Al-Dameer is a Palestinian non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Gaza claiming to work on “raising the societal awareness in the field of democracy and human rights through working with different sectors of the local society” and on “presenting legal services to detainees inside Israeli jails, along with its activities in defending the victims of violations, whoever perpetrates them.” Many current and former officials, employees, and board members have links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.
Al-Dameer engages in anti-Israel demonization, refers to terrorists as “martyrs,” and speaks of a Palestinian “right to resist.” On June 6, 2017, Al-Dameer asserted that convicted terrorists have a “right” to receive salaries and “condemn[ed] and deplore[d] the Ramallah government’s decision to cut the salaries of a number of released prisoners in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This policy was implemented unlawfully and arbitrarily in response to the Israeli and American demands to stop paying the salaries of prisoners…”
Al-Dameer’s terror affiliation is antithetical to human rights norms and principles. Due to its affiliation with the PFLP, the provision of funds to Al-Dameer is in likely violation of international, EU, and domestic terror financing and material support laws. The organization is therefore an inappropriate partner for governments and individuals seeking to further human rights in the region.
- Al-Dameer does not release financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability.
- According to the Central Elections Commission – Palestine (CEC), Al-Dameer is CEC’s implementing partner in the EU-funded “2020-2021 partnership with civil society organizations (CSOs),” specifically in the program “It’s my right to elect,” in which Palestinian university students receive training and initiate activities regarding the election process. According to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), in December 2019, the European Commission (EC) provided the CEC with €769,5921 for “Support to the Central Elections Commission (CEC) in strengthening the civic engagement and electoral participation of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” In correspondence between EC officials and NGO Monitor, the former noted that Al-Dameer received €13,600 to implement its program with the CEC.2
- In 2017-2019, the EC granted Al-Dameer €401,833 for “Contributing to the respect, protection and promotion of the right to association in the Gaza Strip.” According to the European Commision, Al-Dameer and PNGO are co-grantees, (total funding is €446,482).
- In 2019, Al-Dameer received $30,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy (United States) for “Promoting Rights-focused Leadership in Gaza.
- In 2020, Al-Dameer received CHF 11,740 from Switzerland.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Founded by George Habash in 1967, the PFLP is a secular Palestinian Marxist-Leninist terror group, originally supported by the former Soviet Union and China. The PFLP is a designated terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel and is involved in suicide bombings, shootings, and assassinations, among other terrorist activities targeting civilians. It is well-known for hijacking commercial airlines in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as targeting civilians in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and is responsible for countless deaths and injuries.
The PFLP assassinated Israeli Minister of Tourism Rechavam Ze’evi in 2001. In 1976, its members joined with the Baader-Meinhof Gang (a West German terror group) to hijack an Air France Tel Aviv-bound flight, diverting it in Entebbe, Uganda. In 2011, PFLP members took credit for the brutal murder of the Fogel family, including a baby and two young children. The PFLP was also responsible for the 2014 massacre at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, murdering four worshipers and an Israeli Druze police officer. In August 2019, a PFLP terror cell carried out a bombing against Israeli civilians, murdering 17-year-old Rina Shnerb, and injuring her father and brother.
Al-Dameer’s Organization Ties to the PFLP
- On April 4, 2021, PNGO reported that Al-Dameer held a meeting on “the elections and current demands on various issues.” According to PNGO, Acting Executive Director of Al-Dameer Alaa Skafi participated in the meeting alongside PFLP central committee member Osama Al-Haj Ahmed and DFLP political bureau member Talal Abu Zarifa.
- On December 30, 2019, Al-Dameer held a conference on “The reality of the right to association in accordance with international obligations of Palestine”; among the participants was Mariam Abu Daqqa, a member of the PFLP Central Committee.
- In November 2018, “Al-Dameer association, in coordination with the prisoners’ committee of the PFLP, organized a seminar on administrative detention and the continuation of the arrest of Khalida Jarrar,” a PFLP leader (on file with NGO Monitor, see PFLP website for details). Al-Dameer lawyer Mohammed S. Al Bardaweel and numerous PFLP officials, including “a member of the General Central Committee of the Front, the head of the prisoners committee in Gaza” Allam Kaabi and members of the PFLP Central Committee Mariam Abu Daqqa and Kayed al-Ghoul were present at the seminar. The PFLP’s “information office” uploaded a short film of the joint event to YouTube.
