European Union High Representative Josep Borrell declared on Wednesday that Israel had yet to send definitive proof that six recently banned Palestinian organizations were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
“We are asking for answers from the Israeli government, and we have not yet received convincing answers,” Borrell said in a closed-door meeting of international donors to the Palestinians in Oslo.
Borrell’s speech, like others given at the conference, was not public. The Times of Israel received a transcript of the address from another official.
Israel declared the six civil groups to be PFLP-linked terror groups in late October. The announcement sparked a firestorm of coverage and condemnations, as most of them received European and international funding.
Israeli officials have doubled down on the designation, repeating that there is “ironclad” classified evidence that proves the organizations’ terror links.
“We need proof of these claims,” Borrell said in his remarks on Wednesday, according to the transcript.
An EU spokesperson declined to comment on the closed-door speech, citing departmental regulations.
The six Palestinian organizations in question — al-Haq, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Bisan, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — are prominent and well-established groups.
In late October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued orders that classified all six as terror groups. After an investigation by the Shin Bet, Israeli authorities alleged that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had used the organizations to successfully channel funds from European donors to the terror group.
The PFLP, which avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, has a long history of violent attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. The United States, the European Union, and much of the international community classify it as a terrorist organization.
Israeli officials have pointed to previous convictions of high-ranking members of the nonprofits — including al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin — for belonging to the PFLP.
The Palestinian nonprofits strongly dispute the charges against them, accusing Israel of seeking to crack down on criticism of its policies.
“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,” Jabarin told The Times of Israel following the announcement.
United Nations watchdogs slammed the decision, saying it was arbitrary and capricious.
“The organizations…face far-reaching consequences as a result of this arbitrary decision, as do the people who fund them and work with them,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“The crucial work they perform for thousands of Palestinians risks being halted or severely restricted,” she added.
A classified Israeli dossier that sought to detail links between the Palestinian groups and the PFLP also failed to convince European countries to stop funding the groups, according to the left-wing Israeli website Local Call.
“If substantiated evidence were to be provided that any beneficiary has made an inappropriate use of EU funds, the EU would take action to recover these funds,” a European Union spokesperson said in a statement in late October.
But Brussels stressed that previous Israeli charges had not been proven to their satisfaction.
“Past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to certain Palestinian [civil society] partners have not been substantiated,” the EU spokesperson said.