Face value: the BBC and Palestinian NGOs

On December 12th 2012 the BBC News website’s Middle East section featured a report entitled Israeli military raids offices of Palestinian NGOs

ME hp 12 12

The article quotes an IDF spokesperson:

“The Israeli military said the NGOs were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel considers a terrorist group.

“Soldiers searched several offices in Ramallah which were affiliated with the Popular Front organisation,” a spokeswoman told the AFP news agency.

“We don’t know that they were Popular Front offices, but they were affiliated with a terror organisation.” “

Israel, however, is not the only country which classifies the PFLP as a terrorist organization: so do the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada. 

Nablus (---), 08/12/2012.- Palestinian supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) carry Palestine National flags and the party flag during a rally to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the PFLP in the West Bank City of Nablus 08 December 2012.
A rally to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the PFLP in Nablus (Schem) December 8th 2012.

The report then goes on to offer several Palestinian viewpoints:

“Addameer said the raids were an “attempt to cripple solidarity with the prisoners’ movement”, while the Palestinian NGO Network connected them to the decision by the Palestinians to seek UN non-member observer state status at the UN, which Israel had strongly opposed.

Nour Odeh, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, told AFP that the raids were part of an Israeli policy of “pursuing human rights activists and defenders of the law who expose… systematic and continued Israeli violations”.”

The statement by the PA spokeswoman is interesting if only due to the fact that it is difficult to imagine that such a raid could have taken place in Ramallah without the prior knowledge of the PA security forces. 

Of course the term “human rights activists” has – tragically – become something of an ‘invisibility cloak’ for all manner of anti-Israel political activism and these three NGOs are just some of many who exploit that title, as even a superficial look at them shows. 

Addameer aspires to have prisoners in Israeli jails categorized as ‘political prisoners’ – even if their imprisonment is the result of involvement in terrorism. Its ‘solidarity campaigns’ include support for members of proscribed terror organisations and the 2011 initiative to which it lent its voice was begun by PFLP prisoners.  

Yousef Habash

Addameer’s Board of Directors includes Yousef Habash – reportedly the nephew of the PFLP’s founder George Habash. He has also represented PNGO (the Palestinian NGO Network) and the Health Work Committees. Until 2007 at least, he was a member of the steering committee of the ‘Palestinian Grassroots Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign’. 

Addameer’s Chairperson, Abdullatif Ghaith, was described by the Palestinian NGO ‘Miftah’ in 2004 as representing the PFLP at a sit-in organized by Azmi Bishara.

Sumoud Sa’adat

Addameer’s Director, Sahar Francis, was formerly also a board member of ‘Defence of Children International – Palestine’: a title also formerly held by Al Haq’s Shawan Jabarin who was denied entry by Jordan in 2003 due to PFLP ties

Addameer’s Documentation Officer is Sumoud Sa’adat – daughter of the PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. Here she is featured on the PFLP website.   

The Director of the Cultural Committee of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committeesis Myassar Atyani – described by the PFLP as a “leader” of that terror organization when she was arrested and imprisoned for one month in 2009.  Ms Atyani’s Facebook wall would suggest that her ties to the PFLP still stand.

FB M atyani

The PFLP’s website offers links in its sidebar to (among others) Addameer, Health Work Committees West Bank, Defence of Children International -Palestine and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.  

Some thorough investigative reporting on the part of the BBC into the subject of Palestinian NGOs would do much to advance its audience’s  (and its own) understanding of the fact that in the Middle East, “human rights defenders” are not always all they claim to be. 

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