(January 18, 2023 / JNS) In the 15 months since Israel classified six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups, the international community has done little to follow in the Jewish state’s footsteps.
After a months-long investigation by Israeli security officials, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Works Committee (UAWC), the Bisan Center and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC) were not the humanitarian NGOs they claimed to be. Instead, they were operating as front groups for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
The U.S. administration disapproved of Israel’s move against what the White House deemed “civil society organizations.” State Department Spokesman Ned Price complained that the administration did not receive a “specific heads-up” from Israeli leaders, a claim disputed by some in Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
With antisemitism at an all-time high, U.S. reluctance to investigate these terrorist affiliates is granting PFLP proxies free rein to espouse violence in U.S. cities. The proxies also work at creating conduits through which they can advance antisemitism through likeminded campus groups.
Terror-linked NGOs are not just operating in Israel. Samidoun, a North America-based group that identifies as part of the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, is among seven PFLP proxies exposed by the Israeli government.
The Zachor Legal Institute, a think tank focused on combating antisemitic movements, is urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an investigation into the PFLP proxies. In October, Zachor President Marc Greendorfer sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland delineating the link between the NGOs in question and the PFLP.
The correspondence cites testimony from PFLP activist Said Abedat, who admitted to Israeli police that most of the NGOs’ employees are “managed by senior PFLP operatives.”
Moreover, U.S. entities, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID), publicly acknowledge that NGOs such as the UAWC operate as extensions of the PFLP.
In December, a coalition of 28 organizations led by Zachor petitioned Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt to act against the NGOs.
Greendorfer noted, “Jewish Americans are under open assault by faux humanitarian groups that are thinly veiled fronts for the foreign terror groups that they fund and support.”
The rising domestic popularity of these groups is directly connected to the recent spike in antisemitism in the U.S. For example, last April, a New York City rally co-organized by Samidoun featured demonstrators marching under the slogan “Support Palestinian resistance and liberation by any means necessary,” a clear call for violence.
PFLP proxies are steadily infiltrating American higher education, where they unite with antisemitic groups. Samidoun has spearheaded events at Tufts and Rutgers universities, which have active Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters. According to a 2022 report by the Amcha Initiative, these two universities are among America’s most hostile institutions for Jewish students. Last year, Tufts President Anthony Monaco commissioned a committee to study antisemitic trends and discovered that over half of Jewish undergraduate respondents experienced antisemitism at his institution.
Samidoun has also bolstered the profile of activist Nerdeen Kiswani, founder of the SJP offshoot group Within Our Lifetime. Samidoun’s U.S. coordinator Joe Catron appeared with Kiswani at a 2017 Al Quds rally in New York City with Catron chanting, “It is right to rebel” and “Israel go to hell.” Kiswani shrieked, “We want ’48!” a reference to destroying Israel.
Later, as a student at the City University of New York (CUNY), Kiswani was selected as the 2022 law school commencement speaker despite her history of calling for the murder of Jews.
In a YouTube interview, Kiswani stated the key to peace is “abolishing Israel.” Three years after Samidoun first planted the seeds of hate via its annual Youth for Palestine conference at the University of Michigan, the school became the epicenter of terrifying protests this month that called for the destruction of Israel.
For its part, Addameer’s 2013 10-day US tour of several universities culminated in a 2018 invitation from Columbia and Barnard College to participate in an anti-Israel panel. The watchdog NGO Monitor has revealed that convicted Palestinian terrorist and former Addameer vice-chair Khalida Jarrar doubled as a PFLP “senior official.”
The DOJ’s reluctance to punish the terror-connected NGOs is likely politically motivated, because these groups are supported by progressive politicians.
For example, the DOJ recently decided to investigate the unintentional killing last May of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in a firefight in Jenin. Among those calling for such an investigation was far-left Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who recently signed a congressional letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing “serious concern” over Israel “criminalizing” the terror-linked NGOs.
Pressley is not alone. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is a defender of institutions such as Al-Haq, which she once described in a video address as “on the front lines on the fight for human rights.”
In a New York Times op-ed last year, Al-Haq’s Director Shawan Jabarin claimed that Al-Haq’s sole mission is strengthening Palestinian civil society and that his involvement with the PFLP was confined to his time as a university student. This was a lie. Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy revealed that Jabarin actively participated with the PFLP as late as 2008.
If left unchecked, these PFLP proxies, in collaboration with their antisemitic comrades in the U.S., will place American Jews in an untenable situation. Assuming that U.S. officials are as serious about fighting antisemitism as they claim, a good place for them to start would be to investigate the terror-linked NGOs cultivating a culture of hate in our communities.
Irit Tratt is a writer and pro-Israel advocate who resides in New York.
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