Joe-Lize's comment: More than enough reason to pause the EU subsidies to Gaza

The Palestinian flag (L) is seen next to the European Union flag at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo AFP, Thierry Charlier

The European Commission concludes that its own subsidies are being put to good use by the Palestinian authorities. But everybody who closely examines the issue feels that it is time to pause the good will.

The financial aid that the European Union invests in Palestine is not used to support the terrorist organisation Hamas. That is the conclusion of the review of the European Commission on Tuesday. And therefore, the financial support from the EU, the largest donor to the aid for Palestinians, will thus continue.

According to President Ursula von der Leyen, the review “confirmed that the safeguards in place are effective”, a press release from the Commission reads. One of the safeguards is, for example, the inclusion of what is known as an “anti-incitement contractual clause in all new contracts”. Third parties are to monitor the adherence to that clause.

In short, the Commission concludes that the EU funding to the Palestinians is not used for terrorism against Israel or to help in projects that incite hatred and violence.

Monetary support

The European Union is the largest provider of monetary support to the Palestinians. The “European Joint Strategy” amounts to almost 1.2 billion euros between 2021 and 2024. This money goes to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestinians, among others.

At the same time, there are serious doubts about the review. Christian MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen is very critical of the outcome. As an example, he points to the textbooks in Palestinian schools that are funded by European money. “They are full of hatred against the Jews and Israel. School teachers rejoiced about the attacks on Israel on October 7. Then you cannot say with dry eyes that our EU subsidies are spent well.”

Luxury

And yes, the Palestinian authorities, both the PLO and Hamas, do not seem to be busy with the interests of their civilians. Instead, claims that the political entities are corrupt have a high credibility. For example, while the population of the Gaza Strip suffers bombings, Hamas leaders bathe in luxury in Qatar, news media report. When it comes to the Palestinian regime in the West Bank, there were even claims that the government paid salaries to what is known as “ghost employees” who do not exist in reality. In addition, a large gap can be observed if one looks at the government buildings in the Palestinian capital of Ramallah and general facilities. And even though it is probably a bit blunt to say that this is all the result of corruption, such observations do not contribute to the image of Palestine as a corruption-free nation.

Furthermore, a major ground for suspicion is the fact that Hamas is not financed only by the Europeans but also by Iran. Even though the European Union does its utmost to prevent subsidies from going to organisations that promote hatred and the annihilation of Israel as a nation, Iran does the opposite. The Islamic country is known for its hatred of Israel and its support of terrorist organisations –including Hamas and Hezbollah– that support its goal of erasing Israel from the map. Thus, in the best case, the European money would indeed not go to rockets and anti-Semitic textbooks at schools, but Iranian money still would. The European Union could demand Gaza to stop receiving money from Teheran.

Sea resort

Lastly, the question remains about how effective financial aid actually is in practice. The discussion about European funds for the Palestinians does not date from yesterday but has been ongoing for years already. It has been about 18 years since Israel withdrew its people from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, for example. And what has been achieved in that area? There has not been a flourishing economy, no sea resort or democratically elected government. On the contrary, the Strip is still a desert, dependent on foreign aid.

That is because of the conflict with Israel, one could say. And yes, that is partially true. But it is Hamas who is behind that conflict and kept it going even after the Israeli troops withdrew from the area in 2005. Money that could have been invested in infrastructure and the development of the economy went into the development of rockets and underground tunnels.

And it still happens that resources that are crucially needed by the Palestinian population are claimed by Hamas. According to the New York Times, the terrorist movement still has an abundance of food and medicine and uses a secret stock of fuel for the ventilation of its tunnels, which would be useless without oxygen supply.

Responsibility

Of course, it is difficult to equate the Palestinian population with Hamas. And how much power do civilians have to remove Hamas? Probably not much, as elections have been abolished for a long time already. Nevertheless, the welfare of the Palestinian population is not the responsibility of the European Union in the first place but the one of its own regime.

Therefore, the conclusion of the European Commission that the money is spent well is not very convincing for a critical spirit. Really, this needs to be reviewed. How much money does the Palestinian regime actually have, and how much more do they really need? It would be better to coerce the regime into taking better care of its land and population than to keep supplying them with money that enables them to continue their war.

Chain

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