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Minister says outlawing of Palestinian groups didn’t come up in security cabinet

Public Security Minister Barlev says he has not seen any materials tying the six organizations to the PFLP terror group, as claimed by Defense Minister Gantz

(L) Public Security Minister Omer Barlev during a meeting at the Knesset, September 13, 2021 and (R) Defense Minister Benny Gantz during meeting at the Knesset, October 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
(L) Public Security Minister Omer Barlev during a meeting at the Knesset, September 13, 2021 and (R) Defense Minister Benny Gantz during meeting at the Knesset, October 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said Sunday that the move to designate six Palestinian human rights groups as terror organizations was not discussed in the high-level security cabinet, of which he is a member.

“I am a member of the security cabinet and it did not come up there. This raises questions,” Barlev told the Kan public broadcaster.

On Friday afternoon, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that the six Palestinian civil society groups — including highly prominent ones with significant backing and oversight from the European Union and other international bodies — were being designated as terror organizations, asserting that they worked on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.

The list consisted of: Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; ADDAMEER — Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Bisan Center for Research and Development; al-Haq Organization; Defense for Children International — Palestine (DCI-P); and the Union Of Agricultural Work Committees.

The Defense Ministry provided no concrete evidence to demonstrate a direct connection between those organizations and the PFLP in its announcement on Friday.

“I personally don’t know about intelligence materials [tying the groups to the PFLP], but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Barlev told Kan.

A Palestinian woman walks into the al-Haq human rights group organization’s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

“I think that at a time like this… if the intelligence materials do show [that the groups] are a danger to Israel’s security, then their activities should be barred. But if the intelligence reports don’t have much meaning on the ground, then in the case of some of [the groups], it would have been better to act differently,” he said.

The move sparked a swift backlash around the globe, with the EU, the Palestinian Authority, progressive Democrats, US Jewish groups, and international and Israeli human rights organizations expressing criticism.

Clement Voule, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of association, tweeted Sunday that he was “outraged” by Israel’s move, and added that the country’s terrorism laws are “flawed.”

Both Israeli military and civilian law ban supporting or joining a terror group, and violators can face years in prison. Israeli authorities can also seize assets belonging to terror organizations and prohibit funding their activities. Donors may also be subject to significant jail time.

Israeli authorities have charged before that the PFLP has pilfered millions of euros from civil society organizations affiliated with its members to fund terrorist activities.

Judah Ari Gross and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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