- In May 2017, lawyers from the Democratic Association of Lawyers – a PFLP-linked organization3 – participated in a “march organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation to support the prisoners and against Trump’s visit to the Palestinian territories.” Photos from the event show Al-Dameer staff – including Fathi al-Helou, Mohammad Al Jaish, and Yousef Balousha – waving a PFLP flag. Al-Dameer’s Secretary of the Board of Directors Ra’fat Sulaiman Salha also serves as the Democratic Association of Lawyers’ Chairman.
- In 2015, the PFLP demanded security forces in Gaza bring the perpetrators of “dangerous” threats against the former director of Al-Dameer Khalil Abu Shamala to justice. An article in Palestinian media also explains that the PFLP stressed that it would “not allow continued assaults and threats against Abu Shammala and others,” noting that they have information that enables them to deal with these threats in the event of the “failure” of security services.
- In 2009, the PFLP condemned a break-in of Al-Dameer’s Gaza offices, claiming the “intrusion” was to “obtain information about the organizations and its activities.”
Al-Dameer Staff with Ties to the PFLP
- Al-Jarro is described as a “former leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” in his bio for a 2017 conference commemorating the violent Palestinian uprising of 1987-1993.
- According to Palestinian media, in January 2014, al-Jarro spoke at a PFLP event honoring several members of the PFLP Central Committee on their retirement. During the event, al-Jarro stressed the “need to reject differences and conflicts between the national and Islamic forces and unite within the vision and mechanism or program to achieve the desired goals.”
- A December 8, 2013 article states that al-Jaro “resigned” from his role at the PFLP.
Galal Ismail Shabat
- According to the PFLP, Shabat spoke at a December 2016 ceremony at Al-Quds Open University in Gaza commemorating the founding of the terror group. During his speech on behalf of the University, Shabat “congratulated the comrades of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) for the launching anniversary, praising the national efforts and the great sacrifices made by the Popular Front for the Protection of the Palestinian National Project.”
Shabat speaking at Al-Quds Open University Ceremony commemorating the founding of the PFLP. (Source: https://pflp.ps/post/14369/%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%8A-%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%85-%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84)
- The ceremony was organized by the Progressive Student Labor Front (PSLF), which, according to the PFLP, is one of its student organizations. In 2015, the PSLF organized a PFLP military training camp.
Yahya Yousef al-Ghulban
- According to Al-Dameer, al-Ghulban is a “retired Palestinian activist and former prisoner.”
- According to the PFLP, al-Ghulban was a member of a 2015 PFLP delegation that toured parts of Gaza. The delegation was led by the head of the PFLP’s Gaza branch, Jamil Mazhar.7
- The PFLP refers to Al-Ghulban as a “comrade.”
- A November 2013 article in Arabic language media refers to al-Ghulban as a “member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
- A 2008 article by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), another Palestinian NGO with ties to the PFLP, refers to al-Ghalban as “a leader of (sic) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
- According to the PFLP, in August 2018, Balousha gave a speech during the closing ceremony of a PFLP children’s summer camp. During his speech, Balousha expressed his “pride in the graduation of the ‘pioneers of culture and resistance’ from our steadfast people” and focused on how “this highlights our interest in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the cultural aspects of our sons and daughters, because the responsibility for their education is upon us. We know that without an education, we will never achieve anything. Its purpose is to implant a national identity and the Palestinian struggle in the souls of our children.” He also praised PFLP leaders, including Secretary-General Ahmad Saafat, George Habash, Wadea Haddad, Abu Ali Mustafa, Ghassan Kanafani, Abu Maher Al Yamani, and “all the martyrs of the Palestinian revolution.”
- In December 2018, together with Fathi al-Helou (see below), Balousha participated in a PFLP “cultural evening” in Gaza with PFLP leaders, including Jamil Mazhar (see Footnote 5 and Appendix I).
- On October 2017, Balousha posted an image of Israel’s Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi with bullet wounds in his head. Ze’evi was assassinated by the PFLP in October 2001.
- In January 2019, Balousha posted a PFLP poster on his Facebook page.
Mohammed S. Al-Bardaweel
- Al-Bardaweel attended a November 2018 seminar organized by “Al-Dameer association, in coordination with the prisoners’ committee of the PFLP” on the “administrative detention and the continuation of the arrest of Khalida Jarrar” (on file with NGO Monitor, see above).
- According to the PFLP, in September 2015, Al-Bardaweel represented Al-Dameer at a meeting in which “at the request of the PFLP, the National Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Administrative Detainees decided on a series of moves to raise the problem of administrative detainees.”
- In December 2018, al-Helou participated in a “cultural evening” with PFLP leaders in Beit Lahia. Al-Dameer lawyer Yousef Balousha (above) also attended.
