According to official recordings of proceedings from Parliament in London on July 1st 2015:
DFID (overseas aid – MH) is providing £349 million in support of Palestinian development from 2011-15 and £72m for 2015/16. The UK was one of the biggest donors to the crisis last summer, providing more than £17 million in immediate humanitarian assistance for those caught up in the conflict. In October, the UK pledged a further £20 million in early recovery assistance at the Gaza Reconstruction Conference in Cairo.
To those sums, you can add the US$95 million that the UK donated in 2014 alone to UNRWA and the financial help given to a plethora of NGOs active in the region. Also, there are the hundreds of millions of Euros that are handed by Brussels, either directly to the Palestinian Authority or to UNRWA. And the World Bank, partially funded by the UK, has contributed a further near-billion dollars since 1993. etc, etc.
In itself, nothing here is wrong. Israel can complain that this is too much or unbalanced. This is a political decision to allocate taxpayers’ money. Tough luck. All that is required is some transparency and accountability to clarify where the money ends up.
Apparently, the UK “continues to take extensive precautions to ensure that Hamas does not derive any financial benefit from our projects, including by providing £0.5m to support the Materials Monitoring Unit (MMU) which oversees and monitors the import, storage, supply and use of construction materials into Gaza …” (Hansard, 25th June.)
Four days later, a statement confirmed that the:
Palestinian Authority (PA) payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are made at the request of the Israeli Authorities to meet basic living conditions. No UK or EU money is used for payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, or their families. UK funding to the PA is used to pay civil servant salaries only. The UK funds are channelled through a trust fund administered by the World Bank and only named civil servants from a pre-approved list are eligible. The entire process is independently audited, which ensures we know exactly where and how our money is being spent.
So, the UK government can claim that it lives up to the test of accountability and transparency. Taxpayers have been assured………….or have they?
What is key is that there are no available figures for how much of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) spending comes from taxes collected. However, as both the IMF and the World Bank have consistently found this revenue source to be negligible, then it can be assumed that most of the PA’s spending power derives from overseas contributions. That includes large sums from British taxpayers, some of which, by admission of a British minister, ends up in the hands of terrorists resident in Israeli prisons.
What about those large UNRWA contributions? Well, as I have pointed out before, UNRWA is arguably the largest international charity in the world. However, UNRWA is not controlled by the UN. Staggeringly, yet never publicised, it has no external accountable nor transparent reporting procedures. When you consider that its educational facilities became army camps for Hamas operatives during last year’s war with Israel, you have to question what truly happens to the hundreds of millions of donated by UK, European and American taxpayers.
While the mind is left to shudder at where these public monies end up and what they may be financing, I wanted to briefly examine some of the actual projects. Using the same sources as above, it has emerged this week that her majesty’s Ministry of Defence has seconded personnel to the EU for “security sector assistance to the Palestinian Authority”, whatever that may mean.
In parallel, the EU police mission for the Palestinian Territories has been extended until 30 June 2016 at a cost of €9.175 million. “Through its contribution to security and justice sectors reform, the mission supports efforts to increase the security of the Palestinian population and to reinforce the rule of law.”
The EU and member countries have yet to produce a report showing the improvement in the justice system rising out of this investment. In contrast, there is emerging evidence that the domestic security services in both the West Bank and in Gaza are prone to murderous and in humane tendencies.
While the British Parliament was awash with announcements of financial support for the Palestinians, a flotilla of ships sailed through the Mediterranean. It purported to carry aid for Gaza and was trying to block the Israeli blockade on the enclave. It was stopped by the Israeli navy, which discovered that the whole bundle of resources amounted to ‘two cardboard boxes“. As a graphic from the Sussex Friends of Israel illustrated, the Palestinians could have received 70 times more help if this had been sent by carrier mail.
It is this same flotilla that shows just why so much of the money will rarely end up in the pocket of the average person in Nablus or Rafah. The blogger, Elder of Ziyon, noted that the boats passed en route close to Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, where Palestinians are suffering and have been the target of killings. The plight of these people was ignored. Instead, the international press was treated to another sexy orgy of Israeli hate-feast.
And that is the lesson for the UK government. It must prove beyond reasonable doubt, in a transparent and accountable manner, that the hundreds of millions in contributions for the Palestinians do drip down to their intended target and are not diverted to the planting of the seeds of the next conflict.