Israel to Back Palestinian NGOs' Labeling as Terror Groups With Conviction of Spanish Woman

While Juana Ruiz Rishwami didn't belong to any of the six organizations, sources involved in the investigation claimed that collected evidence unequivocally incriminates them, but the material remains confidential

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Juana Ruiz Rishwami in custody, today.
Juana Ruiz Rishwami in custody, today.Credit: Hagar Shezaf

The Israeli government intends to use a plea deal signed today with a Spanish citizen convicted of fundraising for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to convince the global community of its designation of six Palestinian organizations as terror groups last month, political sources told Haaretz.

The PFLP is a left-wing Palestinian faction with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.

The Spanish citizen Juana Ruiz Rishwami, a fundraiser for the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian aid group not included in the six designated organizations, was convicted on charges that included activity in a proscribed organization and illicit money transfers.

According to the indictment against her, Rishwami "suspected that the organization was acting on behalf of the Popular Front and despite this she continued to work in the organization." It was emphasized, however, that throughout the period of her work she was unaware that the funds she had raised had been transferred to the Popular Front.

It was noted that when Rishwami learned that the organization's CFO had funded an attack against the State of Israel during his tenure in the organization she expressed resentment about it. She continued to work in the organization, however.

Supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) protest in Gaza, 2013.Credit: AP Photo/Adel Hana

Rishwami pleaded guilty to the offenses attributed to her as part of the plea deal. Her lawyers Avigdor Feldman, Omri Barbash and Meirav Khoury agreed with the military prosecution that she would be sentenced to 13 months in prison from the day of her arrest, in April. This coming Wednesday, the court is expected to decide whether to approve this sentence.

Sources involved in the investigation claimed that recently-collected evidence unequivocally incriminates the six designated Palestinian organizations, but that this material remains confidential.

Political sources further told Haaretz that Israeli security officials admit, however, that the publicly available evidence does not provide any evidence incriminating the six groups of financial links to the PFLP.

A Foreign Ministry source told Haaretz today that "the woman's confession of guilt offers proof that the Popular Front operated a network of civil society organizations to covertly raise funds."

"The confession sheds light on the six organizations' operations as well as their integral role within the PFLP's activities, thus strengthening the terror designation levied against them."

Rishwami's lawyer Avigdor Feldman argued that she did not know that the money she was raising was reaching the PLFP, adding: "Using her confession as proof that there was a justification for outlawing the organizations is an absolute sham."

The PFLP has denied the Israeli allegations, as do the six Palestinian civil society groups, whose designation as terrorists drew condemnation from the United Nations.

Following the plea deal, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a joint statement urging the international community to "work with Israel to prevent terrorist organizations from operating in civilian clothes," and to "prevent funds from reaching terror groups."

They elaborated that they "will continue to respect human rights and the work of human rights organizations," but that they "will continue to act against terrorism wherever it is and whatever form it takes."

Kayed al-Goul, a senior PFLP official in Gaza, accused Lapid of trying to use Rishmawi's conviction to deflect international criticism.

"Israel has been embarrassed by the international response to its decision to label six Palestinian civil society groups as terror groups and Lapid's statement and the so-called conviction is a helpless attempt to respond," he said.

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