Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Friday that six Palestinian NGOs will be listed as terror organizations for their close ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
“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,” he announced.
“The security organizations will continue to act and intensify the strikes against terrorism and the terrorist infrastructure everywhere, and by all means,” said Gantz. “I call on the countries of the world and international organizations to assist in this fight and to avoid contact with companies and organizations that supply materials to terrorism.”
The six groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
The announcement by Gantz apparently caught the U.S. off-guard with U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price telling reporters that Israel did not give them “advance warning.”
“We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance,” said Price, adding that they will be engaging with Israel “for more information regarding the basis for these designations.
In addition to Israel, the United States and European Union also consider the PFLP to be a terror organization.
Progressives, left-wing groups call it a ‘repressive measure’
American progressive lawmakers criticized the decision.
“There must be immediate consequences from the U.S. and the international community for this brazen act,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) posted on Twitter.
Similarly, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) called on Israel to rescind its ban, saying “many of these organizations are working to bring peace in the region, and are vocal critics of Hamas & the P.A.”
J Street also condemned the move, calling it a “repressive measure” that seems to be “designed to outlaw and persecute important Palestinian human rights groups.”
“The Biden admin[istration] should make clear to the Israeli government that this is totally unacceptable and anti-democratic, and call on them to reverse the decision,” it said.
The United Nations also condemned the announcement by Israel. “Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” the U.N. Human Rights Office in Ramallah said in a statement, adding that Israel’s decision was based on “extremely vague or irrelevant reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities.”
Nevertheless, the six Palestinian NGOs have received considerable funding in the past from E.U. member states and the United Nations. Last May, the Shin Bet announced that it had uncovered a finance network for PFLP where the terror stole millions of euros from European aid organizations and governments to fund terrorist activities.
“Those funds served the Popular Front for payments to security prisoners’ families and martyrs, wages for activists, enlistment of activists, promotion of terror activity, promotion of the Popular Front activity in Jerusalem, and distribution of the organization’s messages and ideology,” according to Israel’s Ministry of Defense.
Under Israeli law, the designation now allows authorities to close the nonprofits’ offices, seize their assets and ban supporting their activities.
NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that tracks anti-Israel nonprofits, said the announcement by the Israeli government “confirms what our research has shown years—this time six Palestinian NGOs were designated as terrorist organizations as part of the PFLP network. All are funded by European [governments] and deeply involved in political warfare against Israel,” the group said on Twitter.