PMW in the Media
Editorial: Palestine's Red Crescent stands up for terrorism
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Since 9/11, dozens of Muslim charities in the United States, Canada, Asia and Europe have come under fire for allegedly channelling the funds they collect to terrorist groups. According to the usual pattern, the accused group will foreswear support for terrorists – and deny up and down that one cent of its revenues goes to suicide bombers or masked gunmen.
But in the Palestinian Authority, several charities are breaking with this pattern, most notably the Red Crescent, the Palestinian equivalent of the Red Cross. At a meeting with the National Post editorial board on Monday, Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, a press watchdog group, presented us with information that shows that Red Crescent is refusing to reject support for terrorism as a point of principle.
Before disbursing funds to charitable groups, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) requires recipient institutions to promise they “will not provide material support or resources” to an individual or entity “that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity”. Seems pretty reasonable. But the head of the Red Crescent, Chaider Abd Al-Shaffi, recently stated publicly that his organisation is refusing to sign the pledge because the Red Crescent “is not political.”
That’s the opposite of the truth, of course. The real reason is that the Red Crescent is a political pawn of the Palestinian Authority, which keeps Palestinians NGOs firmly under its thumb, and refuses to admit that the wanton murder of Israeli citizens is a form of terrorism. The blowing up of buses and cafes, rather, is seen as a species of “national resistance.”
Red Crescent is not alone. A recent article in the Palestinian media, translated by Mr. Marcus’s organization, reports that “Many experts and representatives of private institutions are warning against signing the [USAID] document … They also emphasized it is important to stand with the Network of Private Organizations … and to take disciplinary steps against members of the [network] who violate the accepted policy [by signing].”
According to USAID, the agency will distribute more that US$124-million in aid in the West Bank and Gaza in the fiscal year ending September 30 – presumably to those few organizations (if any) that bite the bullet and sign its anti-terror declaration, and to foreign organizations working in the area. Of that total, US$20-million goes directly to the Palestinian Authority itself, money committed by President George W. Bush in July.
Giving the Palestinian aid, so long as it goes to worthy recipients, is fine by us. Ideally the money would be used for the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights, and the Red Crescent is exactly the sort of NGO that one expects would lead the charge for this kind of reform. The fact that such a group has itself become a creature of Palestinian Authority propaganda suggests it is unlikely that foreign aid will bring about meaningful change under the current circumstances.
Indeed, it hard to find a better symbol of the pathological depths to which Palestinian political culture and civil society has shrunk that an organization that purports to help the sick and injured people would give up substantial funding so that it might express solidarity with murderers.