- Al-Helou’s Facebook page contains numerous PFLP photos. One posted on June 25, 2019 shows him holding PFLP sign.
Ra’fat Sulaiman Salha
- Salha is the chairman of the Palestinian Democratic Association of Lawyers, an organization linked to the PFLP (see here for more). The PFLP website refers to the Democratic Association of Lawyers as a professional framework associated with the PFLP.
Ties to the Democratic Association of Lawyers and Jurists (DALJ)
Multiple staff members of Al-Dameer are also members of the Democratic Association of Lawyers and Jurists (DALJ); some hold high-ranking positions. According to the PFLP, DALJ is the “Front’s [lawyers’] union framework,” a PFLP subsidiary that regularly collaborates with the PFLP and participates in the latter’s rallies, celebrations and official meetings. Furthermore, DALJ regularly praises PFLP members and disseminates its official content.
Alaa Skafi is the Acting Executive Director of Al-Dameer as of April 2020. Skafi also held the position of Deputy Director during 2019 and Legal Unit Coordinator in April 2019–January 2020, according to Arab media sources and Al-Dameer.12 According to Al-Dameer, Skafi has been working at the NGO since 2018.
Previously, Skafi was a lawyer at Al-Mezan, another NGO with ties to the PFLP, from March 2011 to November 2018. (For more information on Al-Mezan’s PFLP ties, read NGO Monitor’s report “Al Mezan Center For Human Rights’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
According to DALJ, Skafi was the head of DALJ from March 2018 to November 2018 and deputy head from December 2013 to June 2014.13 Moreover, as of February 2019, Skafi was a member of the Board of Directors of DALJ.
- In his leadership role in the DALJ, Skafi often met with PFLP leaders, including with PFLP General Central Committee members Hani Khalil and Muhammed Makkawi, Head of PFLP’s Gaza Branch and member of its Political BureauJamil Mazhar, and PFLP General Central Committee member and [PFLP] Head of Khan Yunis District Nasrallah Jarghoun. The official PFLP insignia is visible in pictures posted of these meetings.
- In August 2022, Skafi spoke at a protest held by the official prisoners committee of the PFLP.
- In May 2017, Skafi participated in a PFLP march “to support the prisoners and against Trump’s visit to the Palestinian territories” – together with Al-Dameer staff members Fathi al-Helou, Mohammad Al Jaish, and Yousef Balousha – waving a PFLP flag.
- On June 13, 2014, the PFLP reported that DALJ members, among them Skafi, participated in a demonstration in support of prisoners on a hunger strike. The report referred to Skafi as a “comrade.”
- On June 10, 2018, Alaa Skafi posted a picture of Muhammed Skafi, a member of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the PFLP’s armed wing. According to PFLP sources, “In the evening of Monday, June 9, 2003, Muhammed Mu’in Skafi and his comrade Tarik Al-Masri died while carrying out a heroic martyr operation in the settlement known as Netzarim. The two comrades…rained bullets and grenades on several soldiers…This heroic operation caused the death of more than three Zionist soldiers and injured no less than 12 other soldiers.” Skafi wrote, “We knew him as a gallant revolutionary knight, may your pure soul rest in peace, the martyr Muhammed Skafi, ‘Abu Mu’in’. The 15th anniversary of his martyrdom.”
- On October 16, 2017, Skafi shared a PFLP poster of the late Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi, with three bullet holes in his forehead, next to six PFLP members who were involved in Ze’evi’s assassination in October 17, 2001: Hamdi Quran, Bassel Assamer, Majdi Rahima Rimawi, Ahed Abu Gholma, PFLP Secretary General Ahmad Sa’adat, and Fuad Shubaki. The poster reads, “the heroes of the first assassination operation in the history of the Palestinian resistance…these heroes demonstrated that an assassination [of a PFLP official] results in an assassination [of an Israeli official]. They carried out the order of Secretary General Ahmad Sa’adat, who avenged the blood of our commander [former PFLP Secretary General] Abu Ali Mustafa …Freedom to our prisoners, freedom” (emphasis in original). Skafi wrote in his post, “May the men of October 17 be well every year.”
- On October 9, 2015, Skafi shared a poster reading “Your Knife is Freedom” and wrote, “Resistance with words does not cancel the need for resistance with weapons.”
- On November 18, 2014, Skafi shared a picture of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal, who, on that day, killed five Israelis in the Har Nof synagogue massacre.
