Apoplexy greets Israel’s move against terror NGOs
The reaction illuminates how Europe shores up the Biden team's hostility to Israel
When Israeli security forces raided the offices of several NGOs in Ramallah last week and closed them down, they lifted a stone to reveal a buzzing nest of Israel’s enemies.
During the past two years, Israel declared that these NGOs were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.
The NGOs in question all purported to be working merely to improve the lot of Palestinians in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. They were Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center, the Defence for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Health Work Committees.
The Israeli Defence Ministry said that, under the guise of humanitarian and other activities, these groups intended to advance the PFLP’s goals. A security official told Israel’s N12 news site last October that they provided a funding “lifeline” for the PFLP, employed PFLP terrorists and that PFLP terror operatives used their offices for meetings.
After Israel rejected their appeals, Israeli officers reportedly confiscated dozens of their documents, printers and computers, sealed office doors and posted notices declaring the groups illegal.
This produced apoplexy among those along the United Nations/European Union/US Democratic party axis who loathe Israel and seek to harm it.
The UN Human Rights Office in Ramallah claimed that Israel was trying to “constrain… entirely peaceful and legitimate activities” by “humanitarian groups”.
The ambassadors of 17 European countries stated that they will continue to fund these seven groups, and that they have found no evidence to support Israel’s claim that they are connected to terrorism.
In America, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib called Israel's action against the NGOs a “ridiculous, unjustified attack”. Last month, some 22 US Democrat lawmakers urged the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reject Israel’s designation of these groups as terrorism supporters.
And after the raid, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said “senior level” US officials were “concerned”. Washington had made clear to Jerusalem that “independent civil society organisations in the West Bank and Israel must be able to continue their important work”.
The Americans also say they have found no evidence that these groups are connected to terrorism.
In fact, there’s copious evidence. Since 2007, NGO Monitor has published numerous reports based on open sources that have documented the close connections between a number of NGOs and the PFLP.
Last year, NGO Monitor identified a network of 13 such groups, including the seven identified by Israel, linked to the PFLP and funded by European or other governments.
Moreover, some countries whose governments have expressed outrage at Israel’s action have themselves identified such links.
As Honest Reporting has recorded, an investigation commissioned by the United States Agency of International Development described the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees as the “women’s organisation” of the PFLP, and also described the Union of Agricultural Work Committees as being the PFLP’s agricultural arm.
In 2020, the Netherlands government admitted that part of a Dutch aid package was used to pay the salaries of two of this agricultural union’s employees charged with murdering Rina Shnerb, a 17 year-old Israeli who was killed in 2019 by a roadside bomb in the disputed territories, and it temporarily halted those aid payments.
In 2013, the UN Economic and Social Council refused the Addameer group’s request for Special Consultative Status due to its failure to respond to questions about its relationship to the PFLP. And so on.
In the light of all this, the statement by the US and others that civil society consists of such groups is preposterous. There should be no place whatever in civil society for groups supporting terrorism.
But how can these governments maintain that they have seen no evidence to support Israel’s claim? What they actually mean is that they reject Israel’s evidence.
This may be because the political and diplomatic parts of government often don’t know what the counter-terrorism and security parts are discovering. Maybe small NGOs are mistakenly thought to be too insignificant to worry about.
What’s more likely, however, is that such governments simply refuse to engage with any evidence that would undermine their own strategy against Israel.
For years, the UN and EU have weaponised “human rights” culture against Israel with an unstoppable battery of lies and libels. Their malice is concealed by the halo that the west has perched over the term “human rights”.
As a result, Israel’s vital defence against murderous aggression has been misrepresented as an abuse of human rights. Those who are actually engaged in that aggression are said to be Israel’s victims — and are therefore able to attack Israel with the impunity provided by the “human rights” world.
So “human rights” NGOs are a key weapon in the diplomatic and political war of attrition aimed at Israel’s destruction. That’s why Human Rights Watch is intimately involved in the Pillay commission set up by the UN as a kangaroo court to declare Israel a supreme violator of human rights.
And that’s why a letter disseminated by Human Rights Watch and signed by ten like-minded groups called the Israeli action “an assault on the basic human rights of Palestinians to assemble and organise freely and an example of the Israeli government’s weaponisation of ‘counterterrorism laws’ in its relentless attacks against civil society activists”.
Thus much was entirely predictable. But the reaction of the Biden administration raises additional questions.
For unlike the EU, the US hasn’t funded any of the NGOs in question. So although it hasn’t actually repudiated Israel’s claims, why has it called into question Israeli intelligence?
The president of NGO Monitor, Professor Gerald Steinberg, offers two reasons. The groups in question, he says, are heroes to progressive Democrats for championing “human rights” against Israel. To acknowledge the reality would create a major backlash from those for whom the Palestinians can do no wrong and Israel can do no right.
Moreover, in the diplomatic realm the Biden administration needs European co-operation on a number of global issues. Ukraine, China and Iran are obvious examples. “There is nothing to be gained by being caught between Israel and Europe on the ostensibly minor issue of partnerships with Palestinian NGOs,” Steinberg told me.
This last point accords with Blinken’s own response to the row over the NGOs. The Guardian reported: “According to a federal government source, Blinken has shied away from the issue of the designations since Israel announced them. ‘The secretary himself said basically: this isn’t something we want to touch too much’”.
This sheds an intriguing light on the Biden administration’s attitude towards Israel. For it shows that the US cannot act alone. It needs European support.
To grasp the significance of this, try turning it round. Suppose the EU countries were passionate supporters of Israel and determined to call a halt to Palestinian violence and blackmail. Suppose they reacted to Israel’s blacklist by cutting off all European aid to these NGOs and denouncing their abuse of human rights culture.
In those circumstances, the Biden administration would feel unable to cast doubt on Israeli intelligence. It would also find it far less easy to side with and empower Israel’s enemies in Ramallah — or in Tehran, as it is now doing.
In reality, the EU funds many groups that operate against Israel in the diplomatic sphere, as well as helping fund illegal Arab settlements in the disputed territories and in the Negev.
Just as those trying to resist evil are disempowered if they find themselves acting alone, so too those perpetrating evil can only succeed if others support them.
In their animus against Israel, the Biden administration and the countries of western Europe draw sustenance from each other. That’s the poisonous nest that was revealed when Israeli forces in Ramallah last week lifted the stone.
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