The Palestine Chronicle / October 22, 2021
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared on Friday six Palestinian human rights groups to be terrorist organizations, claiming they are “secretly linked” to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a leftist resistance group that Israel considers a ‘terrorist organization,’ Israeli and international media reported.
The prominent groups included in Gantz’s list are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Busan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
Gantz’s office accuses these groups of working “as a cover of civil society organizations” while in practice “belong and constitute an arm of the PFLP leadership”. Their main motives, they said, “is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel,” the Times of Israel reported.
The rights groups Humans Rights Watch and Amnesty
International released a statement claiming this announcement is a “brazen attack on human rights”.
“For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians,” Amnesty said in a statement, adding, “While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression.”
For its part, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem called the government’s declaration “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations.”
“B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, is proud of our joint work over the years – and is steadfast to continue so,” the Israeli group stated.
Under a 2016 statute, the declaration enables Israeli authorities to close nonprofits’ offices, seize their assets and ban supporting their activities.
Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin told The Times of Israel that he believes this was an attempt to crack down on any criticisms of Israeli human rights violations. “They may be able to close us down. They can seize our funding. They can arrest us. But they cannot stop our firm and unshakeable belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes,” Jabarin said.
Jabarin denied that his organization was a PFLP front: “I challenge any of them — the defense minister, the Shin Bet, anyone — to prove as much.”
Israel has a history of targeting human rights organizations. Earlier this year, DCIP, which documents Israeli violations against Palestinian children, was targeted in a military raid where Israeli soldiers broke into their offices and confiscated computers and client files. At the time, DCIP director, Khaled Quzmar, believed the raids were a part of ‘an ongoing campaign to silence and eliminate Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations.”
In 2019, Addameer, a prisoners rights group that provides free representation to Palestinian political prisoners, also had their offices raided by the Israeli military, who seized computers, hard drives, files and equipment.
Their members are also not protected. Khalida Jarrar, a former director of Addameer, was imprisoned by Israel without trial for more than two years. She was released only last month. While Addameer’s legal coordinator, Ayman Nasser, has been detained by Israel since last September.
As many of these organizations receive funding grants from European Union member states, the United Nations, among other donors, claiming that these organizations are tied to PFLP can have drastic consequences.
Earlier this year, +972 Magazine reported that global networks of Israeli advocacy groups had been lobbying the European governments to cut off funding to groups such as the Union of Agricultural Work (UAWC) Committees – a group that assists Palestinian farmers to cultivate and remain on their land. As a result, UAWC had its funding suspended by the Dutch government, a major donor to the group for 13 years, as a response to the lobbying campaigns.
The Israeli Defense Ministry, in its statement, mentioned these groups receive “large sums of money from European countries and international organizations,” claiming they are “active[ly] undercover on behalf of the PFLP”- while failing to provide any evidence to prove their claims.