Jewish Russian aboard missing plane

One of the passengers aboard the Malaysian Airlines plane that vanished is a Jewish Russian national.

Nikolai Brodskii, 43, of the Siberian city of Irkutsk, appears on the missing plane’s passenger manifest. He is a husband and father of sons aged 17 and 11.

Rabbi Aharon Wagner, a Chabad rabbi for the region, contacted Brodskii’s family after learning that he was on the plane, the Times of Israel reported.

Brodskii, a scuba diving instructor, had traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for a diving vacation. He was returning to Russia on Flight MH370, according to Vitaly Markov, first secretary of the Russian embassy in Malaysia.

The flight, with 239 passengers on board, disappeared Saturday while flying over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Boosting STEM

Zvi Peleg (left), director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, is pictured with students of the network's program in collaboration with the Israeli Air Force in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network)

Zvi Peleg (left), director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, is pictured with students of the network’s program in collaboration with the Israeli Air Force in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network)

In Israel, high school education is mandated by law, and the government grants each student an equal financial allocation for education. But a town such as Afula, with fewer residents than Tel Aviv, gets less government funding overall. This is also true for small villages of concentrated minorities.

With the backdrop of that challenge of getting enough outside funding for smaller communities, Zvi Peleg — director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, the largest independent network of science and technology educational institutions in Israel — wants to grant the same quality of education to every citizen in Israel.

“We are serving the secular [Jews], the religious, the Orthodox religious, the ultra-Orthodox religious, the Arabs, the Druze, all the populations in Israel,” explained Peleg.

On Feb. 25, Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization supporting the Israeli schools network, held a gala to honor five prominent supporters of the program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

“Our American Friends group plays a very important role in the success of our programs throughout Israel. There has never been a greater need to prepare our young people with state-of-the-art science and technology education to serve the growing need of industry in Israel,” Peleg said of the dinner, which honored Thomas E. McCorry of Lockheed Martin, Dr. Charlotte Frank, Dr. Lynne B. Harrison, Mark Levenfus and corporate sponsor Marks Paneth LLP.

The Sci-Tech network was first established in Israel in 1949 and today includes 206 junior and senior high schools, industrial schools, educational centers and technical, engineering and academic colleges throughout the Jewish state. The network’s schools focus on science and technology education and reach the peripheral regions of the country, including Israeli municipalities beyond the Green Line such as Maale Adumim and Ariel.

“We are not political at all,” said Peleg, himself a graduate of an Israel Sci-Tech school. “We are dealing only in education.”

A core goal of the school network is to motivate more students to focus on science and technology education. In the Sci-Tech schools, 60 percent of students choose this focus, compared with Israel’s national average of 30 percent.

This focus pays off in a country that has built itself an international reputation of being the “startup nation,” according to Shai Lewinsohn, director of resource development and external affairs for the program, who said the network’s 37 two-year colleges prepare students to be practical engineers.

The Israeli high-tech industry is built on three layers of workers. At the top is the research and development sector, mostly comprised of people with Ph.Ds. Below them are engineers, and below the engineers are practical engineers, the largest layer.

Practical engineers “are very needed in the high-tech industry,” said Lewinsohn, and about 40 percent of those in Israel are graduates of schools in the Sci-Tech program.

Furthermore, the Israel Defense Forces depends on Sci-Tech schools because the army is moving toward high-tech equipment that needs the attention of many technologically trained people.

“Forty percent of the practical engineers who are serving today in the IDF are graduates of our colleges,” said Lewinsohn. “Currently in the IDF, we have three graduates who are major generals. … One of them is the chief of intelligence, Aviv Kochavi.”

In addition, Elisha Yanai, the last of president of Motorola Israel, is a graduate of the Singalowski Technical School in Tel Aviv, a Sci-Tech school and one of the oldest and largest high schools in Israel.

Another two graduates of the school network are heading to the Pitango Venture Capital fund.

