State Department bankrolls group accused of ‘cooperating’ with Palestinian terrorists

State Department bankrolls group accused of ‘cooperating’ with Palestinian terrorists

The Department of State is funding a Gaza Strip-based organization that a watchdog group warns is “cooperating with” and “supporting” Palestinian terrorists.

The Phoenix Center for Research and Field Studies, an entity that says it helps “Palestinian communities to fulfill their political, economic and social needs” and launched in 2021 at the University of Gaza, was awarded $90,000 combined in taxpayer-backed grants from President Joe Biden’s State Department for two projects running until August of next year, federal records show. That same grantee has partnered recently with leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, two U.S.-designated terror groups, according to the Israeli watchdog NGO Monitor.

“Under absolutely no circumstances should the State Department be sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to subsidize terrorist workshops and conferences that are decorated with the flags of terrorist organizations and posters of known terrorists who are actively seeking the slaughter of Jews and the annihilation of Israel,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and leads its Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, told the Washington Examiner, adding the funding “is deeply disturbing and raises alarming questions.”

Revelations concerning the center’s alleged ties to the terror groups come as Republicans say the Biden administration has made a huge misstep from a national security and human rights perspective in dishing out Palestinian aid, despite the State Department raising concerns in 2021 over Hamas potentially accessing it. The center has notably participated in conferences alongside personnel from both Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front, according to NGO Monitor. NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg says the State Department had apparently not “carefully vetted” its awards to the Phoenix Center for Research and Field Studies.

The center was awarded $60,000 for a project that began on Sept. 12 aiming to “further promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility” and “enhance the knowledge and skills of Palestinians in “public speaking, storytelling, and digital networking,” grant records show. The State Department also awarded the center $30,000 for an Aug. 28, 2023, to July 31, 2024, project related to information technology, specifically, to “raise the awareness of IT trends and provide networking opportunities with IT employers in Europe and Asia for target audiences,” according to records.

The Washington Examiner reached out to the State Department, which listed the awarding office in grant records as the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and did not receive comment in time for publication.

For instance, on Sept. 19, 2022, the center held a discussion on “the escalation of the crimes of the Israeli occupation,” which included senior PIJ member Khader Habib, who once said his group would “slaughter” Jewish people in Israel, NGO Monitor said, noting that eight days later, on Sept. 27, the center posted online about its workshop in a room decorated with PFLP flags, posters of terrorists, and graffiti praising the PFLP.

In July 2022, the center said on its website that it held a discussion on Biden’s visit to the West Bank, which came as the U.S. announced $316 million in Palestinian aid. Participants included senior PIJ members A. Muhammad Shallah, Khader Habib, Ahmed Al Mudallal, and Khaled Al Batsh, and senior PFLP member Mohammed Al Ghoul, according to NGO Monitor.

“Biden’s visit is meant to serve the Zionist enemy and to open closed doors for it in order to spread geographically so that all the Arab region will become permissible for the Zionist enemy,” Habib said at the time, according to an English translation from Arabic.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were both designated as terror groups by the State Department in 1997 and are responsible for plane hijackings and bombings targeting the Jewish state of Israel, federal records show. Phoenix Center Research and Field Studies Programs Director Salah Abdalati “has demonstrated his own support for terror factions, their members, and ‘armed resistance.'” according to NGO Monitor.

In February 2023, Abdalati supported “armed resistance” against Israel and has praised “resistance fighters,” declaring, “We mourn the martyrs of our people, and first and foremost, the great martyr fighter commanders in the Al-Quds Brigades, Mansour and Al-Jabari and their free comrades.”

The programs director was referring to both Khaled Mansour, a PIJ commander killed by an Israeli missile strike after years of being responsible for mortar and rocket attacks against Israel, and also Tayseer al Jabari, who was also killed by Israel and launched rockets into the Jewish state as a senior PIJ leader.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), another House Foreign Affairs Committee member, told the Washington Examiner there “needs to be some serious oversight and accountability” if tax dollars are indeed flowing to terror-tied groups and that “somebody should lose their job over it.”

Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is slated to hold a hearing Thursday through its Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Subcommittee on the implementation of the Taylor Force Act. The Trump-era law aims to bar U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops providing stipends to those who commit terror and families of dead terrorists.

A source familiar said Republicans on the panel are planning to write a letter pressing Secretary of State Antony Blinken for answers on funding to the Phoenix Center for Research and Field Studies.

“These funding actions make it more clear this administration is the most hostile to Israel we’ve ever seen,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel nonprofit group in the U.S.

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