Why the gap between IDF legal cases, Palestinian NGO terror declaration? - analysis

At least from the IDF legal division’s perspective, the terror designation is expected to remain in place.

 The logo of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq is seen in its offices in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on November 8, 2021. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
The logo of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq is seen in its offices in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on November 8, 2021.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Convictions in the IDF West Bank Courts in November and on February 13 have created an apparent gap between the criminal cases against Palestinians and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s October declaration that six Palestinian NGOs were working with the designated terror group, the  Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Why has this gap emerged and what does it mean for the future of the terror declaration?

At least from the IDF legal division’s perspective, the terror designation is expected to remain in place, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The problem starts with criticism that in the two convictions that relate to the six Palestinian NGOs, charges which would have supported the broader terror declaration were dropped, leaving only minor terror charges.

According to the IDF this does not matter as aspects of past criminal cases could overlap with the terror declaration, and may overlap more in the future, but the criminal and administrative declaration processes are separate issues.

 MINISTERS ARE certain he is running for political office. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi at the Rabin memorial this week. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) MINISTERS ARE certain he is running for political office. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi at the Rabin memorial this week. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The IDF would explain that the legal standard for an administrative designation of a terror group is very different from that required for a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court.

Intelligence and other evidence which may be critical for an administrative declaration are not always usable in criminal cases.

But there are other issues separating the two processes.

The defendant convicted last week, Khatam Saafin, was arrested in November 2020 and indicted in June 2021 – before Gantz’s declaration.

Juana Rashmawi was arrested in April 2021 – also before the declaration –but convicted in November.

From the IDF Prosecution’s perspective, both of these cases were built up before the declaration. The declaration would thus have more impact in future criminal cases.

Does this mean that the public can expect a wave of new criminal cases against Palestinians involved in the six Palestinian NGOs in the coming months?

Not necessarily.

The purpose of the terror designation was not the same as a criminal proceeding which is often intended to bring an individual to justice for past actions It is possible that the terror declaration will have caused many activists to cease their assistance as fund-raisers or recruiters for the PFLP.

If so, it may be that no one will be prosecuted, while the goal will still have been achieved.

Will accountants Said Avidaat and Amro Hamuda, at the center of many allegations, who have provided significant evidence against the six Palestinian NGOs, not be indicted, nor the dozen or so activists named in an article in January by the 972 outlet and in reports by NGO Monitor?

The Post understands that no sudden wave of indictments is about to boost Gantz’s defense of the terrorist designation before skeptical audiences in the US and Europe. Why not is unclear.

Did the accountants and some of the activists cut a deal? Is the evidence politically sensitive? Would it compromise intelligence sources and methods? Is the legal process just moving too slowly? Or, is it because behind the terrorist designation evidence is skimpier than Israel would like to admit?

The IDF has similar cases against Samir Arbid, Razak Praj and Ataraf Rimawi, connected to some of the six NGOs, and alleged to be PFLP operatives involved in the murder of 17-year-old Rina Schnerb in August 2019. But that case too is not expected to provide the smoking gun to justify the designation.

Yet the IDF legal division still views the declaration as a tool that could help it in future cases.

Whether it will cause more harm than good before Israel’s allies in the US and Europe, before critics at the UN and at the International Criminal Court, is a separate issue for the political echelon to decide.