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Belgium investigates funding to Palestinian NGOs with links to terrorist group

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Belgium’s  investigation comes as a result of reports sent to the Belgian government by the Israeli government and reports by NGO Monitor which highlighted the close links between several Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP, which is designated by the EU as a terrorist organization, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Belgium’s Minister of Development Meryame Kitir (pictured), has told a Committee of the Belgian federal parliament that an investigation is underway into whether Belgian development aid may have been used to finance terrorist activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). 

Belgian MP Kathleen Depoorter, from the opposition N-VA party, asked Kitir, during a session of the external relations committee this week about the allegations concerning humanitarian funds being diverted to terror groups. She told the committee that a number of NGOs were alleged to have “regularly received funding from Western Europe, while operating at least in part as a cover for activities of the Popular Front”.

Belgium’s Directorate-General for Development Cooperation does not fund Palestinian NGOs directly, but rather via Belgian NGOs as third parties. One of the aims of this state funding was to “mitigate the influence of pro-Israel voices” and was approved in 2016 by then Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation (and now Prime Minister) Alexander De Croo.

Minister Kitir told the committee that in the past five years 6 million Euro was given to Belgian NGOs active in Palestinian territories, including Broederlijk Delen, Oxfam Solidarity, Viva Salud and Solidarité Socialiste (SolSoc), which are all politicised anti-Israeli NGOs who have partnered with Palestinian NGOs linked to the terrorist PFLP.

The Minister said the four Palestinian NGOs with active links to Belgium are:

  1. HWC, a partner of the Belgian NGO Viva Salud
  2. Bisan, a partner of Viva Salud
  3. Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), a partner of Broederlijk Delen
  4. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a partner of Oxfam through humanitarian funding.

The Minister explained that over the past five years €660,000 were donated through Viva Salud, €1.8 million went via Oxfam and €1.3m through Broederlijk Delen and that an investigation into the use of this money is now under way.

“I take these allegations very seriously. It goes without saying that under no circumstances can development cooperation funds be used for terrorist purposes or to encourage violent behaviour,” she said.

Belgium’s  investigation comes as a result of reports sent to the Belgian government by the Israeli government and reports by NGO Monitor which highlighted the close links between several Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP, which is designated by the EU as a terrorist organisation.

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) also wrote to Kitir and to the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid in Jerusalem about one of the NGOs in question.

Belgian Friends of Israel (BFOI) has also briefed several Belgian MPs and alerted them to the situation, as well as running a Twitter campaign, calling out Kitir for continuing to fund the NGOs linked to terrorism.

MP Kathleen Depoorter pointed out that the reports of links between the Palestinian NGOs and the terrorist organization caused quite a stir in the government in the Netherlands and payments have now been suspended.

“I have asked the minister to inspect these reports and that she also submit her own investigation into the abuse to parliament. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise and these Palestinian organizations deserve a fair chance, but we expect appropriate action if the facts are proven,’’ said Depoorter.

‘’I am pleased that the matter is being investigated, but I also expect quick answers and appropriate steps from the minister,” she added.

UKLFI was instrumental in campaigning for the Dutch government to suspend payments to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a Palestinian NGO representing farmers, particularly after several of its top officers were indicted for and are now on trial for their participation in a PFLP terrorist attack which killed Rina Shnerb, a 17-year-old Israeli girl in August 2019.

Brussels

'America is back': Brussels upbeat on eve of Biden’s Europe trip

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US President Joe Biden’s (pictured) trip to Europe this week will signal that multilateralism has survived the Trump years, and set the stage for transatlantic cooperation on challenges from China and Russia to climate change, the chairman of EU summits said, Reuters.

"America is back," European Council President Charles Michel said, using the motto Biden has adopted after former President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of several multilateral institutions and at one point threatened to walk out of NATO.

"It means that we have again a very strong partner to promote the multilateral approach ... a big difference with the Trump administration," Michel told a group of reporters in Brussels late on Monday.

Michel and the chief of the European Union’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, will meet Biden on 15 June. That will follow a summit of G7 rich democracies in Britain and a meeting of NATO nation leaders in Brussels on 14 June.

Michel said the idea that "multilateralism is back" was more than a slogan, it was a recognition that a global approach is needed to resolve issues, whether they be supply chains for COVID-19 vaccines or fairer corporate taxes in the digital age.

