: The EU’s New Conditions on Aid to Palestine

The EU recently notified the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) network of new conditions on its aid, namely that Palestinian civil society organizations are obligated not to deal with individuals or groups designated as “terrorist” by the EU. This includes staff, contractors, beneficiaries, and recipients of aid.  The move not only further restricts the freedom of Palestinian civil society, but also criminalizes Palestinian resistance even in its most peaceful forms.   

What motivated the change, what effects will it have on Palestinian civil society, and what can Palestinians do about it? Al-Shabaka spoke with policy analyst Tariq Dana, an assistant professor at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, about these questions as well as issues of international aid to Palestine more broadly. 

The EU claimed that the new clause isn’t new, as it is consistent with EU policy since 2001 to avoid financing groups classified as “terrorist organizations.” Is this the case? 

It is important to distinguish between EU policy and the policies of different member states that don’t necessarily reflect EU consensus toward a particular issue.  In the early 2000s, when USAID started to impose the “anti-terrorism” clause vis-à-vis Palestinian NGOs, a few European states followed the American path and enforced tougher requirements on Palestinian civil society organizations. However, the EU was not directly involved in this controversy at the time, and preferred to emphasize professionalism, transparency, and effectiveness of the NGOs’ applications as the main criteria to receive funds and implement projects, rather than focusing on the political identity of the organizations and their staff. The timing of the recent EU move of financial conditionality and the political attack on Palestinian civil society is largely suspicious because it comes at a very difficult time for the Palestinians.  

What has brought about this change, then? 

The change must be situated in the context of ongoing Israeli colonization and the ability of its colonial enterprise to invent new mechanisms of control. The latest EU move has been a result of constant Israeli pressure on the EU to refrain from funding many Palestinian organizations, especially those engaged in revealing and reporting on Israeli colonial practices, human rights violations, and crimes. 

Israel has in fact adopted a wide range of aggressive measures to restrict civil society space in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including arbitrary detentions and arrests of civil society activists, “security” justifications to hinder the work of local organizations, waging smear campaigns to delegitimize these organizations’ work, and pressuring international organizations and donors to defund Palestinian NGOs. This is particularly evident with regard to legal organizations that use international law to report human rights violations such as Al-Haq and Addameer, and development organizations that implement projects in Area C to support the steadfastness of local communities suffering from the Israeli military and settlers such as the Bisan Center for Research and Development, whose director, Ubai Aboudi, was recently arrested by Israel and is being held without charge in administrative detention. 


The EU move must be situated in the context of ongoing Israeli colonization and the ability of its colonial enterprise to invent new mechanisms of control
Click To Tweet


Some influential right-wing organizations in Israel, such as NGO Monitor, which attacks Palestinian nonprofits and their international partners with false claims of, for instance, “terrorism” and “anti-Semitism” and which has the support of the Israeli government, have also been lobbying and mobilizing against funding even the most moderate currents within Palestinian civil society. Problematically, the EU definition of “terrorism” echoes the Israeli perspective and therefore largely serves these interests to suppress Palestinian critical voices. 

Moreover, while the EU move reflects another victory for Israeli propaganda, it is also yet another PA loss in its never-ending rounds of defeat. The PA has for years excluded resistance and suppressed different forms of popular struggle while at the same time claiming to embrace “diplomatic struggle” to pressure Israel to abide with international law. What we have actually been witnessing is a shameful number of repeated defeats and unwillingness to pursue effective policy and diplomacy. Thus, there is no doubt that the EU policy change intensifying the constraints on funding Palestinian civil society has partly been a result of the PA’s meaningless politics. 

How have the PA and Palestinian civil society responded to the EU move? 

So far, Palestinian civil society has mobilized its constituents and networks to reject this move. The Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding issued a statement harshly criticizing the EU policy, asserting its outright rejection of politically conditional funding. The statement proclaims the organizations’ commitment to this position to the extent that they will remain steadfast even if it “leads to the collapse of our organizations and the inability to perform our vital work.” For its part, the PA has only verbally denounced the move and has not presented any plan to translate its position into a concrete step to stop the EU. 

