Itai Reuveni

The Antisemitic Protest in Berlin: Another Wake-up Call for Europe

NGO Monitor presents information about Samidoun in the European Union Parliament (March 2023) (rights are free to use by NGO Monitor)
NGO Monitor presents information about Samidoun in the European Union Parliament (March 2023) (rights are free to use by NGO Monitor)

“Death to Israel. Death to the Jews.”  Shockingly, these chants were heard at “anti-Israel” protests in the Berlin neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln, over Passover.

The demonstrations were co-organized by a group called Samidoun – part of a network of NGOs connected to the Popular Front Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the EU, US, Canada and Israel. (In March alone, the PFLP took responsibility for two separate shootings against Israelis)

This incident serves as just the latest reminder of the close connection between antisemitism, terrorism, and the network of virulently anti-Israel NGOs.

Numerous research publications have demonstrated how  hate rhetoric contributes to the rise of violent antisemitism in Europe, and eventually to violence in general. Actions and statements by groups like Samidoun constitute a threat to the safety of European citizens, particularly Jews.

This is far from the first example of Samidoun involvement in incitement to violence. In October 2022, the organization organized a march in Brussels, where participants donned the headbands of the Lions’ Den terror group, praised Hamas military leaders who murdered Israeli civilians, and even called for “the defeat of the European Union”. In August 2022, Samidoun’s German branch shared on Facebook pictures of a gunman, with the words “No one will surrender the rifle.” Cataloging every such example would be too onerous in this space.

The misuse of NGOs by terror organizations to spread hatred is a worldwide phenomenon. Iran has a global network of civil society organizations, with connections to the IRGC. Hezbollah manages some of its activity abroad with NGOs, and even Hamas has its affiliated NGOs in Europe acting freely.

In the case of the PFLP, NGO Monitor open source research uncovered a network of 14 Palestinian NGOs (including Samidoun), funded by the EU and European Governments. All had board members and key officials with ties to the PFLP terror group. The publicly available evidence connects over 80 NGO board members, officials, and employees to the PFLP, including those involved in the murder of 17-year-old Rina Schnerb in 2019. Overall and most absurdly this network of NGOS has received €210 million in funding from the EU and European governments over the past decade, under facades including human rights and development aid.

Although Samidoun is the only NGO in this network for which there is no established information on European government funding (it does not publish financial information), it is a crucial player in this network. As such, analyzing its activities serves as one of the ways to understand how this network influences the rise of extremism in Europe.

Founded in 2012, Samidoun is the international activist wing of the PFLP, aiming to coordinate PFLP social protests and activities abroad, and cooperate with other European and Palestinian NGOs.

The February 2021 designation of Samidoun as a terror entity by the Israeli Ministry of Defense identifies the organization as an arm of the PFLP. A press statement accompanying the designation added that Samidoun was founded by “members of the PFLP in 2012,” and that it “plays a leading and significant role in the PFLP’s anti-Israel propaganda efforts, fundraising, and recruiting activists,” serving as a “front for the PFLP abroad.”

The organization has a notable presence in Iran, Canada, France, Greece, the Netherlands, the US, Germany, and Belgium. In all these locations, it publicly celebrates PFLP actions, campaigns for the release of terrorists who murdered civilians, advocates for the “right to armed resistance,” and promotes antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.

Fortunately, some countries have adopted measures to mitigate the threat posed by Samidoun.

In 2020, Germany expelled Samidoun head Khaled Barakat and imposed a four-year entry ban; his appeal was rejected, citing PFLP links and “support for a terrorist organization.” In 2022, Barakat was denied entry into the EU. France dissolved the local Samidoun branch, citing its “calls for hatred, violence and discrimination.” And only recently, based on NGO Monitor research, US credit card companies blocked the ability of Samidoun to raise money through the American foundation Alliance for Global Justice – a passthrough 501(c)3 framework.

These are encouraging signs, but they are insufficient on their own. As with other events from the past, the incident in Berlin shows how groups like Samidoun, although not always engaging in physical violence or actual terror attacks, are a major platform for extremism and radicalism inside Europe.

There is an urgent need for European governments to revamp their understanding of how extremist and radical actors work, with a major focus on the misuse of NGOs that claim to promote human rights or humanitarian agenda. First, Europe must ensure that taxpayer funds are not provided to terror-linked groups. Second, whether an NGO receives government funding or not, they cannot be allowed to exploit Europe’s protections on freedom of speech to incite to antisemitism and violence, especially on European soil.

Germany, and Europe in general, cannot tolerate an extremist terror-linked NGO publicly inciting to violence – calls that can be easily translated into violence towards its own civilians – especially targeting Jews.  It’s enough to see the Iranian funded Al-Quds day rallies all over Europe, scheduled to start across Europe this Friday, to understand that Samidoun is only one example among many.

Slogans, condemnation, and symbolic recognition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism are not enough. Due to the direct link between terrorism and antisemitism, strong and major actions are required. Failing to do so not only empowers radical hardline elements at the expense of moderates, but also endangers the lives and safety of the Jewish population.

About the Author
Itai Reuveni is an expert on social movements, civil Society, NGOs role in conflict, NGO funding and Antisemitism. He is the Director of Communications in NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem based non-profit research institute. Previously, he was the director of the Israel Research Desk in the institute for more than 7 years. Alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program, a prestigious program run by the United States State Department that deals with issues relating to the promotion of human rights.
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