EU states express support for Palestinian civil society, reject Israeli ‘terror’ designation

(MW)

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  July 15, 2022

Nine EU states announced their support for the Palestinian organizations arbitrarily deemed “terrorist institutions” by the Israeli government last year, but the Biden administration remains silent.

Nine European Union states announced on Tuesday that they would continue to support the Palestinian civil society organizations that were arbitrarily criminalized by the Israeli government, after it accused the groups of supporting “terrorism” last year. 

The Foreign Ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden released a joint statement saying that they would continue their “strong support” of Palestinian civil society in light of “no substantial information” provided by the Israeli government to back up its claims. 

In October 2021 Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz designated six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist institutions.” The groups include Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

In the months following the designation, the Israeli government failed to provide public evidence supporting its claims. Classified documents obtained by +972, Local Call, and The Intercept revealed the dubious nature of the accusations. 

“Accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness. The designations needed therefore to be assessed carefully and extensively,” the statement by the nine EU states said, adding that due to lack of proof, there was no reason to review the states’ policy towards the groups. 

“Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly. In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the oPT. A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution,” the statement said. 

The statement by the nine EU states comes a few weeks after the European Commission lifted a 13-month suspension on funding it provided to Al-Haq, which the organization slammed as being “disgraceful” and “unlawful from the start.”

In April of this year UN experts called on the international community to resume funding for the six organizations, saying that “Israel has had six months to substantiate its accusations and it has failed to deliver.”

Biden administration stays silent

The six organizations have been urging European states, and the US government, to publicly support their work and denounce Israel’s arbitrary terror designation. 

In an interview with Mondoweiss earlier this year, Addameer Director Sahar Francis said that Israel was not only attempting to target the funding of the six organizations, but was coming after them specifically for the work the groups do in attempting to hold Israel accountable for its human rights violations on the international stage, including at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Francis warned of the implications that could come with the silence of the EU and the US in the face of Israel’s designation, saying it would “effect the whole Palestinian human rights and civil society sector.”

U.S. President Joe Biden just finished a trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. He met briefly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, though it is unclear if the topic of the six civil society organizations was on the agenda. 

“The US administration, quite frankly, is a Zionist administration and Biden was very clear about that,” Ubai Aboudi, the Executive Director of Bisan Center for Research & Development, one of the targeted organizations, tells Mondoweiss.

Aboudi continues:

“Right now, in honesty, we know there is no evidence [regarding the six organizations] we know in their assessment nothing was found. The American government is not willing to even make a statement that would make the Israelis angry. This is what it is.

“What this means for the organizations is we will continue our work, we will not back down. We will hope to increase the pressure, of course, on Israel and the international community. for us, we are doing what we can as organizations. We are working, gathering our data, publishing our reports. In the end, the US never funded us, yet on the other hand the US is taking- as always- a stance on a human rights issue. That stance is that they don’t want to anger their allies, Israel. So they are not doing anything.”

And what are the consequences of this continued silence from the U.S. and Biden administration for the six targeted Palestinian civil society organizations?

“This means we are left exposed to Israeli attacks, we are left to face the violations,” Aboudi warns.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss

With reporting from Mariam Barghouti