Webinar Transcript: Michael Sfard on Six Palestinian Groups Designated as Terrorist Organizations

Listen to the recording here.


Hadar Susskind 0:04
Hello, everybody, and thank you for joining us. We will get started in just a moment or two, we're going to let people come on in it takes a few minutes for for everyone to join. But again, thank you. I am Hadar Susskind, the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, and I'm really glad to have you all here with us today. In a moment, I will introduce our esteemed guest. But I'm going to give it a moment because I'm watching the participant numbers still still rolling in there. So we'll take one more minute. So I thank you all for your patience. And then we will go ahead and get started with our topic of the day. So alright, 12:01. Here we go. Those of you who are regulars know that I like to run a tight ship. And we are probably the only Jewish organization in America that starts our programming on time. But here we are. So today, I am very pleased to have with us as our guest, Michael Sfard. I'm sure many of you know Michael and are familiar with his work for sure. He is, as he humbly makes me say one of Israel's leading human rights lawyers, although everybody else calls him Israel's preeminent human rights attorney, representing many organizations, Palestinian and Israeli, including often our friends and colleagues at Shalom Achshav. He has received the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award from ACRI. He's an Open Society Fellow. He's written...His writing has appeared in The New York Times and Haaretz, in Foreign Policy, Independent. And of course, in 2018, he published his book, "The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the legal battle for Human Rights," which could not be more relevant right now. So Micha, thank you so much for joining us. We're here today to talk about the recent developments. I guess it's two weeks now, two and a half weeks since Defense Minister Gantz made his proclamation, declaring six Palestinian NGOs to be terrorist organizations. And since then, we've seen a little bit of up and down, at least from what we're seeing here in the US, there was a declaration, people didn't really know what it meant. You know, we were in touch with folks on Capitol Hill with members of Congress with people in the State Department in the administration. The State Department, I think, quite rightly stated publicly that they wanted, you know, some more background, they wanted to see the evidence from the Israeli government. The Israeli did, the Israeli government did send a delegation here to Washington, they briefed members of Congress and key staff, they spoke to people in the administration, we'll get into maybe a little bit of what they showed them what they didn't show them. But where we are right now is having seen yesterday? Right? Hard to keep track of the story. The government now declared the original declaration was only in Israel, not in the occupied West Bank. Yesterday that came out that they've made that formal too, which seems like the next step. So you know, I could keep rambling on but we have you here and you know what you're talking about? So with that, I'm just going to turn to you and say, Please, Micha, enlighten us. Tell us a little bit more about this.

Michael Sfard 3:14
Well, thank you, Hadar. Always, always, always a pleasure to be with the APN friends. So thank you for inviting me. And thank you all the the people who are who have logged on to this webinar, I'm really happy to see that there are so many people who are interested in and care about these things. I will not assume that everybody knows who these six organizations are. Because until the designation has entered our lives, many people in Israel and did not know and probably around the world did not know. So I want to say first few things about a few things about these organizations. And to explain to you why this is a huge earthquake. This is a watershed moment in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The six organizations that were designated, three of them are human rights organizations, and the three others are community organizers. All of them civil society organizations. They have not been established yesterday. Some of them were established 40 years ago, others 30 years ago. They're all veteran, well known in the circles of human rights, international community of human rights. They are known to be extremely professional there. They have won prizes. They are members in international umbrellas of human rights organizations. Some of them have official status at the UN. Their reports have been have been used and and their reputation is extremely high. In a way the six organizations are the backbone of Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian cry for democratic, for democratization and respect for human rights. So declaring them as terrorist organization is an equivalent of declaring of the American administration, the American government declaring the ACLU and Human Rights Watch as a terrorist organization. That's how huge it is in Palestinian terms. I know three of these organizations intimately, very well. I know they work for years. And that's al Haq, which is the Palestinian, your ACLU, the oldest, the biggest, the most well known human rights organization in Palestine, I know Addameer very well, which is an organization that deals with rights of people in detention, prisoners and detainees. And I know, Defense of Children International Palestine, DCIP, which is an organization that that is working on juvenile justice, and rights of minors, and children. All of these organizations have been very critical naturally, of Israeli governmental policies and practices, but also of PA policies and practices. They have published reports on abuse of rights by Israel, as well as by the Palestinian Authority. And as I said before, the international human rights community is really in shock with that step. Now, having said that, everyone is in shock, doesn't mean that it came out of the blue that designation has has a history. But before I'll say a few- and this history exposes the real motivation behind it, the reason behind it, and what is Israel has, the Israeli government wants to achieve by the by these designations, but first a word about what it means to be designated as a terrorist organization. Such a designation is the NGO equivalent, I call it in several briefings. It's the NGO equivalent of capital punishment. It's a, it's a death sentence, the designation makes, creates a thick belt of administrative powers and prohibitions, the violations of which are criminal, you know, in order to enforce the dissolvement and stopping of all operations and existence of of the designated entity. So once an entity is designated as terrorist organization, all its members, of course, are members of a terrorist organization, which is a criminal offense, the executive director, he becomes a leader of a terrorist organization, and he faces up to 25 years imprisonment if he continues to serve in that role.

