Five Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank that were outlawed after Israel's defense minister designated them terrorist groups in October filed procedural objections to the decision on Thursday.
The groups say the order declaring them “unlawful associations” issued by the head of the Israeli military's Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, was carried out without "due process." This declaration came two weeks after Defense Minister Benny Gantz termed the groups terrorist organizations.
Fuchs's decision was made based on classified intelligence information that was not provided to them – and which they are unable to defend themselves against, the organizations said.
The organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defence for Children International – Palestine, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. Last month, the groups requested to see the materials that were used to declare them terrorist entities, but were rejected by military prosecutors.
Military authorities said the designations are based on classified intelligence information that if released could pose a threat to national security – instead providing the groups with unclassified information based on police investigations.
At the same time, the organizations asked to postpone the date for filing objections to Gantz’s decision, in order to first file objections to Fuchs's declaration – that the groups were unlawful organizations in the West Bank – as such designation permits Israeli authorities to arrest their employees and close their offices.
The organizations' attorneys, Michael Sfard and Jawad Boulus, as well as humans rights group Adalah argued that the materials they were provided with were “gossipy and very superficial," including testimony from employees of other organizations. The attorneys claimed such evidence is inadmissible in court by law.
The groups' legal team also claimed that Fuchs's declaration of the groups as "unlawful" was illegal, arguing that a military general may only term a group as such under an order by Israel's defense minister, according to the 1945 Emergency Regulations. Gantz, however, declared the groups terrorist organizations based on a 2016 counter-terrorism law.
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The lawyers further argued that “the objection process itself is tainted by a conflict of interest," since Fuchs, who issued the decision, heads the same body that will decide on the objection.
The sixth Palestinian organization involved, the Union of Agricultural Workers’ Committee, was declared unlawful in October 2020, prior to the designation of the other five groups, and is conducting its objection proceedings separately.
The group submitted its objection to Gantz’s terrorist designation in December 2021, through its lawyer Avigdor Feldman. As part of the objection process, the organization recently received a summary of the classified information which served as the basis of the decision. The summary said the comprehensive material is classified.
In the summary, the Defense Ministry repeated the arguments it had already made: that the organization was in fact controlled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization, and some of the donations it had received were used to fund military and terrorist operations of the PFLP.
As evidence supporting the decisions, the summary paraphrased information from the testimony of Eteraf Rimawi, Waleed Hanatshe, Amro Hamouda and Said Abdat, who do not work for the organization. Hanatshe, an employee of the Union of Health Work Committees-Jerusalem (HWC) – which was outlawed in 2015 for its connections with the PFLP – was charged for participating in the murder of 17-yar-old Rina Shnerb, who was killed in a 2019 terrorist attack attributed to the PFLP. Hanatshe told investigators that he, Samer Arbid and Abdel Razeq Farraj – who all worked for the HWC – met in the group’s offices to plan and train for a terrorist shooting attack.
In one of the meetings held in the office, the three planned an attack at a spring visited by Israelis, said Hanatshe. The planning for the attack in which Shnerb was killed was done elsewhere. Arbid was charged with Shnerb’s murder and Farraj was charged as an accessory to the murder.
The document bases the claim that the group transferred money to the PFLP on the testimony of two employees of the HWC, who were charged with membership in a terrorist organization, the PFLP. According to the indictments filed against the two former employees of the HWC, who were later fired for embezzling funds from the organization, the two diverted money to the PFLP. They were quoted as saying the same thing happened in the Union of Agricultural Workers’ Committee.
Rimawi formerly worked for the Bisan Center for Research and Development. The summary of Rimawi’s questioning states that some of the officials from the various groups were members of a secret PLFP committee. Some of the organizational meetings of that committee were held in the offices of the UAWC, HWC and Bisan, the summary said.
Last month, the Netherlands decided to halt funding for the Union of Agricultural Workers’ Committee after it found in its own independent audit that a number of UAWC board members were linked to the PLFP – and also held positions at the terrorist organization. The audit said it had not found evidence that funds were transferred between the two organizations, or that they were the same group.