On October 19, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that six Palestinian NGOs – Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Research and Development Center, Defense of Children-Palestine International, Union of Agricultural Labor Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) – were now on a “terrorist list” for their links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The former Israeli chief of staff believed that his attack on these human rights groups and political prisoners would be without consequences. A bad calculation. The condemnation is worldwide and unanimous. Even “the steadfast ally” Washington asked Tel Aviv for proof of his point. On November 2, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as that of Defense, Simon Coveney, visiting Israel, explained to the “Jerusalem Post”: “We asked, just like the EU (European Union – Editor’s note), the evidence base to designate these NGOs. But we have not obtained any credible evidence to link NGOs to terrorism, certainly not in what I have seen. However, since May, the Israeli army has stepped up raids on the Ramallah offices of at least three of the associations, seizing quantities of documents and hard drives. Obviously without result.
A mind-blowing argument
Journalists Yuval Abraham, Oren Ziv and Meron Rapoport were able to consult the classified arguments of the Israeli authorities and that, “light”, provided to Americans and Europeans, supposed to prove the link between the six Palestinian NGOs and the PFLP. In an article published on November 4 on the site +972, they show that the file emanating from the Shin Beth (the internal intelligence services) does not put forward any evidence linking these associations to terrorism or violence.
The main argument used is mind-boggling. PFLP, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and signatory to the Oslo accords with Israel, remains on list of terrorist organizations in EU and US countries, report authors return on the actions of the organization since the 1970s. They go on to argue that the PFLP has created civil society organizations to serve as front groups. The site +972 explains that “according to the document, although some of these NGOs have humanitarian objectives, part of the donations have reached the terrorist organization itself”. The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain are mentioned as funders of these NGOs. To which Brussels and The Hague retort that the file did not contain “even a single piece of concrete evidence”.
Charges based “on general assumptions”
The investigation by Yuval Abraham, Oren Ziv and Meron Rapoport establishes that the Shin Beth agents rely exclusively on the interrogation of Said Abdat and Amro Hamuda. The two men worked for the Health Work Committees, an NGO that is not among the six designated as terrorists, but from which they were both dismissed for financial embezzlement. The document sent to the Europeans is based almost entirely on their words to prove that the six NGOs were part of a network managed by the PFLP and that the funds received were used for its armed activities.
Journalists from the Israeli site point out that “a review of the ‘evidence’ in the file and summaries of repeated interrogations of Abdat and Hamuda” reveals that they based most of their accusations “on general assumptions.” Thus, they develop an argument on ideas “of public notoriety” or “information which they claimed to be widely” known “. At most, we learn that “some of these organizations were involved in civic and public activities such as student events, patient aid and poetry classes which are part of the work of the PFLP as a movement in Palestinian society. “.
Hours feet and hands tied
Labib Habib, the defender of Abdat, quoted by +972, also points out that his client was pressured to testify following interrogation methods that could “constitute torture or ill-treatment”. He further claims that Israeli agents repeatedly pressured Abdat to incriminate the other six organizations by claiming that they belonged to the PFLP. They threatened to arrest his wife and family members if he refused. And Said Abdat was said to have been interrogated sometimes for twenty-two hours at a stretch. At other times, they put him in a so-called “shabah” position. Basically, torturers tie their victim’s feet and hands with extremely tight ties to a chair while seated. And they keep her in this posture for several hours, even several days. Same accusations from Khaled Al Araj, Amro Hamuda’s lawyer. “There is not a single sentence in the investigation in which Hamuda claims to have transferred money to the PFLP… (investigators) distorted his testimony in order to persecute human rights organizations – it is something something they have been doing for years. So many elements fortuitously forgotten by the Shin Beth in the package given to European diplomats.
Worse, this case is not based on any evidence. Contrary to the statements of the Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, there is no evidence that funds allocated to the six Palestinian NGOs ended up in the coffers of the PFLP and used for activities considered violent. The Israeli organization B’Tselem denounces “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear aim of closing these organizations. But war is not peace, ignorance is not force – and the current Israeli government is not a government of change, but rather a continuation of the violent apartheid regime, in place for many. years between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea ”.
Not without the approval of the regime
At the same time, from Mexico to Saudi Arabia via France, Pegasus, the spyware developed by the Israeli group NSO, has been rife for years. Practices that appear in broad daylight. So far, Israel’s responsibility has not been proven although the export of NSO’s cyber espionage licenses must be given the green light from the highest authorities. But, each time, NSO Group declined to comment, saying it did not disclose the names of its clients and did not have information on who was targeted. Since October 16, the situation is different. On that day, the Ireland-based International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Front Line Defenders, on notice by human rights organization Al-Haq, revealed that the spyware had been installed on the phones. people active in six Palestinian NGOs.
In the process, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced, on November 11, that it had detected NSO-type spyware on the phones of officials of this administration, and not just any. They were responsible for preparing complaints against Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ahmed Al Deek, the Palestinian deputy foreign minister for political affairs, said that a “professional Palestinian institution” had inspected several phones and detected Pegasus on three of them. His ministry blamed Israel for the piracy, calling it a “flagrant and immoral violation of international law,” and called for an international boycott of all parties involved.
NSO blacklisted by Washington
In the case of the six Palestinian activists and the foreign ministry, one need only ask who benefits from this espionage to get an idea of the sponsor. This spyware can be installed secretly without the victim taking any action and giving full access to their phone including real time communications. The concomitance of these events is not by chance. Strangely, little was said about the use of Pegasus against Palestinians, until the hack of these Palestinian personalities, including the Franco-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, target of Israeli harassment, was revealed on October 16. For years. While the United States has already placed NSO on a blacklist, France “continues its investigations”, as the Quai d’Orsay replied to a question asked by the “HD”.
This Israeli government, presented as more frequent than the previous one, has in fact accelerated the muzzling of all Palestinian and Israeli organizations which defend human rights. It attacks those voices that dare to denounce the colonization and occupation of the West Bank and the blockade against the Gaza Strip. In this determination, Israel will stop at nothing. Neither modern espionage tools, like the Pegasus software, nor authoritarian acts, nor the good old interrogation methods, the question – which some used in Algeria, others in Iraq -, to extract confessions.