Biden Admin Awards Grant to Palestinian Activist Group Whose Leaders Hailed Terrorist as 'Hero Fighter'

Community Development and Continuing Education Institute board members also applauded Hamas missile attacks on Israel

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine militants in 2008 / Getty Images
March 3, 2023

The Biden administration gave a $78,000 grant to a Palestinian activist group whose leaders attended an anniversary event celebrating the founding of a terrorist group and praised the murderer of a U.S. military attaché as a "hero fighter," according to a funding announcement.

The Community Development and Continuing Education Institute (CDCEI), an activist group based in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories, received the grant to promote "youth participation and accountability in local governance," the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced in November.

But an anti-terrorism watchdog group is raising concerns about the funding, after finding that the activist group's board chairman participated in a celebration for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group, while other board members lauded convicted terrorists as "heroes" and applauded Hamas missile attacks on Israel.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that investigated the CDCEI funding, questioned the federal government's vetting process for grantees. The news of the USAID grant comes as the Biden State Department has faced criticism from lawmakers for funding a Gaza-based journalist training program run by another charity, Fares Al-Arab, that has worked with terrorists and has promoted anti-Israel views.

"These findings reinforce the need for USAID to consult a wide array of publicly available sources when vetting potential grantees, to ensure that taxpayer funds are not provided to organizations led by individuals that glorify violence, espouse anti-Semitic rhetoric, or embrace anti-normalization," NGO Monitor said. "USAID grantees should align with U.S. goals and values."

USAID did not respond to a request for comment. CDCEI did not respond to a request for comment.

CDCEI is a "nonprofit organization established in Bethlehem in 2010" that "promotes the values of human rights, pluralism, equality, good governance, and civic participation within the Palestinian society," according to its website. But Arabic-language news articles and social media posts provide a different image of the group's leadership, according to an NGO Monitor investigation shared with the Washington Free Beacon.

Imad Al-Zeer, who has served as chairman of CDCEI's board of directors since 2012, in Dec. 2019 attended a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine event celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the terrorist group's founding, according to an Al-Hadaf news report translated by NGO Monitor. Photos from the event showed Al-Zeer posing next to Popular Front signs.

In social media posts, senior board members also indicated their support for terrorists.

Mike Salman, the deputy chairman of CDCEI's board, in an April 2, 2020, Facebook post translated by NGO Monitor praised "hero fighter" George Abdallah and called for Abdallah's release from prison. Abdallah is serving a life sentence in France for the 1982 murder of U.S. military attaché Charles R. Ray, as well as an Israeli diplomat.

"Together, with one another, to support the release of George Abdallah," wrote Salman. "One of the idioms used by the hero fighter George is 'I shall never compromise, I shall keep resisting.'"

In a 2021 post, Salman also celebrated six escaped Palestinian prisoners as "heroes"—including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terror chief Zakaria Zubeidi and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member convicted of killing an Israeli teenager in 2006.

After the Israeli military killed five members of a Hamas terrorist cell in Sept. 2021, Salman wrote, "May Allah have mercy on the spirits of Palestinian hero martyrs, including the five martyrs that rose to the supreme companion yesterday."

Yasser Shaheen, a CDCEI board member, in a May 10, 2021, Facebook post translated by NGO Monitor applauded Hamas missile attacks on Israel as "rockets of the Palestinian resistance." He also mourned "hero martyr Omar Abu Layla," three days after Layla killed a rabbi and an Israel Defense Forces soldier.

Board member Jiries Abu Ghannam published a Facebook post in "solidarity with the prisoner fighter Marwan Al-Barghouti in his 19th year in Israeli prison." Barghouti is a convicted murderer who helped instigate the first and second intifadas.

Rana Abu Farha, another board member, in a post last March translated by NGO Monitor celebrated the "44th anniversary of Dalal Al-Mughrabi and 11 Palestinian revolutionaries' martyrdom" and praised the female terrorist as a "beautiful and brave fighter."

The post was a reference to Al-Mughrabi's 1978 bus hijacking and massacre of 38 Israelis, including 13 children. Al-Mughrabi also killed American photographer Gail Rubin, the niece of a then-U.S. senator, in the attack.

CDCEI isn't the only Palestinian group funded by the Biden administration to come under scrutiny in recent weeks. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) sent a letter this week calling on the State Department to suspend funding to the Gaza-based charity Fares Al-Arab, following a Free Beacon report that found the group has worked with terrorists.

The group worked with the Hamas government as recently as 2021 on a housing project. The charity also gave a media award to a radio network run by the Islamic Jihad Movement, honored a self-described journalist who belonged to the Popular Front, hosted a press freedom event that featured a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, and co-led a human rights training course with a convicted terrorist.