French Government Supports Youth Project Involving Convicted PFLP member - Update
On July 10, 2019, the “launch of a French-Palestinian decentralised cooperation project for the youth in East-Jerusalem” took place in the presence of the Consul General of France in Jerusalem “with the participation of fifteen French local representatives, who came to meet the coordinators of Al Bustan center.” During this event, the Consul General of France “stated that the support of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs to the project aims at preserving the prospects for peace by helping Palestinians to live in dignity in Jerusalem, until the city becomes the capital of the two States.”
The individual originally listed as the contact person for the program was Daoud Ghoul, who, in 2015, was convicted of membership in the PFLP terrorist organization.
Update: Following the initial publication of this report on July 7, 2019, Israeli media covered our research and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of Jerusalem City Council members issued official protests. Within two weeks, the French government website removed its reference to convicted PFLP member David Ghoul. Also, Al Bustan Center, the French government’s local partner, removed most of the problematic Facebook content mentioned in this report.
In place of Ghoul as “partnership contact person,” the French government website now lists Sara Qaraein, who also serves as the project “coordinator.” Qaraein has published multiple Facebook posts that celebrate convicted terrorists and encourage violence. For example:
- On August 18, 2018, Qaraein posted a message referring to “4 members of Silwan terror cell [who were] convicted on 35 counts of murders” as “one of the brightest in the history of Al Quds [Jerusalem]” (emphasis added). The terror cell participated in “eight major terror attacks” including “the Suicide bombing at Cafe Moment in Jerusalem” (March 9, 2002), “in which 11 Israeli civilians were murdered,” and “the terrorist bombing at Hebrew University cafeteria”(July 31, 2002), “in which in which four Israelis and five foreign nationals were murdered.”
- On March 6, 2019, Qaraein published a memorial post for Basel al-A’araj, a Palestinian killed in a 2017 firefight with Israeli security forces. Al-A’araj was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in April 2016 “for planning attacks against Israelis and imprisoned for six months.” According to Israeli officials, he “was allegedly part of a terrorist cell planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets,” and “directed the cell and was responsible for purchasing the weaponry.” The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror organization describes him as “one of the most prominent young Palestinian strugglers.”
- On August 29, 2014, Qaraein published a photo featuring children wearing military uniforms, including a child wearing what appears to be Hamas paraphernalia and holding a rocket.
In addition to replacing Ghoul, the French government website also deleted the references to the Palestinian Authority’s ties to the project. The original version explained that “the successive meetings with the Governor of Jerusalem, then in Ramallah with the Minister of Local Authorities of the Palestinian Authority made it possible for everyone to confirm the importance and priority of such a cooperation project,” while the edited version removes the phrase “with the Governor of Jerusalem, then in Ramallah with the Minister of Local Authorities of the Palestinian Authority.”
The 2019-2021 project “towards the youth of East Jerusalem” was initiated by the “Decentralized cooperation network for Palestine”1 (Le réseau de coopération décentralisée pour la Palestine; RCDP), a French association that “intends to coordinate and support French local authorities wishing to establish or maintain cooperation with local Palestinian authorities,” “in partnership with the Consulate General of France [in Jerusalem] and the support of [the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs] MEAE.” The local project partner is the Al Bustan Center, “a socio-cultural center.”
The project is funded by various local French government bodies, including MEAE (€204,000), the municipality of Rennes (€34,286), the municipality of Ivry-Sur-Seine (€21,429), the municipality of Gennevilliers (€21,429), and the Loire Atlantique departmental council (€12,857). The total project budget is €394,928 (see appendix for details).
PFLP Terror Ties
Daoud Ghoul, who is referred to as an Al Bustan cultural center founder, serves as the official project contact and is described as a “member of the administrative council and treasurer.” Another official document describes him as Al Bustan’s project supervisor while in the same document stating that Ghoul is not employed by the organization.
In 2015, Ghoul was convicted for his membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the EU, the US, Canada, and Israel. Following his conviction, Ghoul was sentenced to 18-months imprisonment.
According to a Jerusalem District Court verdict [67637-03-16; translation by NGO Monitor], “at a date prior to 2006, the appellant [Daoud Ghoul] joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organization, worked in management positions at the Nidal Centre, a place of activity for the organization [PFLP], and in the Union of Health Work Committees-Jerusalem [Health Work Committees]2…the framework under which the organization [PFLP] began to operate after the Nidal Centre was closed in 2009. In that capacity, the appellant organized – among other things- trips, extra-curricular activities and summer camps for youth- some of which were named for terrorists that were active in the organization- and organized visits to the families of fallen and incarcerated members of the organization” (emphasis added). Ghoul “acted in order to bring the Palestinian public closer to the [PFLP] organization” (emphasis added).
