Leaders of six Palestinian civil society organizations labeled as terrorist groups by Israel say the move will harm human rights unless reversed.
Last week Israel said the groups were a cover for a militant faction that has been committing deadly attacks on it since the 1960s.
Israeli envoys with access to secret intelligence were due in Washington this week to explain the decision.
It shocked international donors and divided Israel’s own ruling coalition.
The six groups identified were:
- Defense for Children International – Palestine
- Bisan Research and Development Center
- Union of Agricultural Labor Committees
- Union of Palestinian women’s committees
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has accused the groups – all receiving foreign aid – of diverting funds to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an accusation they strongly reject.
The PFLP, a small leftist group that does not recognize the state of Israel, carried out a series of armed attacks and air hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s. It was also the basis of several suicide attacks during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in the early 2000s.
“This is a ridiculous narrative, a ridiculous accusation,” said al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin, suggesting that Israel has failed to silence rights groups that challenge its occupation of the Palestinian Territories with others. means.
“I think it is the last bullet in their hands and this is a political bullet because it has no legal basis or security basis. I challenge them to prove what they have said,” he added.
Al-Haq is the most established Palestinian human rights group, regularly highlighting violations by Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza.
Group leaders spoke Friday at an online event organized by Human Rights Watch, Carter Center, and others.
“They are trying to make us illegal to make the international community fear communicating with us,” said Sahar Francis, director of Addameer which promotes the rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, adding that working with NGOs and Israeli individuals would be more hit it.
With the activities of the groups now effectively outlawed by Israel, their offices can in principle be closed, their assets seized and their staff arrested.
The US State Department said he had not been notified of the terrorist designation in advance and would ask Israel to explain his reasoning.
On Tuesday, US spokesman Ned Price said, “We believe that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong and independent civil society are of paramount importance to democracy,” in what has been interpreted by some. as a rebuke.
The European Union said it took the Israeli move “very seriously” and asked for further details from the Israeli authorities, in a statement Thursday.
The EU exercises “utmost diligence” to avoid funding or supporting terrorist groups, the statement read, noting that Israel’s previous allegations that Palestinian civil society groups were abusing EU funds “have not been proven. “.
The United Nations, Israeli human rights groups and even international rights groups have strongly condemned the decision of the Israeli Defense Ministry.
The PA denounced it as a “grave violation of international law”.
Despite fierce criticism, Gantz and senior security officials did not hesitate. An official speaking to the Israeli news site Walla said that “armored” information about the organizations was gathered, including “unambiguous evidence including videos, photos, money transfer receipts and more” demonstrating direct links to the PFLP.
However, the defense minister continued to be targeted from within the Israeli government, a fragile eight-party alliance that relies on the support of left-wing politicians.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, head of the dove Meretz, warned that Israel, as an occupying military power, had to be “very careful in imposing sanctions on Palestinian civil organizations because there are political, diplomatic and, above all, rights consequences. humans “.
Labor leader and transport minister Merav Michaeli said the way the announcement was made “has caused serious damage to Israel with our greatest and most important friends.”
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