Israel banned six Palestinian civil rights groups working as front organizations for the PFLP.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday designated six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terror groups linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, paving the way for Israeli authorities to seize their assets and criminalize their funding.
Officials in Jerusalem disputed U.S. claims that Washington was not notified ahead of the controversial move.
The most prominent of the six NGOs are Al-Haq, which spearheads legal campaigns and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activities against Israel, and Addameer, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners. Both are based in Ramallah.
The other four designated NGOs are Defense for Children-International, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center.
Several of these organizations receive funding from the U.S and Europe.
“Those organizations were active under the cover of civil society organizations, but in practice belong and constitute an arm of the [PFLP] leadership, the main activity of which is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel,” said a Defense Ministry statement.
“Those funds served the Popular Front for payments to security prisoners’ families and martyrs, wages for activists, enlistment of activists, promotion of terror activity and strengthening, promotion of the Popular Front activity in Jerusalem, and distribution of the organization’s messages and ideology,” the statement added.
The PFLP is designated as a “terror organization” by Israel, the U.S., the European Union and Canada. The terror organization’s most notable attacks include the 1976 Entebbe hijacking, the 2001 assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi and the 2014 Har Nof synagogue massacre.
According to NGO-Monitor, a Defense for Children-International coordinator by the name of Hashem Abu Maria was lauded by the PFLP as one of its leaders after being killed in a clash with the IDF in 2014. Samer Arbid, the financial director of the Agricultural Work Committee, was accused of leading the terror cell that killed Rina Shnerb in a roadside bomb in 2019. Several current and former board members of Addameer have close ties to the terror group.
U.S. officials criticized the Israeli designation, saying they had not been informed ahead of time and would “seek clarification” from Israel. But officials in Jerusalem said they notified Washington ahead of time.
Hebrew media reports quoted an anonymous Israeli defense official who said, “Officials in the American administration were updated in advance of the intention to make this declaration, and they received intelligence information about the matter.”
While leaders of the NGOs denied having any ties to terror and claimed the Defense Ministry was trying to silence their work, the PFLP didn’t deny the associations.
In a statement, PFLP politiburo member Kayed al-Ghoul said the Palestinians are “proud of the affiliation of any of their sons with any national faction that resists the occupation, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO-Monitor, lauded the Israeli designation.
“Although the PFLP is a declared terrorist organization in the United States, Israel, Canada, and the European Union, many European governments have continued to invest in PFLP-linked NGOs for 20 years, severely exploiting their taxpayers’ money,” Steinberg said. “These recurring cases point to a widespread phenomenon, and it is time for Europeans to freeze grants and set up independent mechanisms for evaluating funding for NGOs.”
Although the PFLP maintains a staunch secular Marxist ideology, its opposition to the Oslo accords brought it closer to Hamas.
The terror group’s best-known personality is Leila Khaled, who was involved in two airline hijackings in 1969 and 1970. Khaled, now 77, was recently in the news when Zoom pulled the plug on her controversial San Francisco State University webinar in April.
In July, Al-Haq, Addameer and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees were among several groups cited in an Im Tirtzu report on the United Nations funneling $40 million to radical Palestinian NGOs.