THE Australian government’s foreign aid arm, AusAID, says it is closely monitoring an investigation by charity World Vision into a Palestinian non-profit organisation for alleged terrorist links.
Israeli civil rights group Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Centre) has claimed that the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), located in Gaza, is a subsidiary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia.
Both World Vision and AusAID, who support the UAWC, have received letters from Shurat HaDin warning them to discontinue providing aid, or face legal ramifications.
In response, World Vision Australia has launched an investigation into the alleged link.
“We are taking these allegations extremely seriously and we have suspended all activities with the UAWC until this investigation is complete,” spokesperson Martin Thomas said. “But it must be stressed that the UAWC is an organisation of the highest standing. World Vision undertook a thorough vetting process prior to partnering with the UAWC, and this investigation did not reveal any issues of concern.”
A spokesperson for AusAID said Australian NGOs must ensure that local partners are in no way linked to organisations and individuals associated with terrorism.
AusAID had been in contact with World Vision about the matter, the spokesperson said.
“AusAID will review World Vision’s investigation once it is completed.”
Both World Vision and AusAID pointed out that the Israeli government does not have the UAWC listed as a terrorist organisation, and that it is registered as an approved Palestinian NGO with the Israeli Ministry of Interior and the Palestinian Authority.
However, solicitor Andrew Hamilton, from Shurat HaDin, said this did not matter because the PFLP, to which UAWC is allegedly linked, is considered a terrorist organisation in Australia. “If true, this is a serious criminal matter, as well as being a serious misuse of taxpayers’ funds.”
Hamilton referred to a USAID document from May 1993, which identifies the UAWC as the agricultural arm of the PFLP.
The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Palestinian agronomists affiliated with the PFLP established the UAWC in 1986.
The paper also reported that last year, PFLP spokesman Ali Jaradat joined an official UAWC conference in Ramallah, and the PFLP also vocally supported a UAWC protest that was held outside the UN headquarters in Gaza City.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said: “The allegation that funding provided to the UAWC for aid purposes is benefiting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a serious one. World Vision is to be commended for deciding promptly to investigate the allegation and we await the outcome with interest.”
A UAWC gathering in the “devastated lands of the farmers” in the Jabal Alkashef area in Jabalia. According to UAWC, “hundreds of farmers … carried signs supporting the steadfastness of farmers, denouncing Israeli policies, and calling all Palestinians to be united.”