People who provide service to a terrorist organization are also committing a crime. And by the way, the service does not have to be in and of itself illegal. It's enough that I sell the organization, let's say computers, or if I provide them with some kind of service, including legal service, by the way, not legal service, in relation to the designation itself, which is exempted, but any other legal service might be might amount to a criminal offense. Expressing support to admit to terrorist organizations is an as is a crime under the Israeli counterterrorism act and under the military legislation in the in the West Bank. So as you can see, the end of course, there are administrative powers, which now Israeli authorities can use. In order to enforce the designation for example, Israel may send troops to shut down the offices and expropriate all the property of these organizations, including their computers, their hard drive, hard drives, and everything they have. Israel may block any transaction of donations to the to their accounts in Ramallah. So this is a real existential threat for these for these organizations and personal threat for anyone who's a member of volunteer and employee or works with with these organizations. Now, in order to be designated as a terrorist organization, you don't have to be involved in committing or carrying out acts of terror. The Israeli definition of terrorist organization has two alternatives. One is the coordination, the the type one terrorist organization, which is indeed an entity that carries out acts of terror. And for the sake of simplicity, let's not get into the question, what are acts of terror, let's just agree that at the core of it, there is violence against civilians. So that's, that's a terror organization. The second type of terror organization is an entity that is that is not carrying out acts of terror, but rather provides service to or has links and ties to type one. So you don't have to be involved in any acts of violence, it's enough that you are providing service to or have ties, links, etc, very blurry concepts, which, depending on how broad their interpretation is, can swallow the entire society. And that's enough to be declared a terrorist organization. All the six NGOs we are talking about were designated terror organizations. According to the second option, the government of Israel does not allege that these organizations have been involved in any violence. Now, as I said, at the beginning of this talk, it did not come out of the blue, it was a shot, but it did not come out of the blue. Why? Because these organizations have been targeted by the Israeli government for years now. And, and it started not in the Ministry of Defense, and not as a as a security issue. But it started in the now late Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which was headed by Gilad Erdan, now the Israeli ambassador to the UN, when, in 2017-2018, when these organizations were identified, and categorized as not terror organizations, but rather delegitimization organizations. And why were they categorized that way, because of their political human rights work, because they advance or promote BDS, and more importantly, because they support and advance and promote international criminal court investigations into alleged crimes committed by Israelis. And these two issues, but mainly and I put an emphasis on the ICC International Criminal Court. The ICC activity was the reason why they were identified and targeted. And the the method chosen to deal with these organizations was to dry out their funding to go to their donors and convince the donors, most of them European governments, to stop supporting these organizations. Now, you cannot go to Western European governments and say, You should stop a supporting al Haq or Addameer. Because they promote investing ICC investigations, the International Criminal Court is cherished by Western Europe. In fact, it's the pinnacle of their lessons learned from the Second World War from the Shoah. And the idea that and they are all members at the ICC. So instead of and so because that's a non starter. The method the method chosen to target these organization is by defaming them, that they have links to terror organizations, and the terror organization that was alleged to be to have links to these civil society organizations was the the Palestinian sorry, the People's Front for the Liberation of the Popular sorry, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP. And the the evidence that was presented to the European governments were all guilty by association methodology. This guy was convicted in the back in the 80s, some 35 or 40 years ago that he was a member, the other guy's father is a member. And here they hired someone who's an ex prisoner and was involved in in membership in the PFLP, all kinds of things like that. Now, the European governments have looked into the evidence presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which worked in in coordination with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and said that's that's not enough that we don't we don't buy that. These are well known established human rights organizations who are working in complete independence. They criticize both Israel and and the Palestinian Authority, and and all these evidence is amounts to absolutely nothing. There were several rounds of Israeli advocate governmental efforts to convince European governments. It began in 2019. And the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, you can find it on online, has published a report called "Terrorists in Suits," again, alleging the same things they are alleging now, it did not work, then again in 2020.

