- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Palestinian organizations are refusing to accept U.S. foreign aid this year, rather than sign a pledge promising that the money will not be used to support terrorism.

“This requirement is a worldwide requirement, not just for Palestinians,” said Portia Palmer, a spokesman for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “The majority of the [nongovernmental organizations] worldwide have signed it.”

The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization’s Network (PNGO), an umbrella organization comprised of 92 Palestinian aid groups, is urging its members to refuse to sign the pledge.

The network includes hospitals, clinics, seniors organizations, human rights and law groups and other civil organizations. Phone calls yesterday to PNGO headquarters on the West Bank were not answered.

Groups such as Hamas do run social programs, but the groups also were behind many of the 106 suicide bombings conducted against Israel in the past three years.

The Palestinian Red Crescent, which has received about $300,000 a year in U.S. aid in the past, refused to sign the pledge and will forgo U.S. funding this year.

“We would like to take funds from them, but without conditions,” Faiq Hussein, Red Crescent deputy director, told the Associated Press.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the United States has distributed $1.3 billion for Palestinian programs in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in humanitarian and economic assistance.

Congress has appropriated $125 million for Palestinian programs for 2003.

Miss Palmer said USAID did not have a number of how many Palestinian aid organizations were refusing to sign the pledge.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said that the refusal to sign the pledge should not be seen as support for terrorism, rather that in Palestinian society it is politically expedient to reject the funds than endure the tremendous political pressure they will face for signing the pledge.

“This is not clearly understood in the United States,” said Mr. Zogby. “The idea of providing no ‘material support’ is such a broad brush stroke, it compromises the ability of the humanitarian organizations to function.”

He said making Palestinian organizations judge who is and who is not a terrorist is a prescription for creating civil war in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

In response to September 11, President Bush signed Executive Order 13224, requiring all recipients of U.S. aid to guarantee that their organization does not support terrorism.

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