On November 7-11, 2022, the UN Human Rights Council’s permanent “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel” (COI) held public hearings to “focus on the closure orders and terrorism designation of a number of Palestinian human rights organizations, and on the incident surrounding the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.” 

During the first three days, the discussion focused on the Israeli government designation (October 2021) of seven Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations, based on their links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In contrast to a credible investigation, the only groups chosen to participate were those that would support the COI’s predetermined conclusions and would deny the overwhelming evidence of links between the NGOs and the PFLP. Those with dissenting viewpoints or concrete evidence (such as NGO Monitor) were unwelcome and not invited to appear. 

Three out of the seven NGOs who appeared at the hearings used them as a platform to defame NGO Monitor in retaliation for its role in exposing the aforementioned terror links. In particular, Addameer, Health Work Committees, and a lawyer representing Al-Haq (Michael Sfard) – as well as Commission members – accused NGO Monitor of being behind a “smear campaign” against these organizations and of fabricating evidence. They also attributed  to NGO Monitor major reductions in funding from European governments.

To be sure, clear evidence of the links between the PFLP terror organization and the NGO network are readily available through open sources. Attempts to discredit and divert attention from NGO Monitor’s detailed research and analysis cannot erase this evidence. 

Sahar Francis (Addameer)

“And then all these years, not just the raids, the specific raids against the organization, it was accompanied with the smear campaign that was led with the NGO Monitor, mainly UK Lawyers for Israel, UN Watch, Regavim, Shuran Hadin. All the right wing Israeli organizations that they were developing after the case of the ICJ, the wall decision in 2004 and the fact that the Palestinian civil society initiated the BDS campaign, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, we started to feel that the campaign against the Palestinian civil society really became more institutionalized, more systematic, using the technology like following our Facebook, Twitter, social media, our main website were hacked several times, were trying to affect our publications. They were starting sending messages and threatening our donors as well, like all the other colleagues, asking them, why you are still funding Addameer while they are a terrorist organization. And they continued in arresting my colleagues.”

“I would highlight the fact that the smear campaign against the donors caused one of the main donors of Addameer before the designation. And this is why we say that it’s all connected. The smear campaign against the Swiss Development Agency that took place for several years by right wing organizations, NGO Monitor and other entities against the SDC caused the SDC three weeks before the designation to inform Addamer that they are suspending the contracts with Addameer and they are not going to renew the fund for Addameer for the coming three years that we were strategizing with them and expecting that we should be funded by them. So when they failed, actually with a smear campaign, with the lobby over the especially the European countries to suspend the fund and the support for these organizations, they came with the use of the anti-terror law, the designation and then the use of the military order, because this is the only way for them, now really trying to silence us and affect our work, especially on the internet level, with our efforts to seek accountability and to like to try to exhaust all the universal jurisdiction process or other channels that we can use in order to seek justice for the Palestinian victims, the Palestinian prisoners, mainly in our case that we represent.”

“The security service people claim that they have a special report how to explain that these organizations are connected to the PFLP. You know, what’s the base of this report? The confessions of two of the prisoners that they claim that these organized sessions are affiliated with the PFLP. The police or the interrogators are not asking these detainees, how do you know that Addameer is affiliated to it? How do you know that these organizations, there is no further investigation and all the NGO Monitor, again, they are using the security, using the expert of the Israeli Shabak is using the NGO Monitor the smear campaign material as evidence that we are affiliated.”

Ali Hassouneh (Health Work Committees – HWC)

“After intimidation of the donors by an Israeli organization called NGO Monitor, this organization’s objective is to dry up the funding for CSOs, they contacted the donors directly and made the argument since those donors support and claimed that they are supporting terrorist organizations, us included. Support lessened and decreased from 40 donor organizations to only 5 donor organizations.”

“NGO Monitor sent correspondences directly to donors. Now you know how sponsoring and funding happens. It’s a race. A race amongst CSOs, even regionally. So other organizations from Syria, Jordan, Gaza, Palestine. They all participate in this race. In order for someone to receive the race, it’s a competition. So for the donors, why would they make problems for themselves with Israel, even though there are 80 other CSOs that they could be funding.” 

Michael Sfard (appearing as a lawyer for Al-Haq)

Sfard: “It was the first time that the Israeli government openly went to donor governments and tried to persuade them to stop supporting these organizations. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, now the late Ministry of Strategic Affairs, it was consolidated within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has issued official governmental reports alleging all kinds of allegations against these organizations in the methodology of guilt by association, which is the main way that NGO Monitor conducts its research. If you have been seen with someone, then you are responsible not only to what you’ve done, but also that someone who you’ve been seen with.”

Miloon Kothari (Commissioner): “Mr. Ali Hassouneh (HWC) who earlier was the person who gave his testimony. You both mentioned the NGO Monitor. Have you personally looked into this organization in terms of their functioning, in terms of their funding? They seem to be behind a lot of what is going wrong. You also mentioned their own role. Do you know anything more about them that could help us?”

Sfard: “No, because this is an organization that flourishes thanks to principles of transparency and is not transparent in itself. But I have not investigated NGO Monitor. They have been following me for years. Gerald Steinberg, Professor Steinberg, who is the man behind NGO Monitor. When I opened my Twitter account, in a matter of 10 seconds, I got a message saying Gerald Steinberg is following you. So I replied to him, I thought you have been following me for years and it was the first time that I blocked someone on Twitter and the last. So, I’m trying not to lose energy and time on NGO Monitor. They have been writing about me endlessly and its also always the same thing. It doesn’t matter what I say. It doesn’t matter what I do. Its who I see. Its who I represent. Who I even talk to. Sometimes the audience implicates me because I was talking to a non-Zionist or whatever audience. This is a classic guilt by association technique which was completely adopted by the government of Israel. And all the dossier about the six organizations, I’m sure it’s all like that. This guy was seen with that guy. And this one was formerly a prisoner. And all things like that.”