“Pitango is one of the largest funds that invests in the high-tech industry in Israel. [Managing general partner and co-founder of Pitango] Chemi Peres is the son of [Israeli] President Shimon Peres. The other [managing general partner] is Aaron Mankovski,” who has headed the HighTech Industries Association, an organization representing the high-tech industry in Israel, said Lewinsohn.

Today, Israel Sci-Tech Schools is the largest education network in Israel, working with 100,000 students from all over the country. Some of the schools have been founded by the program, while in other cases, small municipalities or developing towns that have a lower overall education budget choose to affiliate their existing schools with the Sci-Tech program.

Often, “because the brand has become so well-known in Israel and the level and quality of education is so strong, Israel Sci-Tech schools are really sought after,” said Stan Steinreich, a spokesman for the school network.

The program “will help any kind of community in Israel that asks for help,” said Steinreich. Since Israel’s minority populations tend to concentrate in particular areas, Israel Sci-Tech schools in those areas tend to include predominently students from those communities simply for geographic and demographic reasons.

“In an Arab community the school will be an Arab school, or in a Druze village the school will be a Druze school,” he said.

An exception exists when it comes to the haredi Jewish community, which comprises an estimated 10 percent of Jewish Israelis. Due to that the community’s heavy focus on religious study and religous life, few in the community are able to work full time, and the salaries of those who do are significantly lower. About 60 percent of haredi families, which usually include many children, live in poverty. By 2050, haredim are expected to make up more than a quarter of the Israeli population.

“In order to get those kids to participate, there are sensitivities, and [we are] working with local rabbis to make that happen,” said Steinreich, explaining that Sci-Tech needs to set up special schools geared to the haredi community’s needs in order to work with that community.

At the same time, there is a “warming for the concept” of education in secular subjects in the haredi community, especially science and technology, which represents the core of what the Sci-Tech network does.

“It may not be as quick [as growth in other communities], but it’s certainly changing,” said Steinreich.

Looking for a Replacement

Richard Falk, outgoing Special  Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has rankled many Israel supporters. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

Richard Falk, outgoing Special
Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has rankled many Israel supporters. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

Meeting in Geneva for its annual spring session, the United Nations Human Rights Council will be deciding on a replacement for Richard Falk, the body’s Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, a process that is being closely monitored by U.N. watchdog groups, the United States and Israel.

The applicant list recently has been reduced by the vetting committee to three from 10, with the candidates perceived as being the most biased against Israel now out of the running, according to UN Watch. The council president, BaudelaireNdong Ella of the Gabonese Republic, will select one of the candidates to be put for a vote in front of the entire council later this month.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, told the Washington Jewish Week that usually the president follows the vetting committee’s recommendation and picks the leading candidate, although he has no obligation to do so. The president may even choose a candidate already eliminated in the vetting process.

Appointed by the council to a six-year nonrenewable term on March 26, 2008, Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University who endorsed boycotts against the Jewish state, has been a perennial thorn in the side of Israel supporters, former U.S. ambassador Susan Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Before becoming the Special Rapporteur, Falk was a member of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian territories.

The three remaining candidates include Christina Cerna, adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School; John Cerone, professor at Boston’s New England Law School; and Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Of the three, both UN Watch and the Israel-based NGO Monitor regard Chinkin’s record as the most biased against Israel.

“Chinkin was in our ‘rogues’ gallery,” said Neuer, referring to a list his organization compiled to expose anti-Israel sentiments among the original group of candidates. “She co-wrote the Goldstone Report, so she has a record of being enormously biased, someone who’s so biased that she doesn’t even know when she has disqualified herself for a fact-finding mission.”

Neuer was referring to Chinkin’s participation in the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in 2009, also known as the Goldstone Report for its chairman, South African jurist Richard Goldstone. She also signed a January 2009 letter in the British Sunday Times newspaper that condemned Israel for war crimes and declared it to be the aggressor in its conflict with the Palestinians.

“It was ridiculous that she continued to serve on the Goldstone commission [without recusing herself],” argued Neuer in referencing the letter.