The verdict further details that “the appellant has two criminal convictions in his past for membership in a terrorist organization in 2005 and 2006, and for ideologically motivated violent crimes, for which he was sentenced to significant jail sentences of 12 and 18 months. Nevertheless, this was not sufficient to deter him and he returned to commit offences in the years following his release” (emphasis added).
On November 27, 2016, Al Bustan cultural center published a Facebook post (which has since been removed by Al Bustan after the publication of this report) marking Ghoul’s release from Israeli prison. The post referred to his arrest and explained that Ghoul “was convicted by the Israeli Occupation Court of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
In addition, in February 2019, a member of the French communist party posted a picture on Facebook of a regional French politician standing next to Salah Hamouri in Al Bustan’s offices. The photo caption states that “Abdel Sadi (the local politician) with our comrade and friend Salah Hamouri at the Al Bustan Center in Jerusalem for a meeting with the association that runs the social center of which Salah is a member. We are happy to see our comrade and compatriot free in his country.”
In 2008, Hamouri, a Palestinian-French citizen, was sentenced by Israel to seven years in prison for belonging to the PFLP, and for an attempt to attack the former chief rabbi of Israel. In 2017-2018, Hamouri was incarcerated for being a “security threat.”
In November 2017, RCDP organized “The Night of the Friends of Palestine” event in partnership with several groups, including “the Palestine Embassy in Paris, UNESCO, the United Nations Committee of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the [French] Ministry of Europe and French Foreign Affairs and the French Consul of Jerusalem.” The event, attended by several French regional and local authorities, served as a fundraiser for a “project for the youth of East Jerusalem.” Subsequently, in December 2017, “following the proposal of the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem, RCDP general assembly…and its local authority members decided to work with Al Bustan Center, a socio-cultural center for youth and located in an area particularly affected by evictions and demolitions.”
The partnership description explains that “while the youth of East Jerusalem suffers from psychological pressure, the Al Bustan socio cultural center appears as an alternative to its confinement. Founded by young people in the Silwan neighborhood, which is heavily affected by the demolitions, this center offers psychological support, cultural activities, sports, etc to some 500 children. In the face of this situation, the city of Gennevilliers, with the support of the RCDP and French local authorities decided to set up a project to support this center, by training young people in sport, culture, social health and citizenship.”
A 2017 RCDP report noted that revenue from “The Night of the Friends of Palestine” dinner was €59,730, including €28,000 from “DAECT [Delegation for the External Action of Local Government] and the Palestine embassy [in France]” (emphasis added).
In October 2018, a mission of RCDP and French local government representatives met in Jerusalem with “friends of Al Bustan” and the Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem in order to “clarify the project outlines.”
The caption reads: “In October 2018, a RCDP and local French governments mission to Jerusalem allowed participants to better understand the pressures and the situation of confinement of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem; to outline the three-year project with our friends in Al Bustan; to confirm the support of the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem, the MEAE, the Jerusalem Governorate and the Palestinian Authority; and also to set the overall budget of €300,000 (€100,000 per year). ”
Al Bustan’s Problematic Activities
Children Conducting A Mock Execution of “Palestine”
On July 25, 2018, Al Busan published on Facebook pictures of a youth camp ceremony, in which young Palestinians wore flags on their T-shirts to represent various countries. The teenagers representing Israel and the United States brandished guns and proceeded to conduct a mock execution of “Palestine.” (The pictures were deleted after the publication of this report.)
Bringing Children to Visit Terrorists’ Families
In a 2017 article published on her blog, Qaraein explains that “for the fifth year in a row, the Al Bustan Society in the town of Silwan held a week of steadfast activities,” including visits to “a group of the prisoners’ families, who were sentenced for a long term in order to support them.”
In 2017, Al Bustan featured visits to such prisoners’ families on its own Facebook account. Al Bustan Chairman of the Board of Directors, Kutaybah Odeh, took part in these visits (see picture) and “declared that these family visits, and particularly to those [of prisoners] with extended prison sentences, have great meaning and importance for introducing the steadfast generation to the suffering of the prisoners in jail.” It appears these included visits to the families of Mohammed Odeh and Wissam Abassi, two Palestinian members of a “Silwan terror cell” who were convicted “on 35 counts of murders.” During these visits, maps of “Palestine” (which included areas of pre-1967 Israel) were offered “in the name of Al Bustan association” “as a gesture of appreciation.”
