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funding freeze

In growing European trend, Germany freezes UNRWA Gaza aid 

The U.N. agency has distributed materials to Palestinian students fomenting antisemitism

Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, Thomas White (not seen) visits a UNRWA school on the second day of 2023-2024 education season in Gaza City, Gaza on August 27, 2023.

Germany moved to freeze its funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ Gaza operations indefinitely, marking a trend in Europe away from aid to the Palestinians.

The German Development Ministry announced last week that Gaza would be excluded from its continued contributions to UNRWA, “due to the current situation.”

Berlin contributed close to $1 billion in the last five years, making it UNRWA’s largest donor. The U.N. agency, which also considers descendants born after the 1948 war to still be refugees, has distributed materials to students encouraging antisemitism and inciting violence against Jews and Israelis and hired teachers who do the same.

IMPACT-se, an Israeli organization analyzing educational materials in the Middle East, published two reports following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel finding that over 100 Hamas terrorists who murdered Israelis are graduates of UNRWA schools, and that at least 14 teachers and staff members of UNRWA schools celebrated the massacre on social media, including one post describing the assault as “an unforgettable glorious morning.” Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank were also found to engage in glorification of the Oct. 7 terrorists.

Criticism of UNRWA has come from both the German left and right. Social Democratic Party MP Falko Drossman called for “a new initiative” and said that “there cannot be a status quo ante with UNRWA,” while Christian Democrat Union human rights policy spokesman Michael Brand said that UNRWA “failed” in that it provided “too little help” and allowed for “too much terror.” 

Max Lucks of the Greens, the party of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said that “UNRWA is not making a contribution to a peaceful solution” and allows Jordan and Lebanon to avoid finding solutions for Palestinians living in their countries.

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff called Germany “a key player in ending Palestinian hate education.”

Sheff said his organization “warned for years that the result of Palestinian hate education, funded by the international community, will be disastrous. Sadly, this was the case. Now, all decent people need to make sure the hate teaching ends.”

Meanwhile, Brussels has been revisiting its Palestinian aid funding following the Oct. 7 massacre. 

Last week, the EU concluded its review of Palestinian development aid, announced in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. Brussels announced that it would withhold €39 million from 51 Palestinian NGOs until the groups provide more thorough documentation of “procedures and tools used to enforce the contractual obligations stemming from the restrictive measures and anti-incitement clauses.” Two organizations were denied €8 million grants for violating the EU’s clause against incitement to hatred and violence, The Irish Times reported.

In 2020 and 2021, after Brussels began requiring that Palestinian organizations sign an agreement that they will ensure that no beneficiaries of the funding are connected to EU-recognized terrorist organizations, NGOs dropped 13 projects amounting to €14.3 million in aid, the report stated.

Switzerland also canceled contracts with three Palestinian NGOs meant to receive a combined €600,000 over violations of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Code of Conduct.

Following the Oct. 7 attack, Switzerland suspended funding to 11 NGOs to “carry out an in-depth analysis of the compliance of these organizations’ communications with the FDFA’s Code of Conduct and anti-discrimination clause.”

The Swiss Federal Council also took steps towards outlawing Hamas last week.

NGO Monitor, which studies the funding of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organizations, called the EU and Swiss decisions “necessary and welcome steps.” 

“The EU’s introduction of a new anti-incitement requirement will hopefully lead toward better screening of Palestinian NGOs,” the organization stated. “We hope the language of this new condition is specific enough to address ongoing Palestinian NGO incitement, since similar existing policies are largely inapplicable in the Palestinian context.” 

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