Israel convicts Spanish woman of funnelling aid to banned Palestinian group
An Israeli military court has convicted a Spanish national living in the occupied West Bank of funnelling European aid to a Palestinian organisation designated as "terrorist" in the EU and the US.
On Wednesday, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Juana Ruiz Rishmawi, 63, pleaded guilty to the charges.
Rishmawi has worked as a fundraiser for the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian aid group, which Israel accuses of having links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
According to Reuters, Israeli leaders have held up Rishmawi's conviction as evidence to support their designation in October of six Palestinian civil society groups as "terrorist organisations," claiming they are part of a network working on behalf of the PFLP, which is on the US and EU "terrorism list".
The six include the prominent advocacy groups Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners, and Al-Haq, a human rights organisation that works with the United Nations. Also listed are the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defense for Children International - Palestine.
Israel has accused the Palestinian NGOs of funnelling EU aid money for the PFLP. However, the HWC, which Rishmawi worked for, was not included in the list in October.
Once one of the most powerful Palestinian factions, the PFLP has receded in importance in recent decades. The left-wing faction has been eclipsed by the Fatah and Hamas movements, which rule the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
Aid worker 'duped' European donors
Rishmawi was convicted on charges that included activity in a banned organisation and illicit money transfers, and she will be sentenced on 17 November.
Israel said that Rishmawi "duped" European donors and doctored financial books to divert EU money to the PFLP, whose armed branch was involved in violent attacks on Israeli settlers in recent years.
One of Rishmawi's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, said that she did not know that some of the money she handled went to the PFLP, adding that Israel using her confession "as proof that there was a justification for outlawing the [Palestinian] organisations is an absolute sham".
However, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called for action in a statement saying that "The entire international community must work together with Israel in order to prevent terrorist organisations from using the veneer of civilian cover, and to prevent aid funds from reaching terrorist organisations."
Kayed al-Goul, a senior PFLP official in Gaza, accused Lapid of trying to use Rishmawi's conviction to deflect international criticism.
"Israel has been embarrassed by the international response to its decision to label six Palestinian civil society groups as terror groups and Lapid's statement and the so-called conviction is a helpless attempt to respond," he said.