After classifying several Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups, Israel sent the IDF to raid their offices last week, angering the Europeans and raising questions from the Americans. If the Israeli action is based on real intelligence information, which we assume it is, then the government must show proof – not just to the international community, but first of all to Israelis.
On August 17, the Government Press Office issued a statement that as part of the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Defense Minister Benny Gantz had ratified a designation made in October 2021 to declare the following groups terrorist organizations: The Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International–Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
All the organizations operate under cover for the PFLP, the statement said. “The organizations operate under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to further the goals of the PFLP terrorist organization, to strengthen the organization and to recruit operatives,” it said. “They also assist in raising funds for the terrorist organization via a variety of methods that include forgery and fraud.”
The statement stressed that the groups are controlled by the PFLP, employ PFLP operatives in management and field positions and operate to conceal their affiliation to the terrorist organization, out of fear of the security agencies in Israel and in the countries where they raise funds, adding, “The designation of these organizations and their exposure as branches of the PFLP terrorist organization is part of the joint effort of the Israel Security Agency, the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) in the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.”
“We will continue to support Palestinian [NGOs] that have a role to play in promoting human rights [and] democratic values.”EU Ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev
Raid on Ramallah
On August 18, the IDF raided the offices of seven groups it had blacklisted as terrorist organizations in the Ramallah area, sealing their entrances and declaring them closed. Following the raids, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell sharply condemned the Israeli actions, saying there was no evidence to support the claim that the organizations involved supported terror.
“These actions are not acceptable,” Borrell said, adding that “no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy toward the six Palestinian civil society organizations on the basis of the Israeli decision.”
He spoke after the British newspaper The Guardian said it had obtained a classified report from the CIA claiming that no evidence had been found to back up Israel’s claims that the NGOs are terror affiliates. Earlier this year, Israel passed intelligence about the designation to the US, but a CIA intelligence assessment of the material apparently did not find any evidence to support the claim, according to two sources familiar with the study, the newspaper reported.
State Department spokesman Ned Price indicated that the information about the groups given by Israel supported the conclusion that they are terror groups, but said that Israel had promised to provide additional information to back up its actions. It should be noted that although the US has refrained from publicly criticizing Israel, it has also not placed the groups under its own terror designation because the proof Israel has supplied so far is apparently not sufficient.
European countries demand answers
On Monday, EU Ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev and diplomats from 19 European countries demanded answers from Israel.
The diplomats said they did not accept Israel’s terror designation of the groups because they had not received any evidence to validate that claim. “No substantial information was received from Israel so far that would justify reviewing our policy,” Tzantchev said. “We will continue to support Palestinian [NGOs] that have a role to play in promoting human rights [and] democratic values.”
So where do we go from here? It is up to Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his government, especially Gantz, to assemble all the intelligence information they have. They should then convene a news conference as soon as possible – and demonstrate beyond doubt to Israelis and the international community that Israel’s actions are based on solid proof.