The State Department is funding a project to train Palestinian journalists that will be carried out by a charity that has partnered with terrorist groups, according to grant records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
The State Department gave $41,000 last September to Fares Al-Arab, an organization based in the Gaza Strip that has a history of partnering with the Hamas government. The money is for Fares Al-Arab to launch a 15-month training program that will "target employed and unemployed journalists" and focus on "developing the Palestinian journalists’ English language skills," the grant documents say.
The charity has openly worked with the Hamas government as recently as 2021 on a housing project, and regularly works with the terrorist organization and others on projects. Fares Al-Arab gave its media award to a radio network run by the Islamic Jihad Movement, honored a self-described journalist who belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, hosted a press freedom event that featured a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, and co-led a human rights training course with a convicted terrorist. The group has also blasted Israel as an "apartheid" regime, supports boycott campaigns against the Jewish state, and signed on to a petition that calls on the United Nations to uncover the terrorist face" of Israel.
Areej Al-Massry, a spokeswoman for Fares Al-Arab, told the Free Beacon that "the group's views on Israel will not be a part of the media training program." Program participants will be selected "in partnership with the project's management staff in the U.S. Department of State," she said. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The group's associations with terrorist groups and history of anti-Israel activism are raising concerns among lawmakers. The Israel Defense Forces has warned that terror groups use "journalism as a cover for terrorism," with Hamas reportedly employing operatives as cameramen and operating out of media buildings. In 2015, an Israeli soldier was stabbed and wounded by a terrorist posing as a photographer and wearing a yellow "press" vest.
"It’s no surprise that the Biden State Department is funding groups committed to inciting violence against Israel and waging economic warfare against our Israeli allies," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Free Beacon. "Biden officials have been taking money that Congress allocated for programs in Israel aimed at coexisting and integration, and instead poured them into Hamas-controlled areas."
Cruz added that State Department officials "regularly refuse to disclose the groups and locations for their grants, and have even actively entered false information, to shield them from congressional and public scrutiny."
The spokeswoman Al-Massry said that many of the terrorist-related events the group participated in took place more than 10 years ago, and the group has "signed the Anti-Terrorism Agreement with USAID."
Local reporting in Gaza tends to be skewed due to the repressive anti-Israel government, according to watchdogs.
"Truthful journalism in Hamas-ruled Gaza can be a death sentence," said Jonah Cohen, communications director for CAMERA, a Middle East media watchdog group. "If you want to improve the quality of reporting in Gaza, you first need to change the violently oppressive political conditions that Hamas imposes on reporters."
Fares Al-Arab was founded in 2007 as a local humanitarian aid group. In 2021, Fares Al-Arab entered an agreement with Gaza’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing to help "repair partial damage to 50 housing units" that occurred during a military dispute with Israel provoked by Hamas rocket attacks.
The organization also met with senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad and the Ministry of Social Development in 2017 to discuss "joint cooperation" on "charitable and social work systems," according to a Palestinian government news outlet.
While Fares Al-Arab’s website says it engages in a range of charitable work, it has also echoed the extremist political views of Palestinian leadership. The group has signed on to letters blasting Israel as an "apartheid" regime and supporting boycott campaigns against the Jewish state. Last May, the charity signed a petition demanding that the United Nations "uncover the terrorist face of the ‘state of Israel’ and start imposing sanctions and divestment, along with boycotting it."
The group also has a history of partnering with media figures linked to terror organizations.
In 2010, Fares Al-Arab gave an award to Voice of Al-Quds radio, a network run by the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Fares Al-Arab "presented a symbolic gift and a certificate of appreciation to the radio [station] for its efforts in supporting a cause through programs and news bulletins on the radio," according to a press release. Later that year, the charity also honored Hassan Jaber, a journalist and former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group.
In 2007, Fares Al-Arab held an event to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, which included calls for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and featured Daued Shehed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, according to Wafa news.
Gaza anti-prison activist Jamal Farwana sat on Fares Al-Arab’s board until at least 2008 and also partnered with the charity on several events protesting Israeli prisons, according to the group’s website. Farwana—who served prison time in Israel in the 1980s and 1990s—has advocated for the release of convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian terrorists. Farwana’s father, who passed away in 2020, was one of the original leaders of the PFLP’s military front, according to the terrorist group’s website.
Fares Al-Arab also co-led a human rights training course in 2010 with Jaber Wishah, a convicted terrorist who was locked up for bomb-making and trying to kill an Israeli staff sergeant in 1985, according to NGO Monitor.