Kutaybah Odeh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Bustan (right) visits the family of Iyad Walid Ahmed Mahlous, who was convicted of “intentional homicide and attempted homicide,” and “was sentenced to life imprisonment” for his involvement in a 2003 terror attack in Jaffa. The attack was endorsed by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. (Source: Military Court of Appeals 3241/06)
Publication of Videos Glorifying Violence and Supporting Members of Terrorist Groups
Al Bustan’s Facebook account features multiple posts that glorify violence and members of terrorist organizations. For instance, in 2015, the organization published a video clip of a terror attack in which a Palestinian terrorist “rammed into pedestrians, got out of the car with a knife in hand, and began stabbing passersby.” Al Bustan refers to the terrorist as a “martyr,” described the terror attack as an “operation,” and using the Hashtag “Intifada started” (emphasis added).
Other examples include posts celebrating Palestinian prisoners upon their release:
- In 2015, Al Bustan published a video celebrating the release of a Palestinian wearing Hamas paraphernalia. A news report, quoting Al Bustan, explains that he was convicted “by the Zionist Court for carrying out acts of resistance and confronting the settlers’ flocks in the town of Silwan.”
- In 2014, Al Bustan published a video that featured children from “Al Bustan’s neighborhood” escorting a prisoner upon his release from prison. PFLP flags were brandished throughout the video.
Sharing Statements made by Members of Terrorist Organizations
In addition, in 2014, Al Bustan reposted multiple statements from members of terrorist organizations (the posts were deleted after the publication of the report). For example:
- On November 18, 2014, following the massacre at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood where four worshipers and an Israeli Druze police officer were murdered, Al Bustan published a Facebook post featuring the PFLP flag and repeating the words of a PFLP member who “praised the attack in Jerusalem and said: ‘We expect the official elements to adopt and support the PFLP operation and emphasize the importance of continuing the resistance to the occupation’” (emphasis added).
- On November 13, 2014, Al Bustan posted a message featuring “the official spokesman of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades Now on Al-Aqsa TV At the celebrations: the era of victory for Jerusalem and the holy martyrs” (emphasis added).
Partnership with the PFLP-affiliated Health Work Committees
In addition to Ghoul’s conviction, in 2015, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared Health Work Committees “an unauthorized association” (emphasis added). Ghould previously served as HWC’s “director of youth programs.”
In the years before HWC was outlawed by Israel, Al Bustan partnered with HWC in organizing summer camps and events in solidarity with prisoners.
Al Bustan’s Project Partners
Several local French government bodies, which have been involved in anti-Israel activities, are partnering with Al Bustan on this project. For example:
- Loire-Atlantique Departmental Council – In November 2018, the Loire-Atlantique Departmental Council hosted an antisemitic event “that questioned Israel’s right to exist” (for more information, see NGO Monitor blog in French « Une assemblée départementale hôte d’une soirée-débat antisioniste »).
- Bezons Municipality – In June 2018, the Mayor of Bezons inaugurated “Nakba Alley” “in memory of the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians and the destruction of 532 villages in 1948 by the war criminal David Ben Gurion for the creation of the State of Israel.” Following criticism from Jewish groups in France, the State Representative of Val-d’Oise asked for “the immediate removal of the plaque” explaining that it “provokes controversies in local discourse that could evolve rapidly towards serious public disorder.”
- Gennevilliers Municipality – In April 2018, Patrice Leclerc, the Mayor of Gennevilliers was prevented by the Israeli authorities from entering Israel “due to his support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” In November 2017, Israel denied entry “to seven members of a delegation of European officials,” including Leclerc, because “they had called for a boycott of Israel.” Israeli officials further justified the entry denial due to “the purpose of the visit [that] was to meet with the jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at Hadarim Prison. Barghouti was convicted in 2004 for a series of terror-related murders during the second Palestinian intifada and is currently serving five life sentences.”
- Ivry-Sur-Seine Municipality – In November 2016, the Municipal Council of Ivry-Sur-Seine voted to support “the boycott of Israeli products” despite the fact that such discriminatory boycotts are prohibited in France (according to the Court of Cassation).
Appendix I: Project Funding 2019-2021
|Name of Government Donor||2019||2020||2021||Total|
|Val-De-Marne Departmental Council||€7,143||€7,143||€7,143||€21,429|
|Loire-Atlantique Departmental Council||€4,286||€4,286||€4,285||€12,857|
|Local Authorities and Foreign Partners||€3,333||€3,333||€3,333||€9,999|
|La Courneuve Municipality||€1,429||€1,429||€1,428||€4,286|
- It appears that RCDP has ties to the French BDS organization Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS). While RCDP has its own address, the French government website of the National Commission for Decentralized Cooperation directs the visitors who want to contact RCDP to AFPS.
- In addition to Ghoul’s conviction, in 2015, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared Health Work Committees “an unauthorized association” (emphasis added).