Very little that unfolds in the public domain is clear and simple. It behoves us to keep our eyes open and dig deep when there are questions.
Please read to the end of this posting, for that is where you will find the biggest story, which is just in the process of unfolding – as questions have been asked and there is deep digging taking place!
Let us begin by returning to the matter of the six Palestinian Authority NGOs that have direct ties to the PLFP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). This issue continues to make news.
After Minister of Defense Gantz identified them as terrorist entities, a protest ensued from the Biden Administration, or more precisely, from the State Department, which seems to be leading on this matter. Blinken is definitely a concern.
The claim was made, or so it seemed, that Israel had not notified the US before making the announcement about the six terror-associated NGOs. But officials in Israel – bewildered by this claim –were very clear about the fact that indeed they had.
Yehoshua Zarka, Deputy Director-General of the Department for Strategic Interests within the Foreign Ministry, said US officials most certainly were given a heads-up. “I personally updated the Americans in advance.”
Last Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “It is to the best of our knowledge accurate that we did not receive a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations.”
What a qualified statement! Declaring “It is to the best of our knowledge accurate” provides wiggle room. It is not definitive. And then, “a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations” is certainly not a blanket denial that Israel had provided information regarding the identification of the NGOs as terrorist or intention to act on this determination. This is game-playing.
Israeli officials have concluded that what the US was seeking was an in-depth intelligence briefing, which is being provided, albeit somewhat reluctantly. (Sometimes it is best to keep information about intelligence contacts and methods in-house.)
Commentator Yisrael Medad has a different take, however, and he may indeed be right:
He suggests that we are now witnessing “the European Union, and perhaps the US State Department, moving from pronouncements, press releases and the funding of projects to browbeating and the application of diplomatic force against Israel It is as if Israel should have no right to defend itself, conduct investigations, suspect illicit doings and ferret out immoral money transfers…”
More and more there is the sense that Israel stands alone. EU hostility is pretty much par for the course, but now we can see a growing diplomatic divide between Israel and the US.
Last Tuesday evening, members of the Joint List – an alliance of Arab parties headed by Ayman Odeh (pictured) that sits in the opposition – went to Ramallah to meet with representatives of the six named terrorist NGOs. They expressed support for the work of the NGOs and promised to help them in their fight to overturn Gantz’s decision.
Declared MK Sami Abu Shehadeh of the Balad party: “We met in Ramallah with the six human rights organizations that Gantz claims are terrorist organizations. These are ethical people who have been working for many years on behalf of human rights and justice.” (Emphasis added)
What we’re looking at is a situation that generates major cognitive dissonance. These six groups utilize “human rights” as the front for their operations. Their sterling “human rights” reputation says zilch about what they do behind that front. Those seeking to defend these NGOs trot out evidence of their good work, trusting that it will be difficult for many (most?) to comprehend that a group that helps people also fosters terrorism.
I would like to recommend an article that looks at the six organizations and the two sides of each; information on the terrorist connections is provided by Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.
Also visiting leaders of these groups in Ramallah were representatives of Israeli far left NGOs such as the CEOs of B’Tselem and Ir Amim. What we will see in due course is the overlap between the two groups: they share funders, such as the EU, as well as a propensity for projecting a public image that distracts from their true agenda. (I am not suggesting that the Israeli NGOs are necessarily terrorist-affiliated but that they utilize a “human rights” front to advance a blatantly anti-Zionist agenda.)
Amongst the many nations that have criticized Gantz’s move is Germany. According to a German foreign ministry spokesperson, “We are very concerned by the Israeli decision.” Concerned, because this will have “broad political, legal and financial implications” for the named NGOs.
Well, yes, that was the idea, I believe.
Taking this one step further: According to Im Tirtzu, in the last decade alone, Germany has transferred $26 million to propaganda organizations that are hostile to Israel and provide legal assistance to Palestinian terrorists.
And yet, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Israel early in October, our prime minister lauded her as “a true friend of Israel” and “Europe’s moral compass.” Merkel, on visiting Yad Vashem, declared, “The crimes against the Jewish people that are documented here are a perpetual reminder of the responsibility we Germans bear, and a warning… Israel’s security will always be of central importance…for every German government.”
I guess it depends on how one defines responsibility towards Israel’s security. There are many lessons to be drawn from this situation.
Lastly, we have an item of major import on this issue of support for terror groups:
It follows the same pattern as reported above. However, in this case we are looking at the involvement of the Ra’am party (the United Arab List – headed by Mansour Abbas), which is affiliated with the Islamic Movement and is in the coalition.
Channel 13 News journalist Ayala Hasson broke news on Friday about an investigation that had been done by the Ad Kan organization together with the “Choose Life” forum for bereaved families.
Ad Kan (which means, roughly, up to here and no further) takes a hard look at Israeli groups that defame or otherwise do harm to Israel, exposing the facts.
