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SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 – ACCUSATIONS that the federal government’s foreign aid arm, AusAID, is unwittingly funding Palestinian terror won’t go away, with Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr grilled on the issue in the Senate late last month. Earlier this year, The AJN revealed allegations by Israeli civil rights group Shurat HaDin that AusAID recipient, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), was in fact a subsidiary of terror group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The PFLP has a history of hijackings and suicide bombings, and was listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government in 2001. At the time the allegations first surfaced, both AusAID and World Vision Australia, through whom AusAID channels its funding, conducted investigations that they say exonerated the UAWC. These investigations included checking an Israeli register of not-for-profit organisations. However, Shurat HaDin said their investigations did not go far enough.

In the Senate on August 23, Opposition Leader Eric Abetz quizzed Carr whether he was satisfied that Israeli registration details provided by AusAID did in fact refer to the UAWC. Shurat HaDin alleges that the organisation AusAID claims is registered in Israel is not the UAWC, but a different charity with a similar sounding name – the Committee of Agricultural Works (CAW). “Australian funds are actually being provided to the UAWC in Gaza,” Shurat HaDin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said. Carr initially avoided Abetz’s question, saying that on a recent visit to Israel neither Israeli President Shimon Peres nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had raised the issue of Australian funding going to a terrorist organisation.

He then defended the activities of the UAWC, pointing out that World Vision Australia is headed by the brother of former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello, and listed other countries that support it. After several requests by the president of the Senate to directly address Abetz’s question, Carr finally said, “In that context, therefore, I have confidence in the advice supplied to me about the status of this organisation.” After further questioning, Carr agreed to have the registration translated and tabled in the chamber. Darshan-Leitner maintains there is “overwhelming proof” of a connection between the UAWC and PFLP. “[Carr] will be in for a very unpleasant surprise when he discovers there are two different groups,” she said. The Foreign Minister’s office was contacted for a response, but did not reply by deadline.