“Goldstone had the courage and the moral backbone to renounce his own report, and Chinkin was one of the main people who denounced Goldstone for that process,” added Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor and a political science professor at Tel Aviv’s Bar Ilan University. “Goldstone acknowledged that they didn’t have the information, the evidence they presented was not convincing regarding Israel, and Chinkin denounced him for that.”

The top two candidates currently do not rank on UN Watch’s “rogues list” or have dossiers at NGO Monitor. But David Michaels, B’nai B’rith International’s director of intercommunal affairs, argued that on a certain level, it didn’t matter who occupies Falk’s position.

“The post itself, by its nature, is explicitly discriminatory against Israel. It’s meant to focus only on alleged violations of Palestinian rights with no consideration at all of violation of Israeli rights or of Palestinian misdeeds,” explained Michaels. “Whereas all other 192 member states of the U.N., including Iran, North Korea, Syria, China [and] Russia are all addressed under one item … Israel has its own permanent agenda item.”

Michaels said that there are NGO and Human Rights Council members worried about the credibility that is lost within the organization when it appears as systemically against Israel.

“It’s an offense against the only democracy in the Middle East, the only Jewish state, but also it just shows in a very stark way that the [U.N.] bodies neglect the most severe and heinous areas of human rights violations in the world,” he said.

At his position, Falk has made public statements against Israel and the United States, positions that Steinberg feels borders on anti-Semitism.

“I’ve been in meetings with him, and he uses the ‘I’m Jewish, therefore I can’t be accused of being anti-Israel or anti-Semitic,’ ” defense, said Steinberg. “He uses that defense a lot, and my challenge to him was, ‘In what other way are you Jewish other than in this hostility toward Israel and your Jewish connections?’ ”
Without taking a position on who should succeed Falk, the U.S. State Department seemed to welcome the end of the Special Rapporteur’s tenure.

“As we have stated before, we oppose his deeply flawed and one-sided mandate, as well as Agenda Item 7 under which it was created, the only HRC agenda item to focus on one specific country,” a State Department official told WJW. “Falk has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments, including his most recent outrageous comments in an interview with Russia Today. His reports and rhetoric have done nothing to advance a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The UNHRC regular session in Geneva lasts until March 28, with most of the Israel-related issues expected to be handled March 21. Despite advocacy from organizations such as B’nai B’rith, UN Watch and NGO Mon-itor among others, few expect the UNHRC and its anti-Israel majority to take the Palestinian issue off its permanent agenda any time soon. contributed to this story.

Abu Dhabi-based airline removes Israel from its flight map

An airline owned by the United Arab Emirates that is a partner of American Airlines has removed Israel from its flight map and refuses to transport Israelis.

Etihad Airways’ travel-route map shows all countries in the Middle East with the exception of Israel and its major cities, the New York Post reported Monday. The airline also refuses to allow Israeli passengers, who are not permitted into the UAE, to fly with the airline. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

The airline, the only one providing direct service between the United States and Abu Dhabi, receives $425,000 annually from the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Post reported on Monday. The money pays for a facility that allows Abu Dhabi citizens traveling to the United States to clear customs more quickly.

The airline also has obtained six loan guarantees worth some $1.3 billion since 2009 from the Export-Import Bank, a U.S. federal agency, the Washington Free Beacon reported.


Egyptian court bans Hamas activities in Egypt

An Egyptian court outlawed Hamas activities in Egypt, branding it a terror organization.

The ruling, which came Tuesday as part of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on Islamist organizations in the country, bans all Hamas dealings with the government and shuts down the group’s Egyptian offices.

Hamas, the terrorist group that governs Gaza, is a daughter organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that ruled Egypt until the military-backed ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last year. Since the ouster, the government has curtailed Islamist activities in Egypt.

Egypt has also destroyed many of the tunnels under its border with Gaza, which are used to smuggle goods and weaponry around the Israeli blockade of Gaza.


Flight carrying 20 Israelis makes emergency landing in Tehran

A Turkish Airlines flight carrying 20 Israeli passengers made an emergency landing in Tehran.