- On July 8, 2019, Skafi posted on Facebook a portrait of Ghassan Kanafani, former PFLP spokesperson and member of its Political Bureau, and wrote, “…Ghassan was mistreated because he loved Palestine and wrote on Palestine…he didn’t get his deserved appreciation from his nation’s sons, only after his passing…Ghassan has prevailed in the mind of every free Palestinian and deserves the appreciation of every Palestinian.”
Maher Al-Attar held the position of Chairman of Al-Dameer’s Board as of August 202014 and Head of the PFLP’s DALJ as of February 2019.15 Al-Attar was a member of the Union of Health Work Committee (UHWC)’s Board as of July 2019.16
(UHWC is identified by Fatah as an official PFLP “affiliate” and by a 1993 USAID-engaged audit as the “the PFLP’s health organization.” For more information on UHWC’s PFLP ties, read NGO Monitor’s report “Union of Health Work Committees’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
- According to the PFLP, on March 30, 2021, the PFLP registered its electoral list with the CEC for the PA’s elections, “The People’s Pulse.” The list, comprising 65 candidates, includes Al-Attar (#12) among other PFLP leaders. Al-Attar also participated in the PFLP’s official delegation in registering the list with the CEC.
- On March 22, 2018, the DALJ published a statement by Al-Attar, in which he refers to himself as a “comrade in the PFLP.”
- In March 2018, Al-Attar attended the aforementioned Democratic Association of Lawyers and Jurists’ meetings with PFLP General Central Committee members Hani Khalil and Muhammed Makkawi, Head of PFLP’s Gaza Branch and member of its Political Bureau Jamil Mazhar, and PFLP General Central Committee member and Head of its Khan Yunis District Nasrallah Jarghoun.
- On May 14, 2018, Al-Attar shared on Facebook a picture of the Dome of the Rock with a Palestinian flag and wrote, “…those who normalize and who are prostrated will not sever us, this is Palestine, here the Tatars of this time will be defeated and eliminated, the savage and artificial state will be eliminated and crushed, the entity state and all the backward normalizing regimes will be eliminated by the will and resistance of a people who love life, this is Palestine” (emphasis added).
- Ilham Jarghoun appeared on the PFLP list for the scheduled May 2021 Palestinian Legislative Elections, which were postponed indefinitely.
- On March 30, 2021, Jarghoun shared on Facebook pictures from the PFLP’s registration of “The People’s Pulse” list with the CEC. Jarghoun is seen participating in PFLP’s delegation. Jarghoun is placed fifth on the PFLP’s electoral list.
- On April 1, 2021, Quds News reported that Ayyad was placed in the nineteenth spot on the PFLP’s “The People’s Pulse” electoral list.
- On June 17, 2015, the PFLP reported that Ayyad participated in the Progressive Scouts’ official event for the conclusion of their study of former PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani with “a number of commanders, leaders and members of the PFLP” also present. During the event, Ayyad praised PFLP Secretary General Ahmed Sa’adat and Senior Leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Khader Adnan. The PIJ is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Canada.
- In June 2014, Ayyad was referred to by the PFLP as a “comrade and leader in the PFLP.”
- On August 27, 2020, Ayyad posted on Facebook a picture of former PFLP Secretary General Abu Ali Mustafa and wrote, “a national and international symbol…the doctor [George Habash, PFLP founder] said that ‘he planted a gun on every hill’ for our people, in his life he was fierce and that his martyrdom was a source of pride. Avenging his assassination is an honor. May God have mercy on him, he left us a lantern to guide us and guideposts for whoever did not want to stray from the road.”
- On January 3, 2019, Ayyad posted on Facebook a picture of Archbishop Atallah and Mufti Abd Al-Majid Amarna Hanna next to a Christmas tree decorated with pictures of “the moons of Palestine, our righteous martyrs,” such as former PFLP Secretary General Abu Ali Mustafa.
- On December 11, 2018, Al-Zaaneen posted pictures from a PFLP event honoring the organization’s founding anniversary. Al-Zaaneen wrote, “Long live the anniversary my comrades.”
- On December 5, 2018, Al-Zaaneen shared an official PFLP poster congratulating its members on its anniversary. The poster included a picture of Al-Zaaneen and referred to him as a “comrade.”
- On August 7, 2018, Al-Zaaneen wrote on Facebook, “I am totally convinced, without exaggerating…that the struggle between us and the Zionist enemy is a decisive life and death struggle…who said: ‘is there a people in the world that lives under occupation and wants to assist his cause by satisfying people? This will never be.’ One of the sayings of the eternal martyr, the moon of martyrs, Abu Ali Mustafa.”
