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April 27, 2006:

NGOs Call for Continued International Funding of PA

A number of NGOs have recently criticized the decisions made by the U.S. Canada and the EU to suspend aid payments to the Palestinian Authority after the Hamas government took office on March 29. Despite Hamas' violent rejection of Israel's legitimacy and its failure to dismantle terror groups, Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), Oxfam, Medecins du Monde (MdM) Amnesty International (USA), Christian Aid, Save the Children UK, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), KAIROS and other NGOs have all advocated continued funding of the PA.

In its April 13 statement, MSF said that the suspension of aid and the promise to redirect these funds via the UN and international relief bodies was "unacceptable." MSF emphasized concerns "about the socio-economic future of this [Palestinian] population already sorely tested by years of conflict and occupation." MSF's statement did not acknowledge the security concerns of the Israeli population, and the dangers inherent in funding the Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU and other governments. MSF's statement notably fails to call for an end to Palestinian violence and the dismantling of terrorist organizations.

Oxfam International, in a letter to the members of the "Quartet" and international donors of April 7, stated that "aid should be provided...regardless of which party is in power" and that the PA "is a legitimate channel for humanitarian funds." Like MSF, Oxfam's letter also fails to acknowledge the cause of the decisions to halt funding, and refers only to the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. There is no mention of the responsibility of Hamas to end terror, or the link between violence and the Palestinian economic situation.

Medecins du Monde repeated these themes in a press release of March 13, calling IDF actions and the cessation of aid "collective punishment" - an inappropriate term used to demonize legitimate Israeli security responses to terror. MdM called on "all parties to the conflict to respect the life of humanitarian actors and civilian populations" - a highly generalized statement that fails to distinguish between terror and response.

Amnesty International USA claimed that the U.S. and EU were obligated to continue funding the Palestinians under the terms of the Geneva Conventions and "international human rights law" in a press statement of April 25. AI USA did not directly call on the parties involved to fund the PA but criticized the decision to cease funding due to its "very serious consequences impacting on the health, education and other economic and social rights of Palestinians." AI called on terrorist groups to end attacks on civilians but also described Israel's security measures as "unnecessary, disproportionate and arbitrary", despite a terror bombing in Tel Aviv on April 17 which killed nine people.

In a press release of May 9 Christian Aid, along with Oxfam GB and Save the Children UK called on the "Quartet" to "reconsider the freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian Authority." The statement highlighted the suspension of international aid and Israel's policy of withholding tax revenues as the reasons behind the "rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation", but did not mention Hamas' failure to renounce violence as a causative factor.

In a separate press statement on May 9, Christian Aid also denounced Israeli policy in the funding dilemma as "grossly immoral" and stated it "squarely accuses the Israel government of a policy of collective punishment."

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) also criticized the U.S. and EU decisions to halt funding in its press release of April 19. The release called these steps "very dangerous" and, along with its member organizations - the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al-Haq, called on the international community to "restore direct assistance" to the PA. FIDH's statement of support for direct funding to the PA is particularly troubling since it was released after the April 17 terrorist attack, which Hamas officials described as self defense and "legitimate Palestinian resistance."

The Canadian Church-based NGO, KAIROS, reprimanded the Canadian government for its "lack of balance" in Canada's response to the recent Israeli and Palestinian elections." In a letter sent to the Canadian Foreign Minister on April 10, KAIROS criticized both the Canadian government's decision to suspend contact with the Hamas government and its cessation of funding for the PA, while condemning what it called Israel's "violation of International Law."

In addition, three Norwegian NGOs, -- Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council, and Norwegian People's Aid, called on the Norwegian government to reconsider aid cuts to the Palestinian Authority in a statement of April 10. "The Norwegian position should be to support Hamas as the democratic elected government and not impose actions that lead to more instability." Unlike other NGOs, these NGOs stressed that "It is very important that Hamas acknowledges Israel's right to exist, renounces all use of terror and clearly signals will to dialogue and negotiations with the Israeli government [sic]." However, the statement does not consider the implications of the failure to take these steps, and condemns aid cuts as "economic sanctions." There is also no mention of the need for measures to prevent continued diversion of funds designated for Palestinian humanitarian assistance for use in promoting incitement and terror.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR ) issued a position paper on April 20 stating that it "strongly rejects the decision taken by members of the international community to halt their aid to the PNA" and called for a review of "their unjust decisions." PCHR stated that "the decisions to halt aid are devoid of logic" and further claimed that "the world has started to adopt the Israeli policy...[of] collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

Similarly, the Palestinian NGOs Al Mezan and Al-Haq sent a letter to six European countries expressing their "deep concern over the decision by the EU to suspend all direct funding to the Palestinian National Authority PNA" and called on them to "re-evaluate" its decision.

The Palestinian NGO Network (P N G O) issued a press release on April 15 which "strongly condemn[ed]" what it described as "arbitrary measures against the Palestinian Authority" and said that the suspension of direct aid is a "declaration of a boycott war against the Palestinian people without any legal form or justification."

These organizations all failed to identify Hamas' refusal to renounce violence and stop terrorist activities as the primary cause prompting the cessation of direct funding. If direct aid is provided to the Hamas-led government there would be a significant danger that international money would be diverted to violent activities.

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