British MPs on Tuesday debated their country's funding of radical anti-Israel NGOs, with several legislators questioning why the government's aid agency is spending so much on extremist organizations which undermine Israeli democracy.
The debate on foreign aid at the UK House of Commons was prompted by a petition which garnered nearly a quarter of a million signatures – well over the 150,000 needed to force a nonbinding parliamentary discussion on the issue.
That petition calls for the UK government to end its policy of spending a fixed 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, and was launched after an expose in the British press revealed how UK tax money was being used by the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries to terrorists convicted of murdering Israelis.
More broadly, many critics have argued that the 0.7% policy essentially institutionalizes waste, with agencies feeling pressured into spending the money regardless of the efficacy of the projects they are funding.
The government's Department of International Development (DFID) has a budget of £11.1 billion, and is tasked with promoting "sustainable development and eliminate world poverty." Despite that, in many cases UK taxpayers' money is ending up in the wrong hands, with little to no accountability.
Speaking at the Common debate, several legislators cited studies by the Israeli NGO Monitor watchdog – which monitors the activities and funding of extremist NGOs in Israel – highlighting violence and provocations carried out by UK-sponsored activists and organizations.
MPs from both the ruling Conservative and opposition Labour party questioned why so much government aid was going directly towards funding the Palestinian Authority – which has been accused of widespread corruption and human rights abuses, including systematic incitement to terrorism.
"I have calculated that less than 13% of the £1.14 million from the Government’s conflict, stability and security fund spent in Israel and the Palestinian territories funds co-existence projects," said Labour MP Joan Ryan. "That represents a mere 0.2% of the roughly £72 million that DFID spends in the Palestinian territories."
Citing NGO Monitor reports, Conservative MP Dr. Matthew Offord noted how instead of promoting universal human rights, UK aid is being funneled into the coffers of ardently anti-Israel political actors.
"A significant proportion of the NGOs receiving British funds promote the Palestinian political narrative, focusing only on allegations of Israeli human rights violations," said Offord.
Far-left NGOs funded by UK aid encourage "a manipulation of the democratic process, in an attempt to change ‘Israeli civil and military judicial practice and decisions’ and government policy," he added.
"The UK Government currently funds 10 NGO projects in Israel through the conflict, stability and security fund: the Peres Centre for Peace, INJAZ, Kids Creating Peace, Yesh Din, Gisha, Peace Now, Terrestrial Jerusalem, the International Peace and Co-operation Centre, and Rabbis for Human Rights," he listed.
"Because of the limited amount of time, I will look at just one of those. Yesh Din describes its mission as working 'to oppose the continuing violation of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory… documenting and disseminating accurate and up-to-date information about the systematic violation of human rights in the OPT, by raising public awareness.'
"In October 2013, members of Yesh Din took part in an Arab celebration on the ruins of a Jewish community in Homesh, with attendees desecrating Jewish symbols and waving anti-Semitic posters, including one depicting a Jew with a spear through his head. That is where our money is going.
"I would like the Minister to hear our concerns today and not to continually view this problem through a prism of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Our money is going to some causes that I am sure he would be ashamed of. I hope that we can take that message to the Government today and make sure that we actually look at our spending."
Conservative MP Andrew Percy highlighted UK funding of the Ibda'a cultural center "which will receive £5,602 from DFID this year.
"Last year, it hosted an exhibition to honour martyrs, including Mohanad Al Halabi, who killed one and injured 11. We must be careful about where our money is going and always be prepared to review.”
Halabi, in fact, murdered two people in an attack in Jerusalem's Old City last year. Aharin Banita-Bennett was stabbed to death in front of his wife and young child, while Rabbi Nehemia Lavi was killed while attempting to intervene.
Many MPs stressed that the topic of foreign aid to the PA is independent to political opinions regarding the conflict itself, as there is no justification for doling out taxpayers' money without any accountability.
"Surely it is not unreasonable to say that if people are to receive money from the British Government, they should unequivocally renounce violence in all its forms and work for a two-state solution," Conservative MP Sir Eric Pickles noted.