(September 8, 2017 / JNS) By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
Members of Congress and Jewish leaders are urging the U.S. to follow in Norway’s footsteps, after Oslo secured the return of funds it gave to a Palestinian women’s center that was named in honor of a terrorist.
Earlier this year, Palestinian Media Watch and NGO Monitor revealed that the Norwegian government helped finance a Palestinian Authority (PA)-affiliated women’s center in the town of Burqa, which had been named after Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of a notorious terrorist attack in 1978.
In response, Norwegian officials said they would demand the return of the funds and the removal of the Norwegian flag from the banner in front of the center. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry this week for the first time confirmed it has received the refund. Spokesperson Gur Solberg told JNS.org, “The logo was removed immediately and the Norwegian support of $10,000 has been returned to the Norwegian Representative Office (NRO).” The NRO is Norway’s liaison to the PA.
Palestinian Media Watch Director Itamar Marcus called Norway’s action “a major breakthrough” that may signal “the beginning of a new European attitude towards the PA. For years, PMW has been showing European leaders what the PA was doing with their money to glorify terror and the Europeans tried to excuse it. I hope this is ending now.”
Olga Deutsch, director of NGO Monitor’s Europe Desk, praised the Norwegian government for “insisting that its funds be returned, and that its monies not be used to glorify a mass-murderer.” She said the incident “can serve to increase awareness among donors” of the danger of funds intended for humanitarian purposes being used to “promote extremism and radicalization.”
‘Jihad is needed’
Norwegian political figures are applauding their government’s move, and urging it to take action in a similar case that has just come to light.
Jorund Rytman, a member of parliament for the Progress Party, which is part of Norway’s governing coalition, told JNS.org the general question of Norwegian aid to the PA—which last year totaled $40 million—“is presently undergoing a review,” and “whether Norwegian donations have gone to [other] Palestinian institutions named after terrorists should be one of the issues that is looked into.”
Rytman expressed concern about a PMW report that Norway gave $2,000 to the Yafa Cultural Center, in the PA-ruled city of Nablus. At the center’s recent dance competition, first prize was awarded to a performer whose song lyrics included, “We attacked the despicable Zionists/This is the day that Jihad is needed/Pull the trigger.” The top three winners were presented with a golden map showing all of Israel labeled as “Palestine.”
Rytman said “such activities are clearly contrary” to Norway’s goal of “peaceful coexistence,” and therefore “I expect the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to recall the funds, like it did in the Dalal Mughrabi case.” Hans Olav Syversen, a member of parliament for the opposition Christian Democratic Party, told JNS.org he agrees with Rytman that Norway should demand return of its donation to the Nablus center, and would welcome a full review of Norwegian funding to the Palestinians.
Congress hails Norway
U.S. congress members are hailing Norway’s action and calling for Washington to take similar steps. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) recently introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill that would have prohibited U.S. funds from being used by the PA to publicly honor terrorists. The amendment was disqualified by the House Rules Committee on a technicality, but Endowment for Middle East Truth President Sarah Stern said she and her colleagues will be working with members of Congress to reintroduce a similar amendment “at the earliest opportunity.”
A spokesperson for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs told JNS.org that committee chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) “strongly agrees that U.S. funds should not be used to honor Palestinian terrorists” and would be open to a congressional study to determine if any of the Palestinian institutions it currently assists are named after terrorists.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, said he “applauds Norway” for its action and is urging the U.S. and the international community to ensure their donations “are not used to breed future generations of Palestinians committed to violence and terror.”
Prominent voices in the U.S. Senate are also raising the issue. An aide to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he is “strongly opposed to U.S. assistance being used to recognize anyone for terrorist acts,” and “is open to additional measures” by Congress to ensure that aim. Leading Democrats are taking a similar stance. Marisa Kaufman, spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), told JNS.org, “Sen. Schumer believes it is abhorrent for the Palestinian Authority to honor or provide payments to those who have committed acts of terrorism against Israelis, Americans and others.”
Jewish leaders urge action
Leaders of several major American Jewish organizations see Norway’s action as a precedent.
“We commend the Norwegian government’s decision,” said B’nai B’rith International CEO and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “All defenders of human rights and decency should condemn the glorification of terror…We urge Congress to help end this practice by restricting U.S. aid to the Palestinians” so that it cannot be used for institutions named after terrorists.
Betty Ehrenberg, executive director for North America at the World Jewish Congress (WJC), told JNS.org the WJC applauds Norway’s “vigilance” with regard to the women’s center. “Civilized societies must not only unequivocally condemn terrorism but also actively combat it through concrete actions as demonstrated by Norway in this case,” she said.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said his organization likewise supports “a prohibition on the use of U.S. funds for the abhorrent practice of honoring Palestinian terrorists.”