And then in 2021, this summer, that was the last effort going back to the European governments telling them now we have real evidence, it comes from an investigation we had to a seventh organization, a different organization, not one of those six, we have arrested. The accountants have this seventh organization, by the way, accountants that were laid off on charges of embezzlement from that seventh organization, which is called the Workers' Health Committee. And they have told us that they have been diverting funds of the world of the Workers' Health Committee, to the PFLP. And when we asked them, Which other organizations in Ramallah are associated with the PFLP? They named all the organizations and they brought all kinds of pieces of information, you can find the full dossier. On 972 mag there is this splendid article there that runs through the full dossier that was presented in May to the European governments, and European governments. Some of them said, You know what, we don't buy that. But in order to for your peace of mind, we will perform a special in depth audit of the organizations that we support in order to make sure that no scent is diverted to an illegitimate goal. And indeed, some of these organizations went through, you know, European governments are sorry, organizations that are funded by European governments and the EU go through hell, on a daily basis in the sense of very strict auditing. But but this time, they placed another audit, even more thorough and sent people from Europe to Ramallah and looked at every piece of, you know, accounting and receipts and all and came back recently saying, We found nothing. We found absolutely nothing, not a single cent was passed and have passed to any goal that is not the projects that we have been funding. So he's got a third or fourth No. And then, when the when the, when the strategy of convincing the donors to stop donating failed, massively failed, then Israel has taken the unilateral violent step of declaring these organizations, terrorist organizations, and by doing that, it created the administrative power to block every donation that would be transmitted from any country in the world to the organization's bank accounts in Ramallah. And that closes the circle. That's what the government the Israeli government wanted from the first place to make sure that these organizations will be silenced, through their through drying out their funding, and why because of their political activity, which Israel does not like.

Now, the last thing I want to say is the following even before we open it up for questions and comments, even if even if there was some golden piece of evidence that would prove that someone in one of the organizations or in several organizations has committed has has been involved in terrorist activity, even if there has been even if I would be shown the golden evidence, that money was passed from one of these organizations or several of these organizations to a terrorist organization. Even then, the question still lingers is the correct act is to shut down the organization if a hospital in America found that that that its executive director was embezzling money and passing it to ISIS, and another member of the another director was involved in terrorist activity? Would that hospital be shut down, leaving the community without the hospital, or what the right thing to do would be surgically to remove these people try them for their for their offenses, and clean that hospital from these elements. The only reason that the act chosen by the government the only explanation for the method that was chosen by the government of Israel, not to target specific individuals or acts that they that the government thinks it has enough evidence to prove that have happened, but rather to shut down their organizations, and again, organizations that no one argues that were established as a front that has not that that that the human rights work of which is artificial. No, they concede that these are real civil society organizations with, you know, tens of thousands of beneficiaries, and hundreds of employees. So the only reasonable explanation why the method chosen was to shut them down completely, is because the goal is to shut down their activity, their political human rights work. And that is, of course, illegitimate. So I'll stop here. And I'll allow time for questions and comments.

Hadar Susskind 21:32
Right. Thank you very much for for sharing all of that with us. Because I'm a bad host, I forgot at the beginning to remind everyone that you can submit questions through the q&a button at the bottom, some of you have done so already. So again, if you have questions, please submit them there. And we will be looking for them there. I want to start out with something that you just talked about, about, you know, whether or not there are allegations that this is, you know, these organizations are do form some sort of network or were created for these purposes. And to go to the politics of this a little because you talked about the dossier that the Israeli government presented to the European Union countries. That was back in May. We know that just a few weeks ago, they were here in the US. And they presented what turned out to be actually the identical dossier. I'm having had a chance to look at both of them, literally, you know, page by page Word by word letter by letter. Basically, what happened is they took the the, we'll call it evidence, it really was allegations, not evidence, but they took the allegations they showed to the Europeans and brought them here and showed them to American officials. And part of that conversation was actually alleging that this was, I'm quoting what somebody told me a nefarious network to support terror. And it seems like there is very, very little, as you said, evidence around that. So I guess the question is, you know, why do you think the Israeli government what was the purpose of Israeli government coming to the US and to the American administration and Congress with this information at this point?