The flight Tuesday from Istanbul to Mumbai landed in the Iranian capital so a passenger could receive emergency medical treatment. After sitting on the runway for two hours, the plane departed without incident and continued to its destination.

The passengers did not leave the plane, and an Israeli passenger told Israeli Channel 10 that Iranian workers who boarded the plane did not check passengers’ passports.


British PM David Cameron to visit Israel in March

British Prime Minister David Cameron will visit Israel and address the Knesset on March 12.

Cameron was originally scheduled to visit Israel in February but had to postpone the trip because of flooding in the United Kingdom. This will be Cameron’s first visit to Israel since becoming prime minister in 2010.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein invited Cameron to Israel when the two met at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

“I welcome the arrival of the prime minister of a great and important country like Britain to address the Knesset and believe that the visit will contribute to the friendship between Britain and Israel as well as the relations between the two countries,” Edelstein said in a statement.


Whose Rights?

Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen (third from left) discusses his country’s ban on kosher and halal slaughter with the FFEU Muslim-Jewish delegation. ( FFEU)

Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen (third from left) discusses his country’s ban on kosher and halal slaughter with the FFEU Muslim-Jewish delegation. ( FFEU)

A 10-member delegation of Jews and Muslims told the Danish ambassador to the United States that his country’s ban on ritual slaughter has sullied Denmark’s reputation.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, led the Feb. 27 delegation in protest of the ban, which went into effect at the end of February. The law outlaws the slaughter of any animal that was not stunned first. This runs contrary to kosher and halal rules.

“We went in there to express our deep concerns and our disdain for the latest legislation coming out of Denmark,” Schneier said in a phone interview.

Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen appeared surprised at how much damage the ban is having on his country’s reputation, “both in the Jewish and Muslim communities,” according to Schneier. He called it a “somewhat twisted irony” that Denmark had a positive reputation when it came to the Holocaust but now would do this.

Schneier called the ban on ritual slaughter harmful not only for Jews and Muslims living in Denmark but also in nearby countries, where the law may set a precedent for other governments to adopt the same policy.

The ban came about following Denmark’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food issuing an edict against ritual slaughter, explaining that animal rights must trump religious requirements. Denmark’s policy is that those who want to eat only kosher or halal foods can import meat from Belgium or France, explained Schneier.

Schneier said he asked the ambassador if he would put up with an edict that said he could only use a Christmas tree purchased in Belgium or France as the environment was more important than his religion.

“What the minister heard loud and clear is how this is impacting the reputation of his country,” said Schneier, adding that he hopes also to meet with the Danish ambassadors to France and the United Kingdom in the near future.

The ambassador promised to relay the delegation’s feelings to his government, and Schneier said he is optimistic, noting that the meeting has been “all over the Danish community in the past few days.”

Sayyid Syeed, national director for the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, who headed the delegation with Schneier, said in a statement that the “ban may make it impossible for Danish Muslims to observe important events in the Muslim calendar, such as the annual Eid-al-Adha celebration, when Muslims are commanded to sacrifice an animal as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. One can only wonder if the Danish government is seeking to make life so difficult for Muslims and Jews that many will decide to leave the country.”

Other members of the delegation included Mohammad Elsanousi, director of community outreach for ISNA; Marshall Breger, vice president of the Jewish Policy Center; Suhail Khan, former White House liaison to the South Asian community under President George W. Bush; Symi Rom-Rymer, founder of the Global Muslim-Jewish Friendship Forum; Maqsood Chaudry, president of the Mclean, Va., Islamic Center; Jason Kampf, FFEU board member; Parvez Khan, leader of Jews and Muslims in D.C.; and Will Eastman, FFEU executive director.

According to Schneirer, there are 8,000 Jews and 220,000 Muslims living in Denmark.

‘Playing with Fire’

Kosher meat slaughtered in Poland last year bears the symbol of the Warsaw rabbinate. (Provided)

Kosher meat slaughtered in Poland last year bears the symbol of the Warsaw rabbinate. (Provided)

After a Polish court tossed out a government regulation permitting kos-her slaughter in 2012, Poland’s $500 million ritual slaughter industry was expected to be brought to its knees.

