Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan has presented a report prepared by his ministry, according to which 20 people who were formerly convicted of terrorism, particularly members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, are now active in organizations promoting a boycott of Israel, such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
The claims made in this report, called “Terrorists in Suits,” are very similar to earlier publications by the right-wing group NGO Monitor. It includes identical examples and quotes, with the central argument being that the ministry has identified more than 100 "ties to terrorists" in 13 groups that support the BDS movement.
Most of the present report’s findings were presented last year in a story in Yedioth Ahronoth. The ministry claims that this report digs deeper than in past publications and presents the findings in a “new packaging,” with a new diplomatic message, which will be translated into many languages for the purpose of waging a Hasbara campaign.
The document says that the 20 people who were convicted of terrorist activities, some of them having served time in Israeli prisons, are connected to civil organizations that were investigated, and that these people maintain organizational and financial links with terrorist groups. However, some of the examples in the document disseminated to the press include people who were released by Israel and who deny any current ties to militant groups.
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The material does not indicate if the ministry has updated evidence showing that these people are still linked to alleged militant activity. The report hints that the ministry has some information regarding this issue, but in response to a question by Haaretz, ministry officials only said that there was some information that was not included in the report, and which may be used in the future.
Some of the examples include Leila Khaled, who participated in plane hijackings in the 1960s, and who is now involved in promoting a boycott of Israel in the United States.
Another example is Shawan Jabarin, the general-director of the human rights organization al-Haq. He was imprisoned in the past by Israel for recruiting Popular Front activists for training overseas. The report includes a quote from his court hearing at the High Court of Justice in 2007, a quote also appearing in NGO Monitor, in which the court describes him as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some of his time is spent in conducting a human rights organization, and some as an operative in an organization which has no qualms regarding murder and attempted murder, which have no relation whatsover to rights.”
A further example is Mustafa Awad, a Lebanese-born Belgian citizen who was arrested last year when trying to enter Israel and accused of having ties with terror cells of the Popular Front. His activity in promoting boycotts was reported extensively in Yedioth Ahronoth after his arrest.
Another example is Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Jarrar was convicted and jailed in 2015 for her membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Since 1998 she’s been prohibited from leaving Israel. She was imprisoned last year without trial, remaining under administrative detention. The report notes that she’s active in al-Dameer NGO for human rights, which supports BDS. This organization was also extensively reviewed by NGO Monitor in the past. According to the ministry, her current administrative detention is related to suspicions of terrorist activity.
The next example is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, who in 1969 placed explosive devices in a Jerusalem market, one of which led to the murder of two students. She was released in the 1970s in a prisoner swap and emigrated to the US. According to the report, she took part in meetings of organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and National Students for Justice in Palestine in the United States.
There is also an example from Hamas in the report. Muhammad Sawalha, “an activist in the military wing of Hamas who in recent years is part of its political bureau and representation in Britain.” According to the report, he established and headed several civil society groups that act to support BDS.
Erdan, who presented the report at a press conference, said that he expects that after the exposure of ties between pro-boycott groups and terrorist organizations, the European Union and states which finance these groups will rethink their paths regarding the legitimization and financing they provide for BDS. Ministry officials said that such ties had been exposed in the past, but the report wishes to expose “how terrorist groups are exploiting civil society groups.”