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Israel to share intel on Palestinian activists with the US

What happened: Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced on Friday that six Palestinian civil society organisations with connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are to be designated as terror groups.

  • The announcement was a result of research conducted by the Shin Bet security service and the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing between March and May 2021.
  • The organisations are the Addameer legal organisation, the Bisan Center think tank, Al-Haq, Defence for Children International – Palestine, The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Women’s Council.
  • While these organisations were active under the cover of “Civic Society Organisations,” according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD), their main activity “is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel. The declared organisations are controlled by the senior leaders of the PFLP and employ many Popular Front activists in field and management positions, including activists who participated in terror activity”.
  • The organisations are accused of receiving large sums of money from European countries and international organisations ”using a variety of forgery and deceit ways”.  The investigation found that the six organisations fund “payments to security prisoner’s families and the ‘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 Organisation’s messages and ideology”.
  • The Defence Ministry further notes: “These groups are connected to and are an arm of the PFLP leadership, whose goal is the destruction of Israel via terrorism. These groups serve as a cover for PFLP activities … kept hidden in order to protect them from sanctions by security forces in Israel and around the world.”

Context In February 2019, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs released a comprehensive report ‘Terrorists in Suits’ that accused several of these organisations of money laundering for terrorists in the PFLP.

  • The decision to now censor these organisations is understood to be part of extensive intelligence work supported by legal consultations.
  • Defence Minister Gantz, who led this initiative, is also leading the new government’s more accommodating approach towards the Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority (PA) in particular.
  • The PFLP has a lower profile these days but in the past was synonymous to aeroplane hijackings in the 1960s. It has also been responsible for serious terror attacks, including the assassination of minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001.
  • In 2019 an explosive device killed 16-year-old Rina Shnerb while on a nature trail with her family. Samer Arbid and Abd a-Razak Faraj were responsible for the attack, both worked for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees as well as being members of the PFLP.
  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “The PFLP maintains total control of these institutions, including via the employment of its agents in key positions, and the systematic diversion of donor funds to its militant activities against Israeli civilians.”
  • The announcement was met with mixed views within the government coalition. Members of left-wing parties have criticised the move. Minister Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said at least three of the organisations are veteran, well-known human rights NGOs and that she has trouble believing they are connected to terrorism. She said Meretz would demand clarifications in the cabinet and would ask to see the classified information that led to the decision.
  • Chairman of the PA Mahmoud Abbas condemned Gantz’s decision and announced that the PA would continue to fund the six organisations.
  • The intelligence material has already been shared with several European countries.

Looking ahead: Later this week Israel will send a special envoy from the Shin Bet security service to Washington to present their intelligence material to senior US officials and Congress. A government source told Kan Radio News this morning that the intelligence was rock solid and left no doubt as to these organisation’s involvement in terrorism.

  • Members of the coalition have demanded better coordination in the future, so announcements of this nature do not take them by surprise.

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