‘Terrorists in Suits’ – The Ties Between NGOS Promoting BDS and Terrorist Organizations

A Report of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs

This report presents dozens of examples of significant ties between activists in NGOs, which delegitimize and promote boycotts of Israel, and Hamas and the PFLP. Hamas and the PFLP are designated terrorist organizations in the European Union, the US and Israel. These ties manifest themselves in the form of activists who were terrorists in the past and some even in the present, and who currently fill key positions in such NGOs; in joint activities and campaigns against the State of Israel; and in financial assistance to one another.

Ideologically, both terrorist organizations and NGOs which delegitimize Israel do not accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, and oppose any normalization between Israel and its neighbors. This shared ideology manifests itself in ties between organizations. Namely, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) which leads the international boycott movement, is comprised of 28 Palestinian organizations. Foremost amongst them is the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces (PNIF), which include Hamas, the PFLP, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad all designated terror organizations.

This report has found that numerous members and terrorist operatives have become leading figures in NGOs which delegitimize and promote boycotts against Israel, while concealing or downplaying their terrorist past. Some continue to serve as members of terrorist organizations to this day. Thus, members of Palestinian, North American and British NGOs which delegitimize Israel, present themselves as human rights activists, while withholding any mention of their ties to terrorist organizations.

For example:

A. Mustapha Awad – a PFLP operative trained by Hezbollah, who was recently sentenced by Israel to one year in prison for transferring funds between countries for terrorists and maintaining ties with terror organizations. Awad is an activist in the North American-based NGO Samidoun, which works in close coordination with the PFLP for the release of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and supports the BDS campaign.

B. Muhammad Sawalha – a former operative of the military wing of Hamas and in recent years a member of Hamas’ political bureau and its representative in the UK. Sawalha maintains ties with Hamas and in 2017 participated in a senior Hamas delegation to Russia. Sawalha is deeply involved in the BDS campaign and anti-Israel activities in the UK, including establishing and leading a number of NGOs which, amongst other things, promote BDS.

C. Leila Khaled – a terrorist who hijacked TWA Flight 840 in 1969, and attempted a second airplane hijacking in 1970, who continues to maintain active ties to terrorists. These ties include coordinating between a PFLP command center in Syria and operatives in Jerusalem planning lethal attacks against Israelis. Khaled is a well-known figure in the BDS movement, even fundraising for the main BDS organization in South Africa.

D. Salah Khawaja – a former PFLP operative and current member of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces, as well as being a BNC secretariat member. His most recent conviction was in 2016, when he was sentenced to one-year for training and maintaining contact with a hostile entity.

E. Khalida Jarrar – a senior operative in the PFLP and former director and deputy director of the board at the Ramallah-based NGO, Addameer.

F. Shawan Jabarin – a former senior PFLP operative who served, cumulatively, several years in prison. Jabarin is the General Director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO which promotes BDS. Jabarin, who was described by the Israeli Supreme court in 2007 as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in light of his dual roles in an NGO and in a terrorist organization, has recruited other PFLP members to Al-Haq.

The preponderance of information shows that this is a premeditated, coordinated and organized modus operandi of the terrorist organizations, which seek to “whitewash” their end-goal of eliminating the State of Israel by hiding behind the façade of “legitimate” human rights NGOs, primarily operating in the Palestinian Authority, the UK and the US.

This method is another evolution in the tactics employed by terrorist organizations to attack the State of Israel by exploiting Western values. It derives from their realization that in today’s day and age, civil society has a significant ability to influence democratic governments. In their eyes, the path to mainstream acceptance requires adopting “legitimate” methods of action. As a result, terrorist organizations have embraced a new approach, at the basis of which is waging a campaign against Israel in the public opinion and legal arenas, while cynically and deliberately exploiting human rights NGOs perceived in the West as “legitimate”. To our understanding, terrorist organizations hope that in this way, they will co-opt civil society to push their governments to place pressure on Israel, with the aim of curtailing its military and economic freedom of action.

Moreover, from the perspective of the terrorist organizations, building ties with civil society in the West creates an opportunity for receiving financial aid, which they could not otherwise receive due to sanctions imposed on them by Western countries. In this context, it should be noted that in recent years, the Israeli security services have revealed that Hamas has used international aid organizations operating in the Gaza Strip to receive funds intended for humanitarian assistance.

The report also examined financial and material ties between terrorist organizations and NGOs promoting delegitimization and boycott campaigns. These ties work in both directions. Thus, terrorist operatives assist NGOs in fundraising, share manpower and jointly promote public campaigns, conferences, delegations and events.

Some NGOs tied to terrorist organizations have received funding from European countries and EU institutions, both in the past and in the present. These NGOs are also funded by aid agencies which in turn are financed by Western governments (i.e. indirect governmental financing), and by private philanthropic foundations. In our estimation, in light of the ties between the terror organizations and these NGOs, there is concern that government and private funds are being transferred to terrorist organizations, both directly and indirectly.

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs intends to release an additional report in 2019 which will examine the direct and indirect governmental funding, as well as the funding of international aid organizations and private philanthropic foundations, to the NGOs discussed in this study and others. This following a recently published study on the funding granted by EU institutions to NGOs promoting anti-Israel activities and the BDS campaign, estimated at millions of euros each year.