Several Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were apparently monitored using the controversial espionage software Pegasus. This was the result of an analysis by the Irish human rights organization Front Line Defenders, which is available to the SZ and other media in the Forbidden Stories network. Accordingly, traces of the Pegasus-Trojaners found. The software manufacturer – NSO, based in Tel Aviv – was sanctioned by the US government just a few days ago. The reason: Your products would be used “for malicious surveillance of government officials, journalists, business people, activists, academics and embassy workers”.
In the international Pegasus project-The research did Southgerman newspaper, NDR and WDR as well as the Time, the Guardian, the Washington Post and other partners revealed in July how authoritarian states are using NSO spy software against human rights activists, journalists and opposition activists around the world. Since then, experts have been calling for an international export ban on monitoring software. NSO has always denied allegations and generally does not comment on its customers – who, according to the company, are exclusively state authorities.
It is unclear which authority spied on the Palestinian NGOs – the obvious would be surveillance from Israel. The groups that were monitored with NSO technology according to the new analyzes are the six organizations that the Israeli government declared to be terrorist groups despite international protests in October. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet spoke of an “arbitrary decision”, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of a “terrifying and illegal act” – and left-wing Israeli groups even of the “actions of totalitarian regimes”. The Israeli government initially left an SZ request unanswered.
The organizations concerned also receive money from Europe
By classifying six non-governmental organizations as terrorist groups, the Israeli government has targeted the center of Palestinian civil society – and at the same time exposed itself to the accusation of trying to silence uncomfortable critics of the occupation policy. All of these organizations, some of which also receive money from European countries, the EU or German foundations, have long been the focus of the Israeli authorities. Some of their offices have repeatedly been the target of searches by the army. The blanket accusation that the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was operating as an “organized network” and source of funding came as a surprise and is vehemently denied by all the organizations listed. With the signing of a special order on Sunday, the Israeli army can now take immediate action against the organizations in the West Bank and, for example, close their offices and arrest workers.
The issue also led to zoff within the Israeli government. Meretz and Labor Party, the two left-wing parties in the heterogeneous eight-party coalition that is currently in power, have been heavily criticized – and demanded that evidence be presented to support the terrorist allegation.
The most prominent NGO on this Israeli terror list is the NGO Al-Haq, which has been active since 1979, under its director Schawan Jabarin, who was held in Israeli detention several times in the 1980s and 1990s on charges of PFLP activities. The Israeli leadership was particularly annoyed by Al-Haq with documentation of alleged Israeli crimes that was submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC). The ICC is now investigating possible war crimes against Israel and the Palestinian Hamas. Al-Haq, however, not only denounces human rights violations by the Israeli occupying power, but repeatedly takes on the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Both the EU and the US government are calling for evidence to be presented
The Addameer organization, which offers legal assistance to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, has also been active and internationally networked for three decades. The Palestinian section of Defense for Children International (DCI-P) looks after Palestinian children in Israeli custody in particular, as well as the effects of the occupation on children’s rights in general. The headquarters of the organization is in Geneva. The Israeli government also listed the socially committed Bisan Center and two organizations that claim to campaign for women’s rights (Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees) and for strengthening Palestinian agriculture (Union of Agricultural Work Committees).
As evidence of the alleged terrorist activities, Israel refers to intelligence. However, no evidence was presented in public – and the documents that were presented to partners in the US and the European Union behind the scenes also seem to have little persuasive power so far. A spokesman for the US State Department asked for “more information” immediately after the Israeli announcement on October 22nd. An EU spokesman immediately pointed out that Israeli allegations about the misuse of EU funds by Palestinian organizations had been “unfounded” in the past.
He was evidently referring to a 74-page dossier compiled by the Israeli domestic secret service Schin Bet, which had already been sent to Western partners in May – and which in the meantime by the AP news agency and three Israeli journalists for the website +972 Magazin and The Intercept could be seen. The unanimous finding: no hard evidence.