European governments are acting as though they have been caught by surprise by Israel’s October 2021 designation of six Palestinian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as terrorist organizations. Guilty of bankrolling the six groups for years, the governments have expressed “concern” and called for Israel to provide further evidence of the reasoning behind its designation.
While these governments might like the public to believe they are innocent players with no prior information regarding Palestinian NGOs being affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, the exact opposite is true. They have known for years, and nevertheless, continued to finance these NGOs and support them in other ways.
The Defense Ministry announcement – designating Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) as terrorist organizations – notes that the groups “constitute a network of organizations active undercover on the international front on behalf of the Popular Front [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], to support its activity and to further its goals.”
It adds that the groups received foreign government funding and utilized this for “payments to security prisoners’ families and the ‘shaheeds’ (martyrs) wages for activists, enlistment of activists, promotion of terror activity and strengthening the promotion of the Popular Front activity in Jerusalem, and distribution of the organization’s messages and ideology.”
The evidence shown to governments by Israeli authorities regarding the clear flow of funds from their foreign aid offices to PFLP-related activities might be new. But the documented ties to the terror organization is far from it.
For over 10 years, NGO Monitor has published reports documenting the ties between numerous Palestinian civil society groups and the PFLP (full disclosure, I served as NGO Monitor’s managing editor and Canada liaison in 2016-2020). Using only open-source information, often simple Google and Facebook searches, the research institute has, piece by piece, put together a clear network of foreign government-backed organizations with leadership serving dual roles in the NGOs and in the terror group.
NGO Monitor staff traveled to governments around the world and to the United Nations, presenting this information and showing government officials the first-hand evidence linking the six NGOs to the PFLP terror group. Concerned members of parliament and senators have questioned their foreign aid offices in the public record about the suspicious funding, yet time and time again the governments refused to take action and cut funding.
The issue of the PFLP-tied NGO network even gained public and donor government attention in 2019, following the disclosure of a 50-person strong PFLP terror cell responsible for, inter alia, the murder of the 17-year-old Israeli girl Rina Shnerb. The cell included numerous members of these same government-funded NGOs. For instance, UAWC’s accountant Samir Arbid was, according to Israeli security officials, responsible for commanding the PFLP terror cell that carried out the bombing.
It is therefore almost laughable that governments are decrying the Israeli decision to formally designate the groups, and utilizing precious international resources like the UN Security Council to call for more “credible evidence.” These governments – whether the elected officials or government bureaucrats – have known for years that the six organizations had links to the PFLP terror group.
They have been presented with ample and publicly available and verifiable evidence. Only now, because an official government designation of a terror group will finally pressure governments to act on their own domestic terror laws and cease financing, are they up in arms and pretending as though they did not know the risks of using taxpayer funds to support such groups.
We can only hope that the public in each of the countries guilty of financing these six organizations will recognize this sheer failure of accountability and oversight and demand not only a cessation of funds but a reform in the foreign aid system to prevent such a farce from occurring again.
The writer was born and raised in Vancouver and lives in Jerusalem. She is a chief of staff in the Israeli venture capital sector, previously working as political aide to former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh and as managing editor and Canada liaison at NGO Monitor.