Richard North, 05/08/2004  

A number of broadcasting organizations have made a decision not to use the word terrorist. This is understandable if they are global companies as one man's terrorist is often another man's freedom fighter. There have been furious complaints about this policy and it has been pointed out that it is possible, without using the 't' word to explain that there are differences between, say, ordinary Palestinians who would like to live in better conditions and, say, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

When this inability to distinguish extends to political organizations such as the European Union; when it is further compounded by an inexplicable need throughout the world to be nice to dictators and terrorists and unpleasant to democratic governments if they happen to disagree; when, on top of that, large amounts of taxpayers' money are being handed out to dubious entities such as the Palestinian Authority and these then disappear faster than you can say Fatah gunmen, serious questions need to be asked.

There were several news items in the last few days that indicate a certain lack of attention and, possibly, worse in the EU's attitude to the whole Palestinian problem. We have already covered Solana’s somewhat peculiar behaviour during his visit to the Middle East.

On July 30 the Commission announced that EU aid to Palestine will amount to about 250 million euros. Though the announcement said that the aid will go to the Palestinians, as it is to be filtered through the Palestinian Authority, little of it is likely to get to the people who need it.

According to EurActiv, details of the financial assistance include:

  • Contributions to the World Bank's Public Financial Management Reform Trust Fund (65 million euros);
  • Emergency support to social services, health and higher education (22.75 million euros);
  • Support to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and the European Partnership for Peace Programme (7.5 million euros);
  • Support for the implementation of the Palestinian Authority’s reform agenda (up to 5 million euros).
Very interesting, particularly the last two items. As there is no Middle East Peace Process the European Partnership for Peace Programme must be somewhat redundant. What is happening with the money? And has anyone seen the Palestinian Authority's reform agenda recently?

There were calls from the ruling German SPD to cut the aid as long as the power struggles within the Palestinian Authority continue but these were sternly ignored and Chris Patten once again pronounced that he hoped the EU contribution to the World Bank fund would be followed by other donors wishing to "build on the EU's record of achieving Palestinian Authority reform by attaching clear conditions to the delivery of financial assistance". A somewhat incoherent statement that, as this famous reform has not happened and shows no signs of happening. What exactly is the EU's record in this case?

Meanwhile, news came through of a conference by the Fatah Organization whose purpose was, apparently, to discuss those very reforms. Unfortunately, this did not get very far as gunmen, loyal to Arafat - the EU's golden boy - broke it up, accusing it of disloyalty to the Chairman. Afterwards, they explained that it was all a mistake and they now realized that these people were not disloyal but the damage had been done. The conference did not reconvene.

Some Palestinian officials announced that all this unrest in Gaza and the West Bank is to be attributed to the fact that the former Palestinian Security Chief and leader in waiting, Mohammad Dahlan, who had accused Arafat of corruption (shock horror), has also called for reforms. No wonder people are rioting. But those reforms just keep on not happening despite the vast amounts of EU and other aid money supposedly being earmarked for that purpose.

Some indication as to where some of the money may be going came last week when gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, who had previously torched the governor's house in Jenin, first kidnapped, then released three foreign missionaries. Some western commentators expressed bemusement at the actions. Not so the Palestinian officials, who explained that the hostages were released because the Palestinian Authority agreed to hand money over to the kidnappers and for them and their various friends, who are in Israeli gaol. All well and good, but where does the Palestinian Authority get the money from?

There is a great deal of evidence that money is being embezzled by Arafat, his family, particularly his wife, his various cohorts and other officials. Much of the Palestinian Authority's money does go to terrorist organizations. The rest ends up in numbered accounts. Recent descriptions of Mrs Arafat's ultra-luxurious lifestyle in France beggar belief.

Yet, the European Union, its Foreign Minister and the Commissioner in charge of External Affairs, go on supporting this corrupt and oppressive dictatorship. And not much criticism is heard in the west European media either.

Is there any thought being given how this affects not so much the Israelis who can, at least, try to do something, but the Palestinian people, whom the EU is grandiloquently supposed to be aiding?

In a recent article in the American fornightly journal National Review, Tom Gross tackled the problem of a serious bias in the reporting of news from the Middle East. The problem was, as he saw it, that the Palestinian stringers who were supposed to give the news and analysis, did not dare to report objectively or analyze too closely what was going on. They were afraid of Hamas and of Arafat's security services, the latter being financed and trained by the EU. He added:

One Palestinian journalist told me that "the worst the Israelis can do is take away our press cards. But if we irritate Arafat, or Hamas, you don'tknow who might be waiting in your kitchen when you come home at night."
No doubt, all those journalists will sleep more soundly at night if they realize that the people they are so afraid of are supported and financed by the European Union, whose common foreign policy is supposed to spread freedom and democracy.

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