It was widely suspected that the “secret evidence” justifying Israel’s declaration of six Palestinian organizations as “terror groups” last month was without merit.
An exposé on the contents of a classified government document indicates that Israel has no evidence and is relying on the testimony of two Palestinian detainees who may have been tortured.
Israel alleges that the six groups – Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees and the Bisan Center for Research and Development – serve as an arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Tel Aviv – along with the US and EU – list as “terror organizations” the PFLP and other Palestinian political parties with armed wings that resist Israeli occupation and colonization.
Israel and its lobby groups have long attempted to discredit, defund and disrupt the work of Palestinian human rights groups like those declared illegal last month.
But the “terror” designation was extreme even for Israel.The contents of a classified 74-page dossier prepared by the Shin Bet – Israel’s secret police – were revealed by the Israeli publication +972 Magazine on Thursday. Israel distributed the dossier to European diplomats in May in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade them to stop funding the six groups.
According to +972 Magazine, the contents of the dossier are almost identical to the allegations the Israeli defense ministry made when it designated the groups as “terrorist” organizations last month.
It is based on testimony from two Palestinians who did not work for any of the six organizations.
The men – Said Abdat and Amro Hamouda – worked as accountants for the Health Work Committees, a seventh Palestinian group that was declared by Israel as a “terrorist” organization earlier this year.
The group was designated as such after its deputy director, Walid Hanatshah, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killing of a 17-year-old Israeli in the West Bank in 2019.
Several more employees of the Health Work Committees were arrested this year, including its general director Shatha Odeh, who has been held by Israel without charge or trial since July.
The pair whose testimonies are the basis of the dossier had been fired “after being suspected of financial misconduct,” +972 Magazine reported, citing the Israeli document.
The lawyer for one of the men alleges that he may have been subjected to ill-treatment or torture during his interrogation.
Israeli authorities threatened to arrest Abdat’s family members during interrogation sessions that “ran as much as 22 hours straight,” +972 Magazine reported.
When “Abdat fainted several times, instead of receiving medical care, he was splashed with cold water and questioning continued,” the publication added.
Abdat was also put into a stress position that causes “severe physical suffering, to the point of torture,” as Tal Steiner, the director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, told +972 Magazine.
The two men “based most of their accusations on general hypotheses, what they alleged was ‘common knowledge,’ or information they claimed was widely ‘known,’” according to +972 Magazine.
No “concrete evidence”
The dossier prepared for European diplomats includes testimony from Abdat that “he saw receipts which were used for various PFLP activities.” But in the full interrogation summary, Abdat says that those activities included folkloric dance classes.
The “hundreds of pages of interrogation summaries” contain no specific allegations of funding being diverted to militant activities.
Indeed, several European countries concluded the dossier contained no “concrete evidence” and continued to fund the six groups, the publication added.
This week, Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney affirmed that his government – which funds two of the banned groups – had been provided with no “credible evidence” to back up Israel’s claims.
The “terror” designation hinges on the testimony of two men who are shown in the Shin Bet dossier to lack familiarity with the targeted organizations.
+972 Magazine reports that one of the detained men stated that Khalida Jarrar, a lawmaker belonging to the PFLP, was the director of Addameer.
Jarrar has not been the director of Addameer since 2006.
Israel is hoping that US officials will be more amenable to its claims than their European counterparts.
Three of the six targeted groups are working closely with the International Criminal Court’s war crimes investigation in the West Bank and Gaza.
Benny Gantz, the Israeli defense minister who signed off on the “terror” designations, is likely being investigated for his role in suspected war crimes perpetrated during Israel’s offensives in Gaza in summer 2014 and May 2021.
Addameer, one of the targeted groups, supports Palestinians held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons and is representing the cases of the forcible transfer of three child prisoners before the International Criminal Court.
Israel’s Shin Bet “resorts to torture and ill-treatment as standard operating procedure in a systematic and wide-scale approach against Palestinian detainees,” according to Addameer.