Michael Sfard 23:10
Well, I think it's quite clear that one of the dangers of this act is a massive diplomatic pushback. And, and our two main actors in the international arena that may that have leverage against Israel and may use that leverage and and the first and most powerful one is the American administration, the American administration would have said, if it will say, this is not acceptable. This is not what countries that purport to be democratic do. This is an act. I'm saying this is an act of tyranny, to outlaw human rights organizations, in an occupied territory, where people anyway do not have civil and political rights. And the work of human rights organization is four times more important than in in democracies. If if the American administration would say that Israel would have to reverse and the second actor is the is the European continent, the European Union and European governments who are not part of the European Union. I'll say something about Europe in a moment, but I just wanted complete about America. So I think what Israel you know, the the Israeli governmental fantasy is that America will follow suit, that it will declare these organizations also, because every America has its own list of terror organizations. And if America does that, then the international banking system will come publicly be shocked for these organizations in at the moment, the problems that might that these organizations might have, in receiving funds have to do with the fact that the Israeli banking system controls the Palestinian banking system. And every cent that is sent every cent that is send from abroad, to Ramallah goes or Gaza goes through these ready banking system. And that's where it can be blocked because the receiver or the sender is on the list of the Israeli list. But when it comes to passing resources and funds and money from accounts that do not include Israel, at the moment, this is not that is not a problem, because these six organizations have only been declared in Israel and in the West Bank. And they were not declared in Europe and America by the UN. And there are other lists. So I think the most that what the Israeli government is trying to do is twofold. One is garner legitimization. For for their act, for the designation. If if American officials come out and say, we've seen it, it's pretty heavy, we are convinced that would be a huge contribution for the legitimacy of this act that is completely shattered at the moment completely in shatters. And because the government of Israel - and I want to highlight this, the government has not presented any evidence, not this dossier, which was leaked, but it did not. It was leaked, not by the Government of Israel, they definitely did not want the public to know what's in the cell because it's so poor. But the government has not of its own initiative presented a shred of evidence to the public, not directly and not through its representatives, the media, they could have taken, you know, several Israeli journalists, who are who are known to know how to keep a secret, but would be would provide their readership with their understanding of how strong the evidence is. But they did not do it. Two and a half weeks after the resignations, they have not presented a shred of evidence. So they need the American administration or American. You know, Congress, men and women and senators to say we've seen it, it's, it's strong.

Hadar Susskind 27:47
Well, I can tell you at least my opinion on why they haven't done that. And that is, of course, that it's not strong. And you know, without digging into all the details, you mentioned the health workers committee earlier, which is again, a seventh organization, not one of the six under discussion here. And yet that dossier, which is, you know, 74 pages long. I might be off by a page or two, but about 67 pages of it are focused on the allegations on the Health Workers' Committee and on the, you know, the what came out of the interrogations from the workers from the Health Workers' Committee. So it's overwhelmingly focused on that. So I'm not surprised there. So we've got a lot of questions coming in. There's a theme here. One major question is, you know, is there the capacity to appeal this? And if so, what's that process? Is that in the Israeli courts, is that in military courts? What does that look like?

