Israel’s defense ministry said on Friday that the groups were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-wing movement with a political party as well as an armed wing that carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.
The ministry said the humanitarian groups “constitute a network of organizations active undercover on the international front on behalf of the Popular Front.” They are “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employ its members, some of whom had “participated in terrorist activities,” he said.
He also accused the groups of serving as a “central source” of funding for the PFLP and of receiving “large sums of money from European countries and international organizations”, without giving details.
Designated groups include Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, Addameer’s rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Working Committees.
The Palestinian Authority condemned what it called an “unbalanced assault” on Palestinian civil society.
“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,” he said.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said his office was not given advance notice of the designation.
“We will engage our Israeli partners for more information on the basis of the designation,” Price said in a telephone briefing with reporters in Washington.
In a joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch noted that the military order “effectively proscribes” the activities of the six groups.
As a result, the Israeli security forces are authorized to close the offices of the groups, seize their property, and arrest and imprison their staff. It is also prohibited to fund or even publicly express support for their activities.
“This appalling and unfair decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement,” Amnesty and HRW said.
#Israelthe decision to designate six Palestinian civil society groups, including @Addameer & @alhaq_org “Terrorist organizations” is a shocking attack on human rights. Joint declaration of @amnesty & @hrw: https://t.co/hiS0HEfRZE #ONG
– amnestypress (@amnestypress) 22 October 2021
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at HRW, told Al Jazeera that Israel’s decision was part of a “systematic attack on the defense of human rights.”
“I think this is a reaction to the recognition by the Israeli government that there is a growing awareness of their grave abuses, including crimes against humanity, apartheid and the persecution against millions of people. Palestinians, ”Shakir said.
“This is truly an alarming development and it is a test of the determination of the international community to protect human rights defenders in the face of sustained attacks.
Shakir, who now resides in Jordan, said he was the target of punitive measures when he was deported by Israel two years ago for his work documenting human rights violations.
The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian Territories said it was “alarmed” by the announcement.
“Counterterrorism legislation should not be used to restrict legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” he said, adding that some of the reasons given seemed vague or irrelevant.
“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. “
Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a tweet that she was alarmed by the news.
I hear disturbing news that the Israeli government has just declared some human rights NGOs as terrorist organizations. Human rights defenders are not terrorists and should never be so vilified.Reply to @Team_Twitter @sebusher @Addameer
– Mary Lawlor United Nations Special Rapporteur on HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) 22 October 2021
Shawaan Jabareen, who heads one of the banned groups, Al-Haq, told AFP news agency that the appointment was a “political decision” which had nothing to do with security matters but was aimed at ” stop the work of these organizations ”.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the government’s statement “a characteristic act of totalitarian regimes, with the clear aim of shutting down these organizations.”
“B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, is proud of our common work over the years – and is determined to continue doing so,” he said.
Hagai El-Ad, the organization’s executive director, tweeted in favor of Jabareen.
Proud to be in solidarity with @alhaq_orgthe director of @SJabaren, and with other Palestinian human rights defenders. Al-Haq and @btselem together we have proudly won international awards and together we will defeat this apartheid. pic.twitter.com/sOy9ziBPlx
– Hagai El-Ad (@HagaiElAd) 22 October 2021
The Adalah Justice Project, a US-based Palestinian rights organization, said it was concerned about the safety of people working for designated organizations.
Some of the main Palestinian human rights organizations, groups we work with wholeheartedly, have been referred to by Israel as “terrorist organizations”. We fear for the safety of our comrades @DCIPalestine @alhaq_org @Addameer and @ UAWC1986 https://t.co/nnltcE4g5N
– Project Is Justice (@AdalahJustice) 22 October 2021