- On June 28, 2018, Al-Zaaneen shared a poster calling to “Free Khalida Jarrar, Palestinian feminist, political leader and parliamentarian…”
- Jarrar, a senior member of the PFLP, was sentenced on March 1, 2021, by the Judea Military Court to two years in prison for holding office in the PFLP from 2016 until her arrest in 2019.
- On July 8, 2016, Al-Zaaneen shared a picture of Ghassan Kanafani with the quote, “The bodies may fall but not the idea.” Al-Zaaneen wrote, “He presented a greater danger to the occupation state than a thousand fighters. This, just with his pen. The 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ghassan Kanafani, the author ”
- On December 7, 2019, Al-Hour posted pictures from his participation in an official PFLP rally celebrating its establishment anniversary, and wrote: “…All salutations and appreciation to all who participated in commemorating the anniversary of the glorious start. 52 years of sacrifice and maintaining the principles.”
- In February 2014, Al-Hour participated in a PFLP workshop on “Palestinian youth and the refugees’ issue.” The PFLP referred to Al-Hour as a “comrade.”
- On July 4, 2020, Al-Hour shared a picture of George Habash, quoting him: “‘Israel is not stronger than the US and the Palestinian people is not weaker than the Vietnamese people.’ The doctor, George Habash.”
- On December 1, 2019, Al-Hour shared a video of a PFLP rally with George Habash and wrote: “Long live the launch of the stubborn revolution. Long live the bullet that is faithful to the land and people. 11/12/67 [the date of the PFLP’s establishment].”
- On October 17, 2017, Al-Hour wrote on Facebook, “Eternal October 17 [the date of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi’s assassination by the PFLP], when the bullets of the Front’s retaliation voiced cries of joy. It was like an earthquake that made shocks all over the free world due to the forgotten heroes.”
Appendix 1: Jamil Mazhar at PFLP Youth Military Summer Camp
- Of a total €1.5 million, according to a correspondence between EC representatives and NGO Monitor.
- In correspondence between NGO Monitor and EC officials dated January 15, 2021, the latter erroneously referred to the grantee as Addameer Foundation for Human Rights. The grantee is, in fact, Al Dameer, according to the CEC.
- The PFLP website refers to the Democratic Association of Lawyers as a professional framework associated with the PFLP.
- According to Al-Dameer’s website as of October 6, 2019.
- According to Al-Dameer’s website as of October 6, 2019.
- According to Al-Dameer’s website as of October 6, 2019.
- Jamil Mazhar has made statements condoning terror against Israelis. For example, a day after the kidnapping of three Israeli boys in 2014, Mazhar stated that the “kidnapping occupation soldiers and settlers is important, and a legitimate right to liberate our prisoners.” In 2015, Jamil Mazhar and PFLP leaders visited a youth military summer camp, where they thanked and congratulated “the comrades…who worked to make this camp a success especially our colleagues and comrades in the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades…” See Appendix I for photos.
- According to a July 2017 Al-Dameer article. He is also seen photographed wearing an Al-Dameer vest in a February 2019 photo posted on his Facebook.
- According to Al-Dameer’s website as of October 6, 2019. He is also referred to as an Al-Dameer lawyer in a February 2019 article.
- According to a December 2017 Al-Dameer Facebook post.
- According to Al-Dameer’s website as of October 6, 2019.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, as of April 5, 2021 Alaa Skafi held the position of Acting Executive Director. The date of Skafi’s appointment to Acting Executive Director is unknown.
- It is not clear when Skafi left his position of Head and Deputy Head. However, according to DALJ, in May 2019, Skafi was no longer Head of DALJ.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, on April 5, 2021 Maher Al-Attar held the position of Chairman of the Board.
- On November 26, 2020, DALJ still referred to Al-Attar as Head of DALJ.
- It is not clear whether or not Al-Attar held the position in 2020 or following.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, on April 5, 2021 Ilham Jarghoun held the position of Vice Chairman of the Board.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, on April 5, 2021 Mousa Ayyad held the position of Secretary of Al-Dameer’s Board.
- According to the Progressive Scouts Groups, as of August 8, 2020 Mousa Ayyad still held the position of Head of the Scouts Groups.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, on April 5, 2021 Qosay Al-Zaaneen held the position of Treasurer of Al-Dameer.
- As of August 27, 2020.
- According to Al-Dameer’s official website, on April 5, 2021 Ayman Al-Hour held the position of Board Member of Al-Dameer.