Watchdog Group Report Echoes Calls for More Oversight After Biden Administration Renews Aid to Palestinian Authority

US President Joe Biden participates in a bilateral videoconference with Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

With the resumption of US aid to the Palestinian Authority, a top watchdog group is urging the Biden administration to take a series of measures to prevent aid going to terrorist activities, the promotion of antisemitism, and other problematic entities.

The Biden administration approved $90 million in aid to the Palestinians earlier this month, including $15 million set for coronavirus relief, saying it was an attempt to regain “trust and goodwill” after the previous Trump administration ended almost all aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The State Department also restored $150 million in aid to the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, criticized the move, saying that Israel is “strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and antisemitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities.”

In a policy paper issued Monday, the Israel-based watchdog NGO Monitor argued that, with the resumption of aid, the US must undertake more aggressive and comprehensive oversight of aid recipients.

First, the administration must improve its vetting policies in regard to “terror-linked actors.” Current procedures, the paper says, are too weak, making the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) “vulnerable to engagement with grantees and/or partners linked to terrorist organizations, or with groups that support, glorify, or excuse violence.”

In response, the document recommends a more thorough investigation of any group or individual likely to receive US funds, including “media policy papers and posts, court documents, and other public records relating to potential partners.”

The watchdog also advocates new, detailed guidelines on what constitutes unacceptable incitement, including antisemitism, in order to deny groups or individuals who engage in such rhetoric from receiving funds. It recommends, for example, adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.

“In the past, USAID and the State Department had supported Palestinian NGOs that, unbeknownst to US officials, advanced violent rhetoric and glorified violence,” the policy paper notes.

In a March report, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) itself concluded that USAID did not fully abide by anti-terrorism requirements in providing aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

NGO Monitor’s third recommendation is to ensure that organizations that oppose peace with Israel and reject normalization are denied funding.

“USAID must ensure that NGOs that promote anti-normalization — the idea that Jewish Israelis must be boycotted, excluded, and discriminated against unless they too advocate for boycotting other Jewish Israelis and supporters of Israel – are not considered eligible for funding under this program,” the policy paper said.

Citing the Nita Lowey Partnership for Peace Act, which promotes “people-to-people initiatives,” the policy paper states that anti-normalization advocacy “is fundamentally incongruous with the goals outlined by this newly adopted legislation.”

The act, which was passed in Dec. 2020, seeks to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs, as well as projects to strengthen the Palestinian economy.

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Author: Benjamin Kerstein

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