Israeli designation of Palestinian NGOs as ‘terror’ sparks furious reaction – .

Israeli designation of Palestinian NGOs as ‘terror’ sparks furious reaction – .

An Israeli move to label six Palestinian rights groups and civil society movements “terrorist organizations” sparked a swift and fierce reaction on Friday, with Palestinians, international organizations and left-wing US politicians slamming the move.

Representatives of at least two of the groups have denied the charges, with international organizations accusing Israel of trying to silence criticism of alleged human rights violations under precarious pretexts.

“Counterterrorism legislation must not be used to restrict legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” the United Nations Human Rights Office in Ramallah said, accusing Israel of basing the decision on “extremely vague reasons or irrelevant, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities. “

“These designations are the latest development in a long campaign of stigmatization against these organizations and others, hampering their ability to do their crucial work,” he added.

The backlash was sparked after the Israeli government issued military orders alleging the six organizations were fronts for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Israel, the United States and the European Union consider the PFLP, one of the many member parties of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to be a terrorist group.

“These organizations were active under the guise of civil society organizations, but in practice belong and constitute an arm of the [PFLP] leadership, whose main activity is the liberation of Palestine and the destruction of Israel, ”Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office said in a statement.

Palestinians celebrate at a rally marking the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinians (PFLP), in Gaza City, December 7, 2013. (Emad Nassar / Flash90)

The six organizations named by Gantz’s office are among the most prominent rights groups in Palestinian civil society. Many have received considerable funding in the form of grants from member states of the European Union and the United Nations, among other donors.

Israeli authorities named Addameer, who defends Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli courts; Al-Haq, which tracks alleged rights violations committed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority; and Defense for Children-International, which defends the rights of Palestinian children.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center and the Union of Agricultural Working Committees have also been declared terrorist organizations.

Israeli military and civil laws prohibit supporting or joining a terrorist group, and violators can face years in prison. Israeli law enforcement agencies can also seize property belonging to terrorist organizations and prohibit the financing of their activities; donors can also face significant prison sentences.

Israeli authorities have previously accused the PFLP of stealing millions of euros from civil society organizations affiliated with its members to fund terrorist activities. In May, the Shin Bet arrested four suspects, including a Spanish citizen, who allegedly funneled EU funds to the PFLP.

Last year, the Dutch government suspended funding for the Union of Agricultural Working Committees, after determining that part of the money would pay two PFLP members on trial for their role in a terrorist attack that killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb.

At the end of July, Israeli forces raided the offices of one of the organizations, Defense for Children-International. The IDF said it had acted on the intelligence to combat “terrorist financing.”

The European Union, which said some of the groups were receiving its funding, questioned Israel’s reasoning and said it would continue to support the groups.

“Past allegations of embezzlement of EU funds concerning some of our [civil society organization] partners have not been substantiated, ”said a spokesperson. “EU funding for Palestinian civil society organizations is an important part of our support for the two-state solution. “

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin, who Israeli authorities accused of being a member of the PFLP, said the move was an attempt to quell criticism of alleged human rights violations by Israel.

“Maybe they could shut us down. They can seize our funding. They can stop us. But they cannot stop our firm and unwavering belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes, ”Jabarin told The Times of Israel.

Jabarin denied that his organization was a front of the PFLP: “I challenge any of them – the defense minister, the Shin Bet, anyone – to prove it.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denounced Friday’s announcement as a “serious violation of international law”.

“This spurious and defamatory slander is a strategic attack on Palestinian civil society and the fundamental right of the Palestinian people to oppose the illegal occupation of Israel and expose its continuing crimes,” the foreign ministry said of the Palestinian Authority in a similar statement.

In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the decision as “appalling and unfair”.

“This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to put an end to the work of the most important civil society organizations in Palestine. The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge Israel’s grave human rights violations and impose significant consequences on them has encouraged the Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner, ”the two organizations said.

In Washington, several Progressive Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Mark Pocan, also condemned the decision.

“There must be immediate consequences on the part of the United States and the international community for this brazen act,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota speaks at a rally near the U.S. Capitol on June 29, 2021 in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images / AFP)

“Israel should reverse its blanket decision to label Palestinian civil rights organizations as terrorist groups. Many of these organizations are striving to bring peace to the region and vigorously criticize Hamas and the PA, ”Pocan tweeted.

J Street, an American organization that presses the United States to act in favor of a two-state solution, called on the administration of US President Joe Biden to censor Israel for the move.

“This is a deeply repressive measure that appears designed to ban and persecute large Palestinian human rights groups,” he said in a statement. “The administrator of Biden[istration] should make it clear to the Israeli government that this is totally unacceptable and undemocratic, and call on it to reverse its decision.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, head of the progressive rabbinical group Truah, called the move “alarming” and warned that it would undermine Palestinian attempts to build a strong democratic society.

“By falsely labeling Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups, the Israeli government is reducing transparency and violating the basic rights of Palestinians in a way that can have deadly consequences,” she said in a statement.

Palestinian employees at Addameer’s offices in Ramallah, West Bank, after IDF forces attacked 3 Palestinian NGOs on December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi / FLASH90)

Israeli and international rights groups have also criticized the move, including B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

“The government’s designation of Israel’s ‘change’ earlier today of Palestinian human rights organizations as ‘terrorist organizations’ is not merely declarative. It is a characteristic act of totalitarian regimes, with the clear aim of shutting down these organizations, ”B’Tselem said.

As of Friday evening, most Israeli politicians had yet to comment on the matter. MP Ayman Odeh, who heads the Arab-Jewish List bloc, criticized the decision.

“Day is not night, and Palestinian rights organizations are not terrorist organizations. The occupation is terrorism, ”Odeh said.


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