Netherlands stops funding UAWC following Proximities' investigation

In a letter to the Dutch parliament released today, the Dutch government announced that it has decided to stop funding the Palestinian non-governmental organization UAWC. In addition, the Dutch government will not transfer to UAWC the last part of its financial contribution. The report – the result of seven months of investigation by Proximities – was not published by the Dutch government but shared with the House of Representatives in confidence.

The cabinet decision was the result of the investigation Proximities conducted for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reviewing possible links in the period 2007-2020 between UAWC and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which the EU considers a terrorist organization. This investigation was commissioned following the arrest of two UAWC employees on suspicion of involvement in the bombing attack in the West Bank in August 2019, during which the 17-year-old Israeli Rina Schnerb was killed. This attack is attributed to the PFLP.

In the letter to the House of Representatives, the Dutch government lauds Proximities’ investigation: “The government welcomes Proximities’ report, and considers that it did thorough, painstaking research”. Compliments are also due for the clarity of Proximities’ report: “The investigators have clearly explained how the review was conducted, how they have dealt with sources and what conclusions they have drawn.”

The government does have doubts about Proximities’ decision to consider various civil society organizations as part of the PFLP, and it does not consider that the investigation “has made sufficiently clear to what extent these organisations are actually under the PFLP’s direction or control.” According to the government, publication of the report could cause disproportionate harm to these organisations, which is why the government sees no possibility of making Proximities’ report public.

In the letter to the House of Representatives, the government did publish several of Proximities’ findings. These include:

  • The external review shows that no evidence has been found of financial flows between UAWC and the PFLP.
  • Nor has any proof been found of organisational unity between UAWC and the PFLP or of the PFLP’s providing direction to UAWC.
  • Proximities does however state that there are individual links between UAWC and the PFLP, involving 34 persons during the period from 2007 to 2020.
  • According to the report, 28 of these 34 persons were members of UAWC board, and for some period 12 of the 28 simultaneously had both leading positions in UAWC and positions in the PFLP.
  • Of these 12 people, 5 were active in an organisation that was allegedly part of the PFLP’s civil society arm, while the other 7 were active in the PFLP’s political arm.
  • Proximities states that it found no evidence suggesting UAWC staff or board members used their position in UAWC to organise or support terrorist activities.
  • Proximities also states that UAWC is bound to the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of political expression, and is not allowed to ask staff or board members about their political activities. On this basis, Proximities states that UAWC could not be expected to be aware of individuals’ links with the PFLP.
  • The report also states that there are indications of organisational ties between the UAWC and the PFLP as well.
  • Proximities bases this conclusion on 18 events that took place in the period between 2007 and 2020: visits or contacts between representatives of the two organisations, expressions of solidarity, the use of each other’s buildings, and joint meetings focusing mainly on matters and/or training courses related to agriculture.
  • Most of these were joint activities of the UAWC and other civil society organisations that Proximities considers part of the PFLP’s civil society arm.
  • Of the 18 events, 14 took place before 2013.
  • Except for three events in 2011-12 in the West Bank, all of these were joint meetings with the UAWC’s Gaza branch.
  • No ties with the PFLP’s militant arm were found to exist.
  • Proximities considers it reasonable to expect the UAWC to be aware of these organisational ties with the PFLP.

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  • The English translation of the government letter can be found here.
  • The original version of the government letter can be found here. (Dutch)
  • The Terms of References that form the basis of Proximities’ investigation can be found here. (Dutch)