Palestinian NGOs Object To Signing Anti-Terror Funding Pledge

July 7, 2008 - 8:14 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Recipients of U.S. financial aid must sign certificates pledging not to give material support or resources to any individual or group that is involved in terrorist activity, but on Monday, a Palestinian spokesman said Palestinian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) object to signing such a certificate.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) -- through which the U.S. funds development projects in scores of countries around the world -- enacted the "Certificate Regarding Terrorist Financing" on December 31, 2002, requiring all recipients to sign the certificate in order to receive financial aid.

It states that the organization certifies that "it has not and will not provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that it knows, or has reason to know, is an individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity" or anyone acting as an agent for such individuals or groups.

Dr. Allam Garrar said that while the Palestinian NGOs have declared their opposition to terrorism, they reject the idea of signing a certificate that is based on the U.S. definitions because it has been imposed upon them and compromises their integrity in Palestinian society.

Garrar, who is a member of the Steering Committee of the Palestinian NGO Network as well as a member of the Coordinating Committee of Civil Society organizations in the Palestinian territories, said eight workshops were held on Monday throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip gathering together NGOs, civil society organizations, labor unions and representatives of local government structures to discuss the certificate.

According to Garrar, the Palestinian groups see two major problems with the certificate: the fact that it lays out conditions for funding as well as the fact that it has been "imposed" on the groups rather than negotiated.

"The conditionality of funding affects the integrity and independence in their [the groups'] performance [as] part of communities and providing other social and health services for Palestinians," Garrar said in a telephone interview.

"[It was] imposed with a certain understanding without discussing with us the condition... without asking how we feel about it," Garrar said. "We reject this kind of relationship - donor-recipient relationship."

There is no question that the Palestinian groups condemn and exert every effort to stop "all terror activities from individual groups or states" - including what they consider to be Israel's "terrorism" against the Palestinians, Garrar said.

"[It is] not the idea that we are not accepting," he said. "The ideas behind the certificate [we] do denounce - but...without asking you [you are] not [an] equal partner."

NGOs and USAID recipients all over the world have been asked to sign the same identical statement if they want their funding to continue. According to the USAID mission in Tel Aviv, it is believed that the Palestinian NGOs are the only ones in the world who have objected to signing the short document.

Garrar said the request to sign is different here because it is a "sensitive issue" because a number of Palestinian organizations and groups are not entitled to US funding.

The antiterrorism certification was enacted based on President Bush's Executive Order on Terrorist Financing issue after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S., which became effective on September 24, 2001 as well as a U.S. Code regarding inadmissible aliens.

What the NGOs would accept, Garrar said, was the United Nations position on the concept of terrorism. (It was unclear to what concept Garrar referred since there has been no international consensus on a definition of terrorism.)

Another Palestinian source who asked not to be named said that the certificate violated Palestinian "national interests" because it sought to define as terrorism something that the Palestinians see as related to their resistance.

According to Garrar, some groups have already lost funding because of their refusal to sign the anti-terrorism pledge.

Earlier five Palestinian NGO umbrella groups signed a petition calling for a halt to what they called "conditional support."

A spokesperson at the USAID office in Tel Aviv said that while USAID endeavors to work as a partnership with NGOs, the anti-terrorism certificate is not negotiable at the mission level or at the donor-recipient level since it is part of U.S. law and a U.S. regulation. She said the office was surprised by the Palestinian groups' refusal to sign.

Groups are not required to sign the certificate retroactively, but once the their term of aid expires, they must sign it to receive further funding.