Evidence shows, however, that not only was kosher slaughter still being performed in Poland as recently as this month, but also that kosher meat producers had help in skirting the law from a high-ranking official in the office of Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

Two letters signed by Michael Alper, a top aide to Schudrich, informed Polish officials that several hundred cattle would be slaughtered after being stunned with electric current — a requirement of Polish law that is inconsistent with kosher slaughter, which mandates that animals be killed without prior stunning.

Meat from the slaughterhouse where Alper said stunning would be used was subsequently certified as kosher by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and several European certifiers before being exported abroad. The European certifiers declined a request for comment, but several knowledgeable insiders confirmed that the animals were not in fact stunned and that the meat was indeed kosher.

“If there were a kosher concern regarding one of our labels, we would have acted,” said Maor Ziv, a spokes- man for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Under a 2002 amendment to the 1997 law on animal welfare, Poland required that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter. The law appeared to conflict with another measure passed that year guaranteeing religious minorities the right to perform ritual slaughter.

In 2004, the government issued a regulation that aimed to resolve the apparent conflict by exempting Jews and Muslims from the animal welfare law. But in 2012, a constitutional court scrapped the 2004 exemption, effectively banning what had been a $500 million ritual slaughter industry.

Several businesses registered heavy losses and laid off employees as they scrambled to convert their operations or reconfigure themselves as middlemen, purchasing kosher meat produced outside Poland and reselling it for export. But the Alper letters show that some businesses continued to produce kosher meat in Poland and had assistance from inside Schudrich’s office in concealing the operation from authorities.

Schudrich has denied prior knowledge of Alper’s activities and suspended his aide. Alper declined to comment.

In July, Alper sent a letter to a district veterinary inspector requesting permission to slaughter 250 heads of cattle after stunning them with electric current, a formality meant to inform authorities of slaughter activities. A second letter in November requested permission to slaughter an additional 310 cows. The letter is signed by a “rabbinate coordinator for kosher products in Poland.”

“I am writing to request to carry out the slaughter of 310 heads of cattle on Nov. 24, 2013, with use of electric current to render the animals unconscious,” Alper wrote in the November letter.

The animals mentioned in Alper’s letters were killed at the Biernacki slaughterhouse in Jarocin, 150 miles west of Warsaw. The slaughterhouse, which was one of Poland’s main facilities for kosher meat, included living quarters for the rabbis who performed the actual slaughter.

Several sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said kosher slaughter was taking place at Biernacki as recently as this month. A spokesman for the slaughterhouse declined to respond to JTA inquiries but emphasized that the facility adheres to Polish and European law.

Only cows are slaughtered at Biernacki; some labels in Poland carrying kosher certification from prominent rabbis are for kosher chicken produced in Poland last year. The labels do not carry the names of the slaughterhouses where the birds were slaughtered, but two poultry meat producers named by a person with knowledge of the industry did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Schudrich would not confirm whether commercial kosher slaughter continued in Poland after January 2013, but he called Alper’s letter “a very serious mistake.”

Schudrich also disputed the idea that an actual ban on ritual slaughter is in place, noting that a constitutional court has been reviewing a petition by Jews and Muslims arguing that the two 1997 laws are in conflict.

“The court’s ruling in 2012 is not a ban,” explained Schudrich. “It is a case of conflicting legislation that is being reviewed by the Constitutional Tribunal.”

Some fear such nuances will be lost on the general public when Poland’s Channel 1 airs the results of its own investigation next month into the kosher slaughter in Poland. The report will harm efforts to resolve the matter and become grist for the mill of anti-Semites, according to Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak of Beit Polska, a national umbrella organization for Polish Reform and Progressive congregations.

“Clearly, there has not been a cessation of kosher slaughter,” said Beliak. “Manipulation of the issue of kosher-halal slaughter for political purposes by Polish politicians or Jewish community officials or by various business interests reduces the respect that the practice of keeping kosher deserves. Lying about it erodes the community’s credibility and is quite simply playing with fire.”

