Following an initiative taken by the country’s security force, Shin Bet, and the country’s Ministry of Defense had passed through appropriate legal channels, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an executive order labeling six Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as terrorist organizations. The NGOs involved have been tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
As the second-largest group of those that comprise the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), PFLP currently opposes the Palestinian governments that are internationally recognized as leading the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Traditionally PFLP has taken a hard line on the goal of a separate Palestinian state, opposing the more moderate Fatah which provides the majority of support for the current governments.
Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, PFLP was well-known for pioneering methods to perform aircraft hijackings. They also have been associated with so-called suicide bombings, although they claim to no longer see this as a form of resistance to occupation or as a strategic action.
PFLP has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union.
Founded as a Marxist-Leninist and revolutionary socialist organization, PFLP developed ties with the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea early in the organization’s evolution. They have also been tied at various times with the governments of Syrian, South Yemen, Libya, and Iraq. Terrorist organizations with which PFLP have been associated include the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish armed guerilla movement; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); and the Japanese Red Army, a militant communist group primarily active in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, PFLP began being linked to Islamist organizations throughout the Middle East and based in Iran.
The facts that PFLP itself uses terroristic tactics and does not recognize the State of Israel are well-established.
For funding, it has been accused that PFLP has been diverting funds from the European Union intended for Palestinian NGOs to itself instead. The funds, intended for humanitarian uses, are claimed to have been diverted to support terroristic activities conducted by PFLP.
As a result, Israel contends that the NGOs were complicit in the transactions and diversions, and have labeled them as terrorist organizations, as well. The six NGOs involved are Addameer, a prisoner support group that “monitors the treatment of Palestinian prisoners arrested in the West Bank” by Israel; Al-Haq, which claims to monitor and document “human rights violations committed by parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and providing reports on their findings; Bisan Center which promotes itself as “an active civil society organization…to enhance Palestine’s resilience…”; DCIP, promoting and protecting “the human rights of Palestinian children;” Samidoun, labeling itself “Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network;” and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), “established in 1986 to improve the performance and professionalism of Palestinian farmers.”
All of these organizations are based in Ramallah, the heart of the Palestinian movement and headquarters city for PFLP.
Along with being based in close proximity to each other, the organizations are alleged to share leadership personnel with PFLP. This allows the NGOs to share information and resources, including funding, with PFLP. As PFLP has already been designated a terrorist organization by numerous countries, the sharing of resources and funding would tie the NGOs to PFLP as the money would be directed toward to these terroristic activities.
The designation by Israel of the NGOs as terrorist organizations received swift backlash from the international community, led by the United States and the United Nations. The U.N. Human Rights Office in Ramallah quickly reminded Israel, “Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work.” They further questioned Israel’s motives and method in developing the policy by stating the decision was based on “extremely vague or irrelevant reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities.”
Defense Minister Gantz’s office responded with a statement of, “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.”
The European Union, though, challenged Israel’s claims that funding from these NGOs is being used by PFLP. “Past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to some of our Palestine [civil society organization] partners have not been substantiated.” The EU spokesperson continued, “EU funding to Palestinian civil society organisations is an important element of our support for the two state solution.”
While disputing the allegations of being a PFLP member, Al-Haq Director Shawan Jabarin echoed the sentiments of PFLP in a statement to the Times of Israel. “They may be able to close us down. They can seize our funding. They can arrest us. But they cannot stop our firm and unshakeable belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes.” Without a direct denial of the claims, he challenged Israel to prove its case. “I challenge any of them – the defense minister, the Shin Bet, anyone – to prove as much.”
The United States response has been characterized by some as “angry,” but indicates that more information is being sought before an opinion is rendered. “We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are equally important to responsible and responsive governance.” U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price went further in telling reporters that the U.S. would seek more information on the basis for the designations.
While the U.N. and other international organizations were angered by the designations themselves, the U.S. was alarmed by the fact that it was not given advance warning of the designations.
Comments / 0