Israeli forces raid offices of six Palestinian human rights groups 

The office of the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees following an