Beliak said he fears the report will create the impression that Jews don’t respect Polish law, though he added that kosher slaughter could not have continued without Polish officials looking the other way.

“Ritual slaughter is too big a business for Poland to simply walk away from it,” he said.

Oxfam Aid Questioned

Scarlett Johansson and SodaStream  CEO Daniel Birnbaum (Photo Provided)

Scarlett Johansson and SodaStream
CEO Daniel Birnbaum (Photo Provided)

An Israeli organization is mulling over taking a legal fight against Oxfam International to the global aid conglomerate’s donors, cutting off a source of funds it says is ending up in the hands of people allied with terror groups.

“We are thinking of alerting the foundations that fund Oxfam,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director and founder of the Israel Law Center, told the Washington Jewish Week. Companies such as “Coca-Cola [and Oxfam’s] ambassadors, they have a lot of celebrities who serve as their ambassadors.”

The warning, detailed Darshan-Leitner, is that such entities “may pay directly or indirectly to fund a terror organization if they fund Oxfam.”

Following the international brouhaha last month, when actress Scarlett Johansson publicly quit her position as a global ambassador for Oxfam after the organization criticized her marketing efforts for Israeli company SodaStream, the ILC sent a letter to Oxfam and its Netherlands branch warning of an anti-terrorism lawsuit.

At issue is Oxfam’s aid and collaboration with the Gaza-based Union of Agricultural Workers Committees and the Union of Health Workers Committees; according to the ILC, both unions are closely affiliated with the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an Arab nationalist organization responsible for numerous acts of terrorism dating back to the 1960s that has long been regarded as a terrorist organization by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, European Union and Israel.

Claiming that it has proof that the unions are instruments of the PFLP, allowing the PFLP to use their facilities to honor suicide bombers and possessing many of the same leaders as the Palestinian group, the ILC alleges that the unions were created as the PFLP’s outreach arms to bring relief to the impoverished citizens in Gaza in order to bolster support for its cause.

“Please be advised that providing services to the terrorist instrumentalities UHWC and/or the UAWC is illegal and may have already exposed Oxfam, its global affiliates and its officers to criminal prosecution and civil liability to Israeli, European, American, Australian citizens and others victimized by terrorism sponsored by the PFLP, the parent organization of the UHWC and the UAWC,” the ILC’s letter said.

As of March 2, neither Oxfam nor any of its affiliates had responded to the charges, but in a statement to the Times of Israel, the organization noted that the ILC had threatened a lawsuit before.

“We take any such allegations seriously,” the statement read. “However, these same allegations by the Israel Law Center against UAWC were previously investigated thoroughly by the Australian government’s Federal Police and Security Intelligence Organization and were found to be completely unsubstantiated.”

The Australian investigation in 2012 found that the UAWC was listed in Israel as a humanitarian group, but according to Darshan-Leitner, that organization was different from the UAWC that partners with Oxfam.

Darshan-Leitner hopes that the transparency of a trial will allow for a more thorough investigation of the connections between the PFLP and the unions working with Oxfam.

Regardless of the funding charges, Oxfam’s antagonism to Israeli policies is nothing new. The organization is a public supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that sparked the Johansson flap and has for years released statements, articles and press releases confronting Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. NGO Monitor, an organization that tracts anti-Israel sentiment, maintains a significant dossier on both Oxfam International and Oxfam Novib, the Netherlands-based arm.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Palestine and terror funding, said it is not unusual for aid organizations to cross the threshold from humanitarian assistance to political advocacy.

“That is unfortunately the M.O. of a lot of organizations that have committed to working in the Gaza Strip or even in the West Bank,” explained Schanzer. “There’s the sense that sometimes when they work with these jurisdictions, they almost become a client of the Palestinian cause.”

Schanzer said that he didn’t know whether the unions were part of the PFLP like ILC alleges, but that it is not uncommon for further vetting to be required when an organization wants to deliver aid to a place like Gaza. contributed to this story.