Christian charity cuts ties with Palestinian NGO blacklisted by Israel

A group of Finnish Christian missionaries cut ties with a Palestinian children’s rights NGO that Israel called a terrorist organization, the charity’s executive director said, citing concerns about possible banking sanctions.

Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) is one of six Palestinian groups accused by Israel of channeling donor aid to militants. He rejects the accusation and says he has asked the Felm missionary society to reconsider cutting funding.

Israel says the six accused groups have close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis and is on the US and EU terrorism blacklists.

Felm CEO Rolf Steffansson said his organization had seen no evidence that its funding had been misused.

“We have actively monitored the use of the money and it has been used to work to promote children’s rights,” Steffansson, whose organization provided DCIP with € 30,000 annually from 2015 to 2021, told Reuters.

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs briefs journalists in Bnei Brak on February 3 about its new report revealing links between terrorist groups and NGOs that support the BDS movement (credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

But the Israeli appointment had made it impossible to maintain ties with the group, Steffansson added.

“It could have impacted the work we do in 30 countries through banking services, for example,” he said.

DCIP, which relies on European aid to fund its advocacy and rights monitoring work in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, told Reuters that no other donor had moved to cut funding since the Israeli appointment.

“We have been subject to ever-increasing delegitimization and disinformation campaigns driven by an international network of extremist groups with the support of Israeli government ministries,” DCIP Director General Khaled Quzmar said through a lawyer.

Felm operates under the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and receives part of its funding from the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. None of that money has been funneled to DCIP, Steffansson and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters.

Haavisto said it understood Felm’s concern that cooperation with DCIP could affect its other relief work, but added: “In our understanding, the group has carried out normal and peaceful civil society work.”

When Reuters asked him for evidence to support his allegations that the organizations funneled money to the PFLP, an Israeli official said that such documentation was classified.

Haavisto said he was concerned that the Israeli designation would harm the work of Palestinian civil society and the rights of children in the territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war in the Middle East. The United Nations and human rights watchdogs have expressed similar concerns.

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