Ten years ago, NGO Monitor began sounding the alarm about the affiliations and close connections between prominent Palestinian NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Canada and Israel, this violent entity is well- represented in Palestinian civil society, with many NGO board members, officials and employees hailing from its ranks.
Unsurprisingly, these NGOs are often the most vocal in contributing to radicalization, promoting or otherwise justifying violence, and demanding anti-normalization. They also advocate internationally for boycotts of Israel, as well as legal warfare against Israeli officials.
Together with our civil society partners, we’ve alerted governments, parliaments, financial institutions, academic bodies and others to the dangers of interacting with these terror-linked actors.
Now, the Israeli government is paying attention.
Last week, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs released a report, “Terrorists in Suits,” underscoring our call for governments and other international institutions to seriously engage with this issue. Specifically, their publication continues to explore the nexus between terror-linked actors and BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) activity.
In recent years, NGO Monitor has dedicated significant resources to documenting this dangerous web of money and influence connecting unwitting governments, duplicitous “human-rights activists” and terror. PFLP-affiliated and linked organizations regularly receive financial backing from European capitals, and are key partners in U.N.-administered projects in the West Bank and Gaza.
Worse, organizations like Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), a key player in the network of PFLP-linked NGOs, now have a presence in the U.S. Congress, manifested by its leading role in crafting legislation designed to cut America support for Israel.
In addition to taking advantage of European failures of due diligence, these organizations raise funds from private donors in the United States and elsewhere. Major BDS funders like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) have provided grants to DCI-P to help it advance its U.S. lobbying campaigns.
Addressing the money flow is key to reducing the PFLP-linked groups influence, and this is how NGO Monitor and our partners have achieved success.
In addition, we have encouraged governments to increase scrutiny of their foreign assistance grants and to implement robust vetting mechanisms to ensure that taxpayer money is not inadvertently provided to such grantees.
As a result, since 2017, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark have adopted measures to combat this phenomenon and better protect the integrity of their support to the region. Similarly, these countries, along with Sweden, dismantled a joint-funding framework that was a key source of capital for the network of PFLP-linked groups.
What is clear from our exchanges with governmental and financial leaders alike is that when presented with the evidence, they respond substantively to the threat. We hope that the new players seeking to contribute to the efforts against PFLP influence will take a similar approach with an eye toward effective engagement.
Liora Henig-Cohen is a senior researcher at NGO Monitor.