Michael Sfard 28:47
So we have two systems, because the designation has been signed, both in Israel by the Minister of Defense and according to his powers under the Counter Terrorism Act of 2016, which is an Israeli Act of Parliament. And we have a designation under the Mandatory British mandatory emergency regulations of 1945, which provide, vest, the power of designating an entity as unlawful association with the military commander of the occupation forces in the West Bank. So we have two designations. Just say that my understanding is that there couldn't be a gap between the status of of organizations in Israel and the West Bank, because we have one political power that oversees both areas. It will be it will it will it is not viable, legally speaking, to have a designation lifted in Israel and stay remained in the West Bank. If an entity is a terrorist organization in one area, it must be terrorist organization for the other government, it can't be different. And so it seems like the the the primary process that is open for the designated organizations and by the way, they have not decided what to do here. So this is a question that is for them to make a decision on. Just to give a fair disclosure, I'm providing legal advice to one of those organizations to al Haq on Israeli law. So, the Counterterrorism Act of 2016 stipulates that the preliminary designation, the one that was signed Friday, two weeks ago, is a temporary designation. It is enforced from the moment it is signed, and it is the same as a permanent designation, but it is, but it is considered temporary until it becomes permanent. And in between, there is a procedure in which the designated entity has a right to object to that designation within 60 days, so they still have like 40-something days to to file an objection. And if they do object, then there is a statutory advisory committee set up in the Ministry of Defense. It is composed of three members. It is headed by a district court judge, a retired district court judge, and the other two members are a retired Attorney General Office lawyer and a retired legal adviser in the Shabak in the Israeli Secret Service. So as you can see a very neutral and unbiased composition of retired members of the executive and one judge. And they will consider the arguments presented by the Shabak by the Secret Service that requested presumably, this designation and, and the arguments presented by the designated entity, they will provide a recommendation to the minister whether to lift the designation all together because it's, it was proved to be baseless, or to make it permanent. If the, if the minister decides to make it permanent, then the designated entity has a right to challenge that final decision in a judicial review in a high court petition that goes to the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice. So that's the process under the under the Israeli counterterrorism Act. In the West Bank, there is no process because it's 1945 mandatory laws that did not think of any hearing or anything like that. So there is a practice under which you can object to it. And that objection will be considered by the military commander. Now, one last thing that I need to say the process under the counterterrorism act seemed seems like a process, there is a committee there, you can find objections, but your attention that it is the opposite of what due process is all about in a process that that safeguards due process, you first hear the allegations against you, you are provided with the evidence that allegedly prove these allegations, and then you respond to the allegations, if you so choose. And then the neutral arbitrator committee or or court will make a decision. In this case, it's the other way around. First of all, you have to file your objection against allegations that have never been leveled against you. It's just very, very only the title is there. That, for example, in this case, all we know is that the government has has decided to designate these organizations because they are part of the PFLP network of NGOs. Only after you find the objection, then the Shabak will provide more detailed allegations, but not evidence, the evidence remains secret. So you cannot you're not confronted with the evidence against you. So the whole process is rigged. The court process is distorted when it comes to due process rights.

Hadar Susskind 34:43
One follow up on that and then I'll take one of these other questions here. When you're talking about the the ability to appeal and you know, an entity or each of the six groups able to do that individually. Is there some possibility they do that collectively because One of the things that to me was interesting is that even in the little bit the kind of headlines we've seen, from the actual allegations, they're of course not the same for the six groups. Some of them, I think, two, if I haven't correct, or were actually accused of, you know, embezzling money and giving money to the PFLP, and others, just sort of supporting it in some, you know, undetermined matter.

Michael Sfard 35:23
Yeah, yeah, there are, there are nuances in the I mean, the Israeli got the Minister of Defense, and in all the briefings that he and his people have, have done, they treat all the six as one group as the same, when in fact, in the designation themselves, there are nuances, as you said, and not all organizations are, have been charged with diverting funds to the PFLP. And in fact, those who didn't all that is left in their designation is that they have advanced the goals of the PFLP in the international arena. What does that mean, if the PFLP, for example, is is in favor, one of its goals is boycott on settlement projects. And those organizations because of their human rights, concerns, or concerns are also advancing boycott on settlement projects? Does that mean that in the international arena in the international institutions, does that mean that they advance the goals of the PFLP? It's really the the allegation, even the allegations, and the wording of the allegations are extremely thin? So yes, it's it's an individualized process, every organization will have, if they so choose, they will have to embark on their own objection, appeal. And, and, and confront the allegations that are leveled against them, but all of them will not receive the evidence. And probably this is why there has never been in Israel, a judicial intervention that overturned a designation of an entity as a terrorist organization or unlawful Association. Never. I mean, the word processes, which ended up with lifting it, because the army decided that to back off, or because there was some kind of an agreement reached. But a, a judicial order that overturned the decision of the minister or the military commander never on the record here is extremely poor.

