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To make sense of the furious reaction to the Israeli government’s designation of six Palestinian NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as prohibited terrorist fronts, it is necessary to understand the political and ideological context. Behind the ‘non-governmental’ label (or ostensibly independent civil society), the network is an integral part of Palestinian strategy, and for at least twenty years, has received core funding from foreign governments (primarily Western European, including the EU) in return for influence and information. Under cover of civil society, the NGOs cooperate with their European sponsors, promoting soft-power warfare targeting Israel, including the apartheid and war crimes campaigns.

Therefore, the Israeli designation constitutes a major threat for actors invested in the NGOs and their political campaigns. Despite expressions of surprise and claims by American and European officials that they were not informed in advance, the decision should have been expected based on earlier actions and existing public information. (The designation process is specified by law, and is not the result of a spurious individual decision based on political or other personal motives, as sometimes portrayed. The allegations and evidence must be approved by a number of officials, including the attorney general, before it is signed by the Minister of Defence.)

More than ten years ago, as part of our systematic research, based on open source material, my colleagues at NGO Monitor and I began to discern a pattern pointing to an organised network linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP). As the available materials increased, including Facebook posts in Arabic, as well as YouTube videos, many more details emerged. As of October 2021, we identified 74 PFLP officials who simultaneously held and continue to hold significant positions in 13 NGOs. Six of the organisations were named by the MOD on 22 October, and a seventh – Health Workers Committees (HWC) – was designated initially in 2015 and again in 2020.