Palestinian human rights worker convicted of terrorist financing

An IDF court in the West Bank on Wednesday convicted Spanish-Palestinian human rights activist Juana Rashmawi of terrorist financing in a plea deal and expected to get a 13-month jail sentence.

His sentencing hearing, in which the parties will also seek a fine of NIS 50,000, is scheduled for November 17.

The conviction and timing did not appear to be random, as the Defense and Foreign Ministries simultaneously launched a campaign to present it as evidence that the recent declaration of six other Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist groups was justified.

To date, much of the world has been skeptical of the recent statement by the Defense Ministry that six Palestinian NGOs act as fronts for the PFLP terrorist group.

Many have even said that the statement by the US Department of Commerce of the Israeli cyber offensive firm NSO Group to be blacklisted was a partial setback against the Israeli statements.

Israel and Palestinian activists at Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah on October 27, 2021 gather to protest the terrorist designation of six Palestinian NGOs. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The United States and many EU countries have said or implied that Israel’s persecution of some of the human rights NGOs was, at least in part, politically motivated and was an improper use of legal tools.

Essentially, the Israeli government’s argument on Wednesday was that Rashmawi, who had worked for the “Union of Health Work Committees” (UHWC), had confessed to exactly the same kind of dual role – human rights and terrorist financing conduct – which the other six NGOs have accused of.

Rashmawi was arrested on April 13 and appears to have been being questioned or negotiating a plea deal ever since.

It was unclear whether a simple 13-month sentence on low-grade terrorism financing charges for a different NGO would be enough to completely alter the negative response from the US and the EU to Israel’s handling of the other six NGOs until the date, despite the clear thematic similarities linked to the PFLP groups.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: “The entire international community must work together with Israel to prevent terrorist organizations from operating in civilian frameworks and to prevent funds from reaching terrorist organizations.”

Lapid added: “The admission of guilt [by Juana Rashmawi] it is further proof that a cynical and murderous terrorist organization has established a network of lies and fraud that operates under the guise of humanitarian organizations as a conduit for the entry of terrorist funds, deliberately misleading donors, organizations and countries. “

Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared: “We will continue to respect human rights and the activities of human rights organizations. [At the same time] we will continue to operate against terrorism in all its forms, wherever it takes place ”.

“The conviction demonstrates that the PFLP operates a network of ‘humanitarian’ organizations in order to raise funds that are channeled into terrorist activities,” Gantz added.

Gantz noted: “The cynical use of human rights organizations as a cover is a ‘double sin’: it fuels terror and also harms organizations that do real and important work for civil society.”

Both ministries went on to say that the UHWC organization “has been serving as a civil arm of the PFLP, as have the Working Committees of the Agriculture Union, the Bisan Center, Al-Haq, DCIP and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.” .

“The defendant did extensive fundraising for the PFLP. Donors, including countries around the world and international organizations, were systematically misled into funding a terrorist organization. The organization’s activities were a significant and important source of funding for the PFLP, ”the statement said.

The indictment states that “the terrorist organizations carried out their operations on purpose under the guise of civilian activities that would serve as a cover for their training, fundraising and other terrorist activities.”

US-UN Ambassador Gilan Erdan said: “The UN, its agencies and all member states must do everything in their power to prevent and combat the shameful trend in terrorist financing. Israel values ​​the work of Palestinian civil society organizations and their importance to the Palestinian people. “

“However, we cannot and will not allow the financing of terrorism under the guise of humanitarian and civil aid. Israel will always defend its citizens, no matter what the rest of the world says. I wonder what excuse the UN agencies will now find. to continue supporting terrorist organizations disguised as humanitarian, “he added.

Last month, Israel banned six Palestinian NGOs over their links to the PFLP, and has faced criticism from American and European allies who alleged that Israel was not providing sufficient evidence for the appointment.

Although the organization in this case was declared a terrorist entity in 2015 and is not one of the six organizations banned for terrorist ties last month, a source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the case “a big piece of the puzzle” regarding the NGO.

“The PFLP operated a civil society network to raise funds for terrorism. [Rashmawi] she was not involved in terrorist attacks, but she knew she was raising money for terrorism and she admitted it, “said the source. “This admission sheds light on how these civil society organizations behave and how they are inseparable from the PFLP.”

The source argued that the case materials “show beyond any doubt that there is fraudulent fundraising for terrorism.”
Even if these organizations have other activities, they are still part of a terrorist group, he added.

“You cannot say that one branch of a terrorist organization is legitimate and the other is not,” he said. “The international community has to recognize the facts and fight this way of raising funds for terrorism.”

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