Hadar Susskind 37:44
Well, I'll note that Americans for Peace Now also supports a boycott of settlement goods. So you know, what we'll see. We'll see where that goes. So I want to take another question from the q&a here, which was somebody asked what the responses were from the Arab members of the government. And I want to expand that actually to say, you know, what are the responses from the other members of the government from not only the Arab members from Meretz broadly, Labor others? What has Lapid said about this?

Michael Sfard 38:17
Um, there is an opposition within the coalition to this to this designation, it's important that there is an opposition within the coalition. But that opposition is not rigorous. And I And I'm saying I say that with with sorrow, because you know, Meretz is supposed to be the party that is based on the on civil rights and civil liberties, and the home for Human Rights Code, the human rights community. And while it did, to a certain degree, condemn the act, it did not follow through it did not make did not make a crisis, a political crisis out of it. And I have to say, again, with with, with deep sadness, that it seemed like the ministers of Meretz wanted the news cycle to be over and get back to other stuff. Because it's not their constituency. Palestinians are not constituency, they do not get to vote. They can they they do not have representation. That's what the occupation is all about. And so they don't have people working for them in the corridors of power where decisions are made. And so it's very, it's really very, very sad. Now It is important that there is an opposition within the coalition because if there will be legal or diplomatic pressure on the government to reverse that, that opposition could become more vocal could be helpful. But on its own. I think both Meretz and Labor who have expressed reservations of this act. For them, the threat of having Netanyahu back in power is more serious than anything that this government can do, whether it builds 4000 new units in in settlements, whether it is involved in in severe violence against Palestinians, and only, you know, in the last four and a half months inside was, since this government took power, more than 60 Palestinian civilians were killed in demonstrations in the West Bank, and even when human rights groups that some of the parliament members of merits know, personally, are being designated their organizations. So unfortunately, it seems like nothing serious will come out from that opposition within the coalition.

Hadar Susskind 41:32
And let me, I'm gonna follow up with one of the other questions here that goes with that. What's the, what's been the reaction more broadly in the Israeli, you know, population is this? You know, we've seen our colleagues at Shalom Achshav joined with many other Israeli groups in signing a statement. I don't know if in solidarity, I would say, but how much, you know, how much attention do you think this is getting? Do you think there's any push within the society around this issue?

Michael Sfard 42:02
Well, there is, you know, the full half and there is the empty half of the glass. So the empty half I think I've mentioned, there is no, you know, big wave of demand to reverse it. But the full half is the probably for the first time, probably ever an act of designating an entity as a terror organization in order to, you know, defend the lives of Israeli children and Israeli populations is second guessed, both by the media, even mainstream centrist. Commentators have raised doubts about this act. And there is a growing feeling that, that hiding the evidence behind this comm excuse of, of security, is concealing emptiness, especially after the disclosure of the dossier. So we saw, for example, immediately after the the designation on the weekend, following a many commentators that usually are either centrist or even leaning to the right, asking questions about it, which is something that is unusual in Israel. Again, it's not enough, it is not mobilized, because these people are behind the mountains in Ramallah. They're not speaking Hebrew. They're not Jewish. They're not part of us. But it means that if a reversal will happen, it will not be resisted by the Israeli popular sentiment. And that's a lot because when it comes to security and terrorism, usually most Israelis just stand still, and salute.

Hadar Susskind 44:11
Yeah, that actually, I think that that half full glass is a lot. Yeah. I got another category of questions here that I want to sort of put together for you, which comes down to what can we here in the US do, I think is the big vision? But first of all, there's actually a, I think, a legal question, which is it possible, given the current status can people here in the US donate to those organizations? is that money going to going to get through? So if you can speak to that? And then there's a lot of questions here that are really about Congress and the administration and, frankly, the work that that APN is doing in terms of trying to help people both in Congress and the administration to understand this and understand the evidence and the questions, but I'll put that to you. And you're seeing as, you know, what do you think short of of course having the admission stand up and say, as the Europeans did, no, we don't believe this. But in terms of individual members of Congress or statements or things like that, you know, do you think what do you think was would be helpful or impactful on that front?

