'Terrorist groups view boycotts as a complementary tactic'

Israeli government report claims terrorists have ‘infiltrated’ Palestinian NGOs

Strategic Affairs Ministry says it found over 100 ‘links’ between Hamas and PFLP and Western-backed groups promoting BDS

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at press conference with foreign media in Bnei Brak on February 3, 2019. (Flash90)
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at press conference with foreign media in Bnei Brak on February 3, 2019. (Flash90)

An Israeli government report accused some Western-backed Palestinian NGOs of having close ties with current and former terrorists, some of whom have shifted to battling the country through nonviolent means.

In a 80-page report, the Strategic Affairs Ministry pointed to several high-profile Palestinian activists who it said were former or current members of Hamas or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both of which are terror groups.

A number of the activists play leading roles in efforts to delegitimize Israel and further the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The terror groups have realized that armed conflict is not achieving its objective and is perceived as illegitimate by the majority of Western society,” the report states.

“Hamas and PFLP operatives have infiltrated and adopted seemingly benign NGOs in the Palestinian Authority, Europe, North America and South Africa, for the purpose of advancing their ideological goal: the elimination of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

These terror groups consider NGOs backed by Western governments as “a convenient means for raising funds which they could not otherwise obtain,” according to the report.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan charged that the BDS movement had joined forces with terror groups to “wipe Israel off the map.”

“Terrorist groups view boycotts as a complementary tactic to terror attacks,” he said.

The ministry has found more than 100 “links” between terror groups and organizations promoting anti-Israel boycotts, “including the employment of 30 current and former terror operatives,” according to the report.

Speaking at an English-language press conference in the ministry’s Bnei Brak headquarters, Erdan called on the foreign governments and financial institutions to “investigate the activities of these BDS organizations, and immediately end all funding and support which they provide to them.”

The report presents dozens of examples of crossover between activists in NGOs, which delegitimize and promote boycotts of Israel, and Hamas and the PFLP.

The ministry singled out Leila Khaled, a PFLP terrorist who was involved in plane hijackings almost 50 years ago, and who today goes on speaking tours in Europe and is widely respected in South Africa.

The ministry accused Khaled of “coordinating between a PFLP command center in Syria and operatives in Jerusalem planning lethal attacks against Israelis,” even while fundraising for the BDS movement in South Africa.

The report also pointed to Khalida Jareer, a PFLP operative who used to sit on the board of Ramallah-based NGO Addameer.

Jareer, a Palestinian lawmaker, has been in jail in administrative detention for over a year.

There was no immediate response from Addameer.

Another target was Ramallah-based al-Haq which is led by Shawan Jabarin. According to the report, Jabarin is a “former senior operative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group, who has served several prison sentences due to his terrorist activity.”

A graphic depicting Palestinian ex-terrorist and activist Shawan Jabarin from a report entitled ‘Terrorist in Suits’ issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (courtesy)

However, Jabarin said he had no connection to the PFLP, an accusation has been raised repeatedly in the past.

“Erdan and his team are lying. If they have anything against us, they are welcome to present it to the courts,” he told The Times of Israel. “Everything we have is out in the open. We are a apolitical and professional humanitarian and legal organization. Our finances and reports are transparent.”

Both Adameer and al-Haq are funded by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Germany’s Heinrich Boll Foundation, Irish aid and the UN International Development program, among others.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a leading pro-Palestinian group active in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, “has ties to Hamas operatives such as Muhammad Sawalha and Zaher Birawi.”

In 2017, group leader Hugh Lanning was banned from Israel over meetings with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a tax-exempt group that promotes BDS in the United States, was involved, “directly and indirectly, in providing funding assistance to Hamas,” the report claims.

In 2016, the group dismissed claims of links to Hamas after US expert leveled the accusations at the group during Congressional testimony.

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president and founder of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem watchdog that has warned of possible connections between Europe-funded Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP for more than a decade, said he would carefully study the ministry’s report and called on foreign governments and NGO-funding agencies to do the same.

“We also repeat our call for cooperation between Israeli government officials and European counterparts to ensure that no funding is provided to NGOs linked to designated terror organizations,” Steinberg said.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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