USAID funding of Palestinian universities
with terror branches is in violation of US Law
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
An integral component of the United States’ war on terror is cutting off funding to terrorists and the infrastructures that promote terror. This report documents the undermining of this US policy and the apparent violation of US law by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas through the funding of Al Quds Open University. Al Quds is a Palestinian university that hosts branches of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
A. Direct funding of Al Quds University
In September 2006 at a ceremony at Al Quds Open University, USAID announced $100,000 of in-kind assistance to Al Quds Open University. [See Appendix 1.] US law prohibits funding any "educational institution that the Secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity... None of the funds...may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed, acts of terrorism.” (Foreign Operations Bill 2006 (SEC. 559.b-c)
Al Quds Open University is ineligible to receive money from USAID because:
• Al Quds hosts student branches of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on campus [See Part 1]
• Campus activities honor terrorists, past and present [Part 2]
• Campus activities advocate terror as legitimate “resistance”
• Al Quds University property is used for Hamas assemblies
• Al Quds administration members join in terror group events on campus
• Al Quds university participates in and sponsors off campus activities honoring terrorists [See part 2 for all campus activities]
In the 2005 Foreign Operations Bill the US congress tightened the test of eligibility for receiving US assistance. Since then, not only must the money not be used for terror-associated activities, but the recipient likewise must not be involved in or use any part of its budget for terror-associated activities. Thus, US law prohibits assistance to university infrastructures, if the university is terror-supporting or honors terrorists. Because Al Quds University hosts branches of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and has activities on campus promoting and honoring terrorists, this USAID support is in violation of US law.
B. Indirect funding of Universities
In addition to the $100,000 of direct in-kind assistance, USAID announced at the same ceremony an additional $2.4 million of assistance for 2,000 student scholarships, amounting to significant indirect assistance to Al Quds (and possibly other universities). It was not specified in the press releases what percentage of this $2.4 million was given to the universities as tuition, directly from USAID or through the students. In addition, it is unclear if US law permits USAID to assist students in cases where the money designated by USAID is for a specific university that hosts terror branches. In these cases, the student is merely a conduit for supporting a terror-hosting institution. It is likewise unclear if US laws were violated by USAID officials by participating in the ceremony with Al Quds officials on the campus of the University, thereby granting American legitimacy to a university that hosts Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to PA newspaper reports and USAID press releases, there was no indication that USAID asked the university at the ceremony or otherwise that the terror branches be closed, or that terror support activities be curtailed.
It is likewise not clear what steps, if any, USAID has taken to guarantee in its criteria for applicants that none of the 2,000 scholarship recipients are members of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad student unions, have participated in their events, or have given any support to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, including voting for them in the council elections. Having recipients sign a declaration that they do not support terror activities is insufficient, as Palestinian society, including the schoolbooks, use the term “resistance” to define what the rest of the world calls terror. A recipient could be an active Hamas supporter and yet still profess in writing that he/she rejects terror.
Background 1: About Al-Quds and PA Universities
Established in Jerusalem in 1984, the Al-Quds Open University has more than 7,000 students. The university’s main campus is in Abu Dis with branches throughout the Palestinian territories. Each of these branches has active student union groups of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which serve as centers of political activity and support for terror. The election platforms of the student parties reiterate the agendas of their parent terror movements. [See Part 2]
Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are outlawed terror groups by the US, Canada and the European Union.
Background 2: History of 2005- 2006 Foreign Operations Bill
Before 2005, the test of eligibility for US foreign aid funding primarily involved verifying that the money was not used for terror. A 2004 PMW report, "Four Loopholes in US Anti-Terror Funding Laws," highlighted the ease with which the Palestinians used US funds to honor terrorists and promote terror, and how educational institutions receiving US finding were actively involved in terror promotion with other parts of their budget. [See PMW report and Washington Times articles.] The 2005 Foreign Operations Bill closed these multiple loopholes, and a prominent component was that aid recipients could not be involved with terror in any way – regardless of the use of American grants.
Background 3: The Misguided Western Funding of PA Infrastructures
One of the troubling characteristics of PA society is that under the Arafat – Abbas regimes, terror promotion and glorification has been endemic. Even the most innocent infrastructures, including school names, sporting events, cultural venues and street names, are used to honor suicide terrorists. Western funding bodies have ignored this and continue funding the cultural and educational infrastructures in spite of their support for terror and honoring terrorists. As a result, PA children continue today to see terrorists honored as heroes and role models everywhere they turn.
Background 4: PA Universities - breeding grounds for terrorists
The presence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad student branches in all PA universities funded through Western support is an unfortunate example of how the West undermines its own war on terror and its goal of peace promotion. PA universities have historically been breeding grounds for terrorists. Campuses are used to promote terror and to recruit and plan terrorist activities. For example, it was Al-Kutlah Al-Islamiyyah (Hamas) at the Al-Najah University that created the horrific celebration of the 2001 Sbarro Pizza shop bombing by building a mock pizza parlor and decorating the walls and tables with images of pizza and body parts of the 14 murdered Israelis. Numerous suicide terrorists have come from PA universities, including one from Al Quds Open University. [See listing in Part 3]
While a very important message of absolute intolerance for terror could be sent if the US were to follow through on its stated policy, in practice the opposite occurs. USAID funding of Palestinian terror-hosting institutions like Al Quds Open University, and participating in events on their campus, send a strong message that the US is willing to turn the other way and pretend it doesn't see the terror. This makes a mockery of US law and undermines the very peace the US wants to promote through its assistance.