'Great Damage': Labor Party Head Condemns Classing Palestinian NGOs as Terror Groups

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli says decision to classify Palestinian NGOs as terror groups was hasty and harmful, though foreign and defense ministry associates say she lacks facts on the matter

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Transportation Minister and Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli at a Labor faction meeting, today,
Transportation Minister and Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli at a Labor faction meeting, today,Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Transportation Minister and Labor Party head Merav Michaeli criticized on Monday Israel's decision to classify six Palestinian civil society organizations as terror groups.

"The manner in which this classification was carried out has caused great damage among our greatest and most important friends,” Michaeli said at a Labor Party faction meeting.

“This damage could be detrimental to Israel's interests and it should not have happened,” she added.

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Michaeli also stressed that decisions of this nature "must be done with proper preparation" and "with the greatest trepidation, only if we are certain there is truly no other way."

She said that she intends to speak about the matter with the head of the Shin Bet security service and request additional information on the decision. She added that it is "regrettable" that she must have these conversations after the decisions have already been made.

Following her remarks, Kahol Lavan party retorted that "we suggest that Merav Michaeli, who doesn’t know the details, not interfere with the war on terror.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also addressed the classification and said that it was made in coordination with the defense and foreign ministries.

"All the intelligence was presented to me. This is a decision that had to be made," said Lapid, who added that "there are very good people in these organizations, and very bad people taking advantage of the good ones.”

On Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order declaring six civil society organizations in the West Bank as terrorist organizations.

Some of these groups operate as human rights organizations: Addameer offers legal support to prisoners and collects data on arrests and administrative detentions, and actively works to end torture and violations of prisoners' rights. Defense for Children International Palestine monitors the killings of children and the wellbeing of arrested children in Israel.

Offices of Palestinian NGO, Addameer, on Sunday.Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / REUTERS

The NGOs also include a women's rights organization and an agricultural labor association.

On Sunday, it was also revealed that the State Prosecutor Amit Aisman approved the Defense Ministry's decision to classify the NGOs as terror organizations after the Shin Bet presented "extensive and convincing" evidence linking them to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, according to a further source.

In addition, a security source in Israel said that there is clear-cut evidence, including footage and receipts, against the six Palestinians NGOs. The official added that Shin Bet and Defense Ministry representatives will fly to Washington to present the "unambiguous" evidence to the Biden administration.

According to information presented to the State’s Attorney, funds were transferred to the PFLP under the guise of human rights and civil society activities, in some cases even without the knowledge of field activists but with the knowledge of the organizations' management. 

Attorneys from the State’s Attorney High Court of Justice also helped in formulating the legal opinion that there is no impediment to declaring the organizations as terrorist groups, and the Justice Ministry is prepared to defend the Defense Minister’s declaration against appeals.

Despite the supposed evidence, which remains classified, there are no plans yet for a criminal investigation against the members of the organizations.

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