Israel ratifies decision to designate three Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Bisan and Adameer are “branches of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” says Israel’s Defense Ministry.

By Maayan Hoffman, JNS

Israel on Wednesday ratified an October 2021 decision to designate three PFLP-affiliated NGOs as terrorist organizations, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), Bisan and Adameer, are all “branches of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” the ministry said in a statement.

The designation of another three organizations—Al-Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and Union of Agricultural Work Committees’ (UAWC)—which were also named last October as being tied to the PFLP, has not yet been ratified.

Al-Haq and DCI-P submitted appeals to the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command but their appeals were denied, the ministry said. A spokesperson for NGO Monitor, which has been closely monitoring the designation of these organizations since last year, said that UAWC has also appealed, but that its status remained unclear.

These organizations, under the guise of humanitarian and other activities, in fact further the goals of the PFLP terrorist organization, including recruiting PFLP operatives and raising money for the PFLP, according to the ministry.

They were found to be “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 in where they raise funds,” the statement continued.

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‘Tied to terror’

Although the designations were decided upon through joint research carried out by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) in the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, “there is a treasure trove of publicly available information that shows why and how these groups are tied to terror,” said Yona Schiffmiller, director of research at NGO Monitor.

For example, in her book, “Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance,” Simona Sharoni wrote that women who “favor” the PFLP founded UPWC.

Moreover, the organization regularly honors PFLP terrorists, NGO Monitor said, including commemorating the “anniversary of martyrdom” of the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who in 1978 murdered 37 civilians, including 12 children.

Bisan’s executive director, Ubai Aboudi, was convicted by Israeli authorities in 2020 of “being a member and an activist of the Popular Front organization,” including being “responsible for recruiting additional activists to the organization from young people and students,” according to NGO Monitor.

Regarding Addameer, NGO Monitor reported on more than a dozen current and former employees who were active members of the PFLP, including one who was actively involved in the 2019 bombing in the West Bank that murdered 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb.

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Will the Europeans reinstate funding?

Following Israel’s announcement of the designation of these organizations as terror-tied last year, multiple European Union countries that were funding them said that they would either cease funding or work to develop mechanisms to ensure that funding would not be issued to terror-linked NGOs operating in the West Bank and Gaza. The E.U. also froze funds to some of the designated groups.

However, last month, nine E.U. states—Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden—said they would continue to fund the organizations despite Israel’s designation.

“Accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness,” the states wrote in a joint statement. “The designations needed therefore to be assessed carefully and extensively. No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations.’

“Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly.”

Although the statement appeared to be a clear rejection of Israel’s designations, NGO Monitor research director Schiffmiller told JNS that there is not yet any record of renewed funding for these groups from the countries that froze funding, though certain European funders have continued to support these NGOs despite the designations.

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“It may be that these countries want to show the Palestinians that they are not abandoning them, but they may not actually renew funding,” he explained.

“Will the Europeans reinstate funding? Will some E.U. governments freeze funding and others not? Will the Europeans publicly bash Israel but not really reinstate funding? These are all questions we have that are not yet answered,” said Schiffmiller.

“This issue is not going to disappear,” added NGO Monitor president and founder Gerald M. Steinberg. “The question is how Israel will respond if the European governments try to restore funding for the PFLP’s NGO network.”