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UK refuses to release documents on aid to Palestinians

We Believe in Israel and B'nai B'rith demanded to know whether U.K. taxpayers are contributing to Ramallah's "pay-for-slay" policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, March 24, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon (GPO).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, March 24, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon (GPO).

The U.K. Foreign Office has declined to disclose how British development aid to the Palestinian Authority is audited, claiming it would “not be in the public interest” to do so, Jewish groups claimed on Monday.

In a statement first reported by the Jewish News website, We Believe in Israel and B’nai B’rith U.K. accused London’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) of attempting to dodge a May 2023 freedom of information request that sought to make public audit reports related to the so-called “Palestinian Recovery and Development Program.”

Established in 2008 by the World Bank, the donor scheme seeks to combine donations from multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, to provide a persistent cash flow to the P.A. Notably, as pointed out by Palestinian Media Watch in 2019, funds are provided to the P.A. “untied and unearmarked.”

Accordingly, following the April 7, 2023 terror attack that killed three members of the British-Israeli Dee family, We Believe in Israel and B’nai B’rith demanded to know whether U.K. taxpayers are contributing to Ramallah’s “pay-for-slay” policy, under which it pays monthly stipends to terrorists and to the families of slain terrorists.

The two organizations said that Foreign Office initially ignored the request, in breach of the law, leading the Information Commissioner’s Office, the authority which enforces the Freedom of Information Act, to order a response.

“The disclosure of information detailing the audit reports of the Palestinian Recovery and Development Programme could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the U.K. and Palestine,” the FCDO subsequently replied, adding that this would harm the government’s ability to “protect and promote” U.K. interests through its relations with “Palestine.”

London furthermore argued that the presence of “third-party personal data” prevented publication.

“Our FOI request was submitted in good faith as part of an attempt to ensure that British aid to the Palestinian Authority is not being used to support, facilitate, or incentivise terrorism, be that directly or indirectly,” stated Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel. “By initially failing to lawfully respond and now refusing to provide the disclosure, the FCDO raises questions about the integrity of its foreign aid distribution,” he continued.

B’nai B’rith U.K. International Affairs Director Jeremy Havardi said, “While the FCDO may not want to answer as to whether or not they are aware the aid it disburses to the P.A. incentivizes terrorism, we do not accept their position. Our work continues, and we are confident that we will succeed in securing this disclosure.”

The British Consulate in eastern Jerusalem last week expressed deep concerns over Israel’s counterterrorism operation in the Samaria city of Jenin. “We call on Israel to adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality when defending its legitimate security interest,” the July 3 statement read.

The PLO’s envoy to London, for his part, on Saturday commemorated a Palestinian terrorist linked to an attack that killed over two dozen people. Ghassan Kanafani stands accused of orchestrating a May 1972 PFLP massacre in which terrorists recruited by the group gunned down 26 travelers at Israel’s international airport, including American citizens from Puerto Rico.

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