EU financial aid and the fragmentation of Palestinian society

European Union (EU) funding for Palestinian human rights organisations is not without its caveats. In line with its purported state-building initiatives, the EU has long imposed restrictions upon Palestinian organisations and their endeavours, in return for financial aid, thus stifling an important part of grassroots mobilisation in terms of preserving Palestinian resistance and culture.

As EU constraints upon Palestinian organisations escalated to the point of interfering with Palestinian politics, the newly-launched Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding has called upon Palestinian and international organisations to take a clear stance against the EU’s purported ‘anti-terrorism clauses’.

In an open letter, the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights described how, in order to access EU funding, Palestinian organisations are expected to act as informants against people involved in resistance. The EU requirement is yet another process facilitating the fragmentation of Palestinian society, at a time when the US is swiftly isolating Palestine, in terms of diplomacy and history.

BADIL’s letter states that due to Israeli campaigns against EU funding for Palestinian organisations: “Funding constraints from various donors have escalated, which include conditions that we have resisted such as preventing engagement in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), the defence and promotion of the right of return, and programs and projects in areas such as the Gaza Strip or Palestine 1948 (Israel).”

Writing to EU foreign minister, Josep Borrell, Israel’s security minister, Gilad Erdan, urged a refusal of the Palestinian organisations’ demands, reiterating the EU insistence that the funds “go only to organisations with no such ties to terrorist groups,” with specific reference to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

However, the PFLP is not the only political entity targeted under the recent stipulations. Political organisations involved in resistance, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Brigades, are also mentioned. BADIL notes: “This escalation cannot be separated from all the policies and approaches aimed at obliterating Palestinian national rights.”

With such restrictions when it comes to the important link between Palestinian civil society and Palestinian resistance, the EU knows it is throwing a further hurdle when it comes to the recognition of the Palestinians’ legitimate struggle. The preconditions regarding financial aid to Palestinian organisations are widening the gap between the diplomatically-acceptable political institutions in Palestine, and the Palestinian factions whose commitment to furthering the struggle for liberation earned them the terror label. However, as BADIL stated in its letter, the Palestinian factions’ status is “not determined by a European document.” On the other hand, the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, which violates every aspect of human rights and political legitimacy, has been spared the terror label due to the international complicity in the process.

The EU might portray itself as an entity that promotes Palestinian rights, yet its role is more concerned with finding Palestinian entities willing to promote its diplomacy to the Palestinian people – to their detriment, of course. In light of all the restrictions Palestinians are facing, including further war crimes in the form of settlement expansion, the least the EU can do is to refrain from emulating US policies when it comes to Palestine, and their prospects for liberation and independence.