How will the EU policy affect Palestinians and Palestinian civil society? 

The EU move comes at a very difficult time for the Palestinians: Israel is preparing to annex most of Area C and the Jordan Valley; the Palestinians are weak, fragmented, and divided; the PA has become a de facto enforcer of Israeli security; and the Palestinian cause has in recent years become marginalized and no longer a regional priority. The EU restrictions add to these factors by criminalizing many Palestinian organizations that embark on moderate forms of resistance through international law and advocacy and supporting the survival of communities. These restrictions will therefore not only contribute to further marginalization of the Palestinian cause but will also facilitate the institutionalization of Israeli colonial expansion because many organizations will not be able to sustain their operations in monitoring and reporting Israeli crimes if they fail to find alternatives to the EU funds.  


Although Palestinian civil society should be an arena of resistance to and mobilization against fragmentation, it has become part of the fragmentation
Click To Tweet


More specifically, while the EU list of targets includes many Palestinian resistance movements, various individuals and families will be affected by the new policy change. For example, people who were arrested at some point in their past, including those held in internationally-denounced administrative detention and currently engaged in civil society activism, can be classified as “terrorists” and therefore disqualified from receiving funding. In addition, organizations and groups that support the BDS movement and its activities are typically seen as a threat to Israeli interests and campaigns to delegitimize their activism, not only in Palestine but also in several EU states, will likely increase.    

It is also important to note the contradiction between EU rhetoric and policies. For instance, the EU proclaims it will not recognize Israeli annexation of Area C or the Jordan Valley, but by cutting aid it hinders the work of Palestinian NGOs that support communities threatened by Israeli dispossession in these areas. In effect, the EU will be complicit in the dispossession process, even if it claims it doesn’t recognize any potential annexation.    

What is the state of Palestinian civil society at this crucial moment? 

Activists and scholars have repeatedly warned of continuing Palestinian NGOs’ dependency on Western conditional aid to fund local organizations and projects. While acknowledging efforts by grassroots initiatives to reorganize along local resources and voluntary action to initiate and sustain some vital projects, these initiatives have not developed into a collective and strategic trend. The largest and most influential segment of civil society continues to depend on international aid, which is largely politically and ideologically conditional and therefore imposes various limitations on the work of civil society actors. 

The dominance of these NGOs has created a stagnant society, depoliticized social constituents, produced a new detached elite, and wasted millions in meaningless projects. For example, the role of civil society in the Fatah-Hamas divide was clearly absent, and the organizations failed to launch strategic initiatives to counter the effects of the divisions. The result is that Palestinian civil society is much more fragmented than a decade ago, whereby organizations active in the West Bank have different priorities and agendas than their counterparts in the Gaza Strip. Thus, although civil society should be an arena of resistance to and mobilization against fragmentation, it has become part of the fragmentation.

What should be done to strengthen Palestinian civil society and counter fragmentation? 

The EU restrictions might be harmful to many local organizations, but this should be seen as an opportunity to collectively strategize beyond conventional Western official aid and its constraints. The pressure created by the systematic cuts to aid funds by international donors will likely and desirably push many organizations to search for alternative resources from within Palestinian society in Palestine and in the diaspora, and to partner with authentic civil society movements and solidarity groups worldwide that would offer international platforms for advocacy activism and possibly financial resources to help rebuild Palestinian civil society along new lines. 


The new EU conditions should be seen as an opportunity to collectively strategize beyond conventional Western official aid and its constraints
Click To Tweet


It is vital for civil society organizations to give primacy to the types of civil society action that emphasize people-centered, participatory, and democratic structures and grassroots social organization. There should be organized efforts for internal dialogue centered on an understanding of civil society that prioritizes the national liberation agenda, popular mobilization, engagement, resistance, and anti-colonial politics and knowledge. This must be accompanied by envisioning alternatives to the current aid system by re-inventing new solidarity-oriented sources to fund civil society activities. This could include self-finance schemes that would involve more Palestinians in the diaspora, international solidarity groups, and social justice movements that would help reduce reliance on conditional funding.

The post Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance: The EU’s New Conditions on Aid to Palestine appeared first on Al-Shabaka.