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Jewish groups express concern after Liberals announce new funding for Palestinians

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International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine/CC BY 4.0)

Jewish advocacy groups are again raising concerns that new Canadian funding for Palestinians must come with sufficient oversight, so that money is not channelled to terrorists.

The renewed concerns came following a July 29 announcement from International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau that Canada will contribute over $50 million in new support for Palestinians, “focusing on urgent humanitarian needs and on economic growth that works for everyone.”

Canada’s assistance will go to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, even though the latter territory is governed by Hamas, which this country lists as a terrorist organization.

The funding of four new projects “will help meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable Palestinians, particularly women and girls,” read a statement from Bibeau’s office.

The money won’t be delivered via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which tasked with alleviating the plight of Palestinian refugees, or the Palestinian Authority, but through a variety of UN humanitarian agencies.

Three of the four new projects will be implemented by Canadian humanitarian groups: Humanity & Inclusion Canada, Save the Children Canada and CARE Canada.

READ: CANADA WON’T RULE OUT CHANGING UNRWA FUNDING, IN WAKE OF TRUMP’S CUT

The new allocation will include $12.65 million for food security, survivors of gender-based violence, persons with disabilities, impoverished herders and “marginalized communities with poor access to food, health care, water and sanitation services,” Bibeau’s office stated.

Canada will also provide $37.7 million to boost economic opportunities for Palestinians, particularly women and youth, by supporting their “economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and employment,” the statement added.

The announcement of the new funds came following a visit by Bibeau to Israel and the West Bank from July 25 to 29. While in Israel, she “reinforced Canada’s steadfast and longstanding support” for the country, in meetings with government and other officials, her office said.

As with virtually all new monies released by Canada to the Palestinians, Jewish groups worry that taxpayer dollars will be misappropriated, or find their way to terrorists.

The government has previously said that it “exercises enhanced due diligence” when it comes to humanitarian and development assistance for Palestinians, including “ongoing oversight, regular site visits, a systematic screening process and strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements. These measures are in place to ensure that funds are not misused or diverted to terrorist groups.”

But the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said the new funding should be “managed and implemented directly by Canadian officials on the ground.”

It is imperative for Canadian taxpayers to know that their money will not be diverted to supporting terrorism.
– Avi Benlolo

“At a time of greater international focus on corruption in the Palestinian territories and Gaza, including the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to cease payments to terrorists who murder and injure Israelis, it is imperative for Canadian taxpayers to know that their money will not be diverted to supporting terrorism,” the group’s CEO, Avi Benlolo, said in a statement on July 30.

While Shimon Koffler Fogel, the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), commended the government for investing in Palestinian health and economic growth, he said that “more must be done to address the failures and rejectionist stance of the Palestinian leadership that remain the primary barrier to a better future for the Palestinians.”

CIJA also urged Canada to enforce its oversight measures, so aid isn’t “stolen by Hamas or misused by Palestinian officials.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn also urged the government to “continue its diligent oversight” of foreign aid, “to ensure that no Canadian taxpayer-funded assistance dollars are misused or diverted towards the promotion of violence, anti-Semitism or the incitement of hatred against Israel and/or the Jewish community.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government eliminated aid to UNRWA in 2010 over the agency’s purported ties to Hamas. But the Conservatives did provide $14 million in emergency food support to the agency in 2012.

In 2016, the federal Liberals restored funding to the agency in the amount of $25 million. They renewed that commitment last year.

Last March, Canada donated an additional $10 million in emergency assistance to UNRWA, to cover an estimated $446-million budget shortfall triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision in January to freeze U.S. aid to the Palestinians.