He said the three-day G7 meeting in Cornwall, England, could be an "important turning point" that shows serious political commitment behind governments' pledges to "build back better" following the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would also be an opportunity to address pressure felt by liberal democracies, said Michel, who expects a discussion at the G7 on the need for the West to take a more proactive approach to defending its values in the face of China's rise and Russian assertiveness.

Michel said he spoke for 90 minutes with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, telling him Moscow must change its behaviour if it wants better relations with the 27-nation EU.

The EU and Russia disagree on a wide range of issues including human rights, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Moscow’s treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and Michel said that relations between them had reached a low point.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: €838.8 million for Belgium, France, Germany and Slovakia to tackle the social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis

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The Commission has approved a total of €838.8 million for Belgium, France, Germany and Slovakia under REACT-EU to help tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and prepare the recovery. In Belgium, the EU adds €31.7m to the operational programme (OP) Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) for the delivery of food and material assistance to vulnerable people in need during the coronavirus crisis. In France, the region Grand Est receives a total of €148.3m to facilitate people's access to training or a first job, improve the skills of those seeking employment and expand training capacities for caregivers. The EU funds will also support the regional healthcare system by helping to acquire equipment and facilitate the organisation of hospitals. They will also help investing in the energy efficiency of public buildings and social housing, supporting the digital transition, and helping businesses most affected by the crisis. In the French overseas department of La Réunion, €256 million will provide equipment for training staff in the health sector, ensure working capital and investments in businesses, particularly in the tourism sector, improve the clean water network and sustainable mobility, as well as support the digitalization of businesses, local administrations and the educational institutions.

In Germany, an additional €86m for the European Social Fund (ESF) OP in the Land of Baden-Württemberg will support job creation and quality employment, expand employment measures for young people implementing the EU Youth Guarantee, invest in skills and training, and support social systems, including tackling child poverty. In Slovakia, the OP ‘Human Resources' will receive an additional €316.8m to support job creation and job retention measures, access to education for vulnerable groups, healthcare and long-term care services, financial counselling services and housing for homeless people. REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6 billion additional funding (in current prices) over the course of 2021 and 2022 to Cohesion policy programmes. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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Belgium

Yper Museum unveils feline frolics

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Today, cats are hugely popular: you can admire them in all shapes and sizes on the internet and they are one of the most adored of all house pets. But it hasn't always been that way, writes Martin Banks.

So where did this recent and worldwide fascination for these extraordinary creatures come from? That is the mystery that the Yper Museum  unravels in the impressive exhibition 'PUSS. How cats have captured humans'

'PUSS. How cats have captured humans' is not about cats per se. Instead, the exhibition explores the relationship between cats and people and how that relationship has changed over time. The Egyptians, for example, worshipped cats as sacred, while people in medieval Europe reviled and hated them as the work of the devil. PUSS  also explains why for many years cats were regarded as little better than vermin but are now cherished as loveable (if somewhat mercurial) pets.

Recent scientific research has overturned many of our traditional ideas about cats. Cats were first domesticated in Egypt? Archaeological excavations carried out in Cyprus in 2014 revealed that cats were living with people on the island as long as 9500 years ago, millennia before the Egyptians. Cats are solitary hunters? Yes, but also social creatures who often live in groups. The Persian cat originated from Persia? Perhaps initially, but it largely acquired its present-day appearance in 19th century England! These are just some of the fascinating insights that the Yper Museum will highlight for a broad general public with outstanding works of art in 'PUSS. How cats have captured humans'.

This is the very first time that so many quality works of art have been brought together in Ieper for an exhibition. The Yper Museum is proud to display more than 200 top exhibits in the famous Ieper Cloth Hall. A tour de force accomplished by a small but dedicated museum team, made possible thanks to a project subsidy from the Flemish government.

This is the very first time that so many quality works of art have been brought together in Ieper for an exhibition. The Yper Museum is proud to display more than 200 top exhibits in the famous Ieper Cloth Hall. A tour de force accomplished by a small but dedicated museum team, made possible thanks to a project subsidy from the Flemish fascinating dialogue with each other. For example, the work 'Katten in Zakken' by Karel Dupon, in which two ceramic sculptures of cats seem to be sitting in a sack, stands next to medieval tiles that illustrate how in those days cats were seen as the devil's helpers. Similarly, a monumental painting from the 17th century by Jan Cossiers hangs next to an equally monumental biro-drawing by Jan Fabre.

Further info:www.ypermuseum.be

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