Clear and Convincing: The Links between the PFLP and the European Government-funded NGO Network
On October 22, 2021, Israel designated six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist entities due to their links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Al-Haq, Addameer, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), and Bisan Center for Research and Development (Bisan). A seventh – Health Work Committee (HWC) – had been designated in January 2020. The PFLP itself is designated as a terrorist organization by a number of countries and bodies, including the US, EU, Israel, and Canada.
Since then, the NGOs, donor governments, and allies in civil society and the UN have claimed they have not seen anything to justify the designations.
The evidence presented in this report – compiled exclusively from open source materials – proves this narrative inadequate and inaccurate. Irrespective of the information possessed by the Israeli government and intelligence agencies and the criteria for designation, there is overwhelming, publicly available evidence that ties these NGOs and their leadership to the PFLP. On its own, this should have been enough of a reason for European governments not to fund and/or partner with the NGOs.
Of particular note, we found:
- The PFLP has issued statements of support for the designated NGOs, and numerous other sources indicate organizational links between many of the designated entities and the terror group.
- Three NGO officials – Samer Arbid, Walid Hanatsheh, Abdel Razeq Farraj – indicted and standing trial for their alleged involvement in a deadly August 2019 bombing that killed an Israeli teenager. All of them have been claimed by the PFLP as members of the terror group.
- Nine NGO officials convicted for their involvement in planning or executing other terrorist attacks.
- Thirty-seven additional NGO officials affiliated with the PFLP.
- Five financial institutions – Citibank, Arab Bank, American Express, Visa, Mastercard – shut down online donations and accounts of PFLP-linked NGOs.
- In 2022, the Dutch government announced the results of an 18-month audit conducted by a Dutch firm that identified 34 individuals who held positions in both UAWC and the PFLP between 2007-2020. As a result, the Netherlands canceled its contract with UAWC
As European sources and officials have noted, simply affiliating with a terrorist organization can disqualify an organization or individual from receiving EU support. For instance, as confirmed in a June 2020 letter from the Office of the President of the European Commission to NGO Monitor, “[EU] rules make the participation of entities, individuals or groups affiliated linked or supporting terrorist organisations incompatible with any EU funding.”
Similarly, in a June 2020 letter from Josep Borrell, Vice President of the European Commission, to a number of MEPs, he reaffirms that “specific clauses have been introduced in individual grant agreements, obliging every beneficiary managing EU funds to refrain from engaging in incitement to violence or hatred. These rules make the participation of entities, individuals or groups affiliated, linked to or supporting terrorist organisations incompatible with any EU funding.”
Moreover, in May 2022, the European Parliament approved the 2020 discharge report, “EU General Budget – Commission and Executive Agencies,” one of the EU’s most important budgetary documents. The document clearly calls on the Commission to “thoroughly verify the use of Union funds by third entities, their affiliates, and/or natural persons to ensure that no funds are allocated or linked to any cause or form of terrorism and/or religious and political radicalisation; make sure that individuals or groups affiliated, linked to or supporting terrorist organizations are excluded from Union funding; ensure that those Union funds are proactively recovered, and that the recipients involved are excluded from future Union funding.”
Because our research is based on open source information and subject to the transparency (or lack thereof) on the part of NGOs, it is distinctly possible that more officials are affiliated to the PFLP and/or involved in terror-tied activities.
As described in great detail below, these findings are based on statements from the PFLP acknowledging NGO officials as members, the alleged involvement of NGO officials in terrorist attacks, arrests and convictions of NGO leaders on terror-related charges, and participation in and/or support for PFLP activities.
There are also Palestinian and academic sources identifying NGOs as being established by or otherwise official PFLP affiliates; PFLP leaders embracing the designated NGOs; and instances of PFLP leaders taking part in NGO events and initiatives, and vice versa.
Over the years, many officials, in particular those from the European governments that were funding these NGOs, have refused – at least publicly – to acknowledge the extensive evidence presented in this report. For political reasons, their denials may continue. But the documentation presented in this report renders these denials untenable.