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USAID denies funding Palestinian terror

Money from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was indirectly used to fund terrorist activity, alleges a new report by the Israeli monitoring organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
The report prompted US Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D) of New York to issue a call Monday for USAID to provide Congress with a detailed response to the report"s findings.
"This report cannot go unanswered by the leadership of USAID," said Lowey. "I [am] grateful to Palestinian Media Watch for carefully monitoring this situation and bringing these possible violations to light."
PMW Director Itamar Marcus alleged on Friday that many of the institutions and frameworks in the Palestinian Authority that receive funding through USAID, should be ineligible for those funds by US law.
"USAID was interested in having money going out," said Marcus. "But it was, unfortunately, not interested in following the spirit of what the US congress was trying to do with that money."
US law prohibits the funding of any governmental structure, institution, organization or company that sponsors or promotes terrorism. In its report, the PMW alleges that Palestinian universities, which received nearly $7 million in aid this year, host branches of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In addition it claims that PA municipalities, which also receive USAID funds, have changed street names to the names of terrorists, therefore promoting an atmosphere that fosters terrorism. It specifically cites Khan Yunis, in the Gaza strip as an example.
"The accusations of this report are all ludicrous," said Sylvana Foa, head of USAIDs public diplomacy office in the West bank and Gaza Mission. "There is not one fact connected with the charges [PMW] is making. We are so much in compliance that it slows our work a great deal. But we are very very happy to stay in compliance."
Foa said PMW had no evidence and could not provide a single example of a direct incident.
"I think this is really a case of shoddy journalism on the part of PMW," said Foa. "We have a scrupulous screening process in which every contractor and every person they work with is screened and then made to sign a form saying they are not, and have not been involved with terrorism at any time."
She added that organizations and municipalities had to receive clearance from USAID before naming any project with which USAID funds were connected.
In the second part of its report PMW alleges that An-Najah University in Nablus, one of the schools receiving USAID funds, promoted and even organized Hamas rallies and events on campus.
Foa, however, said that USAID has never given raw funds to any Palestinian organizations. An-Najah University, she said, received funds in the forms of books and electronic subscriptions to their libraries, and equipment for their computer lab.
"How can anyone say that donating to a library is promoting terrorism?" asked Foa.
Marcus, however, said that under US law it did not matter to what division of the school, or in what form, funds were being transferred.
"The bottom line is that if they support terrorism they cant receive US money. Giving funds, in whatever form is illegal," said Marcus. "So what if you give them books or computer equipment, that just frees up room in their budget to give to Hamas or any other terrorist organization. With these universities the right hand takes the funds while the left hand supports terrorism."
But cutting off all education aid to Palestinian universities could not be the message that the US hoped to send, said Foa.
"I dont think there is a university in the whole wide world that doesnt have radical student groups who dont belong in the politics of the mainstream," said Foa. "I know that in Tel Aviv University there are radical groups, but that is not any reason to stop giving books to that University."
"The atmosphere today in the PA is of a society that is glorifying terrorists everywhere a person turns," said Marcus. "A child could get up in the morning and walk on a street named for a terrorist, then go to a school named for a terrorist, and in the afternoon play on a sports team named for a terrorist. He is told by everything he sees that the honored people in his society are those who kill Israelis."