Michael Sfard 45:11
Every statement by American representatives, any statement by Jewish leaders, any statement by, by credible associations that are known in favor of reversal is extremely important, because at the end of the day, we need them. There is we need a critical mass in order for the government to say, Okay, it's not, it's not worth it. It's not worth it. The it's a PR disaster. And, and we are losing some of our allies, we're losing some of our friends. So what can you do? You can you can go to your congress, woman or man or your senator and ask them to make a statement. And these statements pile up, you can also express support to the Israeli organizations that work against that designation. Now, do you have a feature in zoom that where you can say this is not legal advice? I no one should look at, see this webinar as legal advice. And I definitely cannot advise Americans on the risks that are associated with being involved with organizations that were designated in Israel and Palestine. And you know, whether to contribute or to donate would amount to any crime. But as far as I can say, and I'm an Israeli lawyer, I'm not giving advice on American law. But in Israel, of course, that would have that would be an offense. When you think of a terrorist organization, think of the Hezbollah think of the Hamas, okay. And it is clear that, that if I will donate to the Islamic Jihad, that would be an offence under Israeli law and under was under military law. So, so, but But in America, these organizations are not designated. And you should ask an American lawyer, what are the impacts of making such donations? I would, I would just say that, that, that the Israeli executive directors of Israeli human rights organizations have all not only signed on, on a statement of solidarity, but also went to Ramallah, to make a solidarity visit. And this was a basis for our Israeli right wing organization to file a criminal complaint against them, and also against me that because of things that I tweeted and posted for supporting a terrorist organization, so this is something this is definitely coming.

Hadar Susskind 48:14
So just to dig into that for one little bit, well, it's not legal advice. But in terms of the Israeli control over the accounts of those organizations right now. Can they receive money? Forget, forget the legal?

Michael Sfard 48:32
So the answer, the answer is I don't know. And that is because I what I can say is that Israel has the power to block it. And now the question is a question of policy. What will they do? Right? in Ramallah, there are probably, I don't want to say how many but three or four digits number of people who are considered by Israel to be terrorists, terrorists, or members or members in a terrorist organization. And there are definitely offices in Ramallah and other parts in cities of, of associations that have been outlawed by the military. And yet, not all of them are being arrested immediately. And not all of these offices are being shut down. Israel uses these powers selectively, sometimes arbitrarily, when it finds it suitable for its goals. So the fact that that other means when in hock and DCI Palestine and Bisan and all the rest have been designated doesn't mean that tomorrow, the tonight their offices will be shut down, raided, and their directors will be arrested it means that they can do it. Same goes to donations. They have the power to block all donations not only blocked but also expropriate the funds once they arrive to Israel because these are proceeds of terror or their money. And they have done that before. In other cases. I I've litigated cases where a European organization has made a transaction to a charity in Gaza in this case, and the and the money was blocked and seized by the Israeli government and expropriate. So it's a question of policy, not question of power, they do have the power to do.

Hadar Susskind 50:25
Gotcha. Thank you for the clarification. So and that actually raises one of the other questions. Again, we know this started with the organizations being declared as terrorist supporting orgs, or whatever the right phrase is, in Israel. Now, it's, you know, happened in the West Bank. Also, one of the questions that I know, when I was talking to people here, you know, folks on Capitol Hill and the administration, they said, Well, you know, if this is the case, if these groups would be declared as terror organizations, why weren't those leaders arrested? You know, a lot, you know, many of us have been on webinars with some of the folks who run these organizations in the last week or two public webinars. So, you know, why are they doing webinars instead of sitting in industrially jail if they have been accused of being terrorist supporting us? So I realized, you know, that puts you in the thinking on the part of the Israeli government. But why do you think that's the case that they made this designation, but then didn't take the actions?

Michael Sfard 51:18
Because the only reason they made the designation is only in order to stop the donations. That's the only reason, the only reason and by doing that, the Israeli government has completely depleted the concept of terrorism, just the way it does with antisemitism. If, if everyone is antisemite, then no one is, if everyone is a terrorist, even human rights defenders, then no one is a terrorist. And that's a crime against the the very important fight against antisemitism and against terrorism. And and that's a that's another proof that the outcome they wanted to achieve is not for these defenders to sit in prison, maybe they will do it eventually, because they need to show. But the goal was to silence these organizations to shut down their offices and stop their work that is seen by Israel, rightly or wrongly as a strategic threat, not a security threat, but a political strategic threat.