This is what I have so far:
According to the coalition agreement between Bennett & Lapid and Ra’am, money is allocated for projects in the Arab community on the recommendation of Ra’am. There might, for example, be money allocated for assistance to troubled Arab Israeli youngsters, which would be given to a specific NGO recommended by Ra’am that would provide this assistance.
A new budget is to be voted on by the Knesset plenum in the next several days, and it would include some of the specifics of what Ra’am has recommended – this has been negotiated. My understanding would be that in the months since the coalition was established in June, there has already been some allocation of funds for Ra’am recommended projects, even in the absence of a budget.
The first major sign that all is not kosher is the fact that when negotiations between Ra’am and the senior members of the Finance Ministry’s budget department where held to determine how coalition money would be paid out with regard to Ra’am recommendations, it was held in the offices of a group, ostensibly non-profit, called the Assistance 48 Association in Kafr Kassem (an Arab town in the “Triangle” area of Israel).
A strange place for negotiations. And what is the Assistance 48 Association? When I spoke to Gerald Steinberg last night he informed me that it was not on the radar of NGO Monitor, which I believe tracks all the NGOs in the area. NGO Monitor is going to be looking into this.
And it gets more suspicious:
Razi Issa is a senior member of the Ra’am party (although not a member of the Knesset). He is also Chairman of the General Assembly of the Islamic Movement, and CEO of the Assistance 48 Association. This is a rather incestuous situation, as we shall see.
Issa was present at coalition negotiations between Mansour Abbas and Naftali Bennett & Yair Lapid last June. You see him in the picture below standing over Abbas, on the right.
Issa was also at the negotiations regarding allocation of funds held in the Assistance 48 Association offices. Ra’am insists that he was there simply as an interested observer since he is a member of the Ra’am party. The Ad Kan investigation, however, says he was the architect of the negotiations. Clearly money was being directed to the Assistance 48 Association.
The Assistance 48 Association is not registered in Israel. Ra’am says is “recognized” by the UN, whatever that means. According to Ra’am, the group works all over the world, including in Gaza and in Israel. But I tend to think that if it worked in Israel, NGO Monitor would have been aware of its existence.
And then this information rings the loudest bells:
It has been exposed that Razi Issa and the Assistance 48 Association have links to terror organizations.
Issa visited Gaza in his position as director of the Assistance 48 Association several times, and met with senior Hamas official Razi Hamed. During an inauguration ceremony in Gaza for the Assistance 48 Association, Hamed, who was standing next to Issa, was overheard thanking him publicly.
“In an interview, Hasson [the journalist who broke this story] asked Issa: ‘What is Razi Hamed thanking you for? It’s a simple question.’ Issa replied: ‘All of Gaza is grateful for our treatment of widows and orphans.’ Hasson responded: ‘Widows and orphans I understand, but what’s a senior Hamas official thanking you for?’ At which point Issa dodged: ‘How should I know?’”
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the director of the Tulkarm branch of the Assistance 48 Association is Azhar Shaharur, whose brother participated in the terrorist attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002 and is serving 29 life sentences in an Israeli prison. Shaharur’s husband and son are members of the Islamic Jihad.
Where, then, will this lead us? We must hope that this will cause enough of a tsunami that something good for our country will result. It’s past time. We have yet to hear from NGO Monitor, and the Religious Zionist party has called for an investigation. But while gaps in information need to be filled in, and other information must be confirmed, the broad outline of the situation is clear.
Ad Kan CEO Gilad Ach issued a statement saying, “For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, the Israeli taxpayer is funding a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of Israelis. The state budget must not be passed in its current form…We call on the Zionist elements that are still in the coalition to stop this demonic dance and take action to rectify the situation. It’s not too late.”
- And so, refusing to pass the budget until there are changes made is one path that might be taken. It is considered by many the most desire path, because a budget is badly needed and simply refusing to pass a budget has negative repercussions for the country.
- If the parameters of the agreement with Ra’am are changed, Ra’am is likely to bolt from the coalition (which would be a huge blessing). Then the government would fall, for the current coalition has 62 mandates and without Ra’am the number would fall to 58. That is, unless members of the opposition (presumably Likud) agreed to join once Ra’am was gone. This is a possibility.
- Yet another possibility is that the budget, standing as it is, would not pass because some members of the coalition would refuse to vote for it. MK Amichai Chikli (Yamina) has already said he will not vote for the budget and prefers to bring the government down. He put out a statement on Twitter:
“My members in the right-wing party – it is time to understand that this government has no right to exist. Return home to the national camp and dismantle this dangerous government.”
But a second member of the coalition – from Yamina or New Hope — would also need to vote against the budget to bring the government down. And then there is the possibility that the Joint List would support the budget from the opposition, even though it is now saying it will not.
As my crystal ball is still not working, we will have to wait to see how this plays out.