Israel is not suppressing Palestinian civil society - opinion

The organizations now listed as terrorist groups are targeted because of a legitimate and well-documented track record of collusion and cooperation the PFLP.

 A GIRL WEARING a headband of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine at a rally in Gaza City. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM)
A GIRL WEARING a headband of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine at a rally in Gaza City.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM)

The recent designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations has sparked intense controversy from both Israel’s usual critics and supporters of the state. But Israel is not suppressing Palestinian civil society, contrary to what one might be hearing this week, and here is why: the organizations now listed as terrorist groups are not targeted because of their anti-Israel stances, but rather because of a legitimate and well-documented track record of collusion and cooperation the PFLP, the internationally recognized terrorist organization. 

Exaggerated comparisons to oppressive regimes seeking to shut down criticism is unwarranted on this issue for several key reasons. First, dozens of NGOs – Palestinian, Israeli and international – are fiercely critical of Israel yet they, with the exception of the six in question, are not labeled terrorist organizations. Second, there is a track record of terrorist activity from the six organizations labeled last week, and this information has been made publicly available.

For years, the Israeli government, through the Strategic Affairs Ministry (now merged with the Foreign Ministry), provided documentation of the PFLP connection to numerous Palestinian civil society organizations including Al-Haq, Addameer and DCI-P. 

The evidence previously released by the ministry detailed how Addameer, one of the six organizations, has board members, legal staff, a researcher, a financial officer, a co-founder and a director-general who are also PFLP terrorists, some of whom carried out recruitment and acts of terror during their time working at Addameer. Multiple Addameer employees or officials have also been convicted of murder for terror attacks they committed, such as former Addameer financial officer Sameer Arbid and Addameer board member Yacoub Odeh. 

Arbid, who was implicated in a recent terror attack that killed a 17-year-old Israeli, was also employed by the Union Of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), another organization of the six, along with his coworker and PFLP operative Razak Praj. An employee of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Ataraf Rimawi, was also implicated in the same terror attack.

 Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017.  (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM) Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

In the case of Al-Haq, another NGO of the six newly-designated terror groups, its director, Shawan Jabarin, was convicted and served time in prison for terrorism recruitment for the PFLP. Jabarin also sits on the board of DCI-P, another of the six organizations, along with numerous other PFLP members and convicted PFLP terrorists.

The sixth organization, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), is already designated by USAID as the official women’s organization of the PFLP. Additionally, Fatah declares the NGO as an official affiliate. 

This evidence was compelling enough at the time for the EU to express concern over the misuse of funding, with suspicions that money was being diverted to terrorist organizations (PFLP), as well as for terrorist activities. The EU issued a demand that Palestinians NGOs that receive funding must first attest that they will not support terrorist organizations. Instead of complying, incredibly, 130 Palestinian NGOs refused to renounce ties to terrorist groups. Over the past few years, some EU member states have even halted funding to these same NGOs over payments to the PFLP.

Now, through a lengthy intelligence investigation, the Israeli government has finally designated these six NGOs as fronts for PFLP terrorist activity. They were found to have diverted international funding and forged documents to provide financial assistance to the PFLP. One wonders how the EU, US, UN or any other body could be feigning such shock and outrage over this when they themselves expressed concerns about precisely these issues within the last few years? The US, EU, and UN “outrage” comes off as a manufactured publicity stunt.

While all evidence against the six organizations has not yet been released, one thing can be said for certain: it is not an attack on civil society to designate NGOs as terror fronts when they are abusing their status as NGOs to fund and assist terror. In fact, it is a known tactic of terrorist organizations to use NGOs as a cover. For example, Hezbollah’s many fronts in Lebanon are known to be official affiliates of the Iran-backed terror group. 

Dozens of Palestinian NGOs work against the state of Israel in a variety of ways without funding internationally recognized terrorist organizations. There is a reason these six were designated and others were not – and that alone speaks to the fact that this is not an attack on Palestinian civil society meant to “suppress voices against the occupation” but rather to halt funding to violent terrorist groups actively plotting attacks against Israelis. If Israel’s goal was simply to shut down critics, there would be a very different reality for organizations like B’tselem, Breaking the Silence and even international organizations like Human Rights Watch. 

No organization, of any nationality, should get a free pass to assist violent terrorist organizations. To pretend there is not a track record of these organizations’ affiliations and assistance to the PFLP in the past few years is to ignore evidence that has already been released. Israel is entitled to designate these organizations as PFLP fronts, and the international community should respect that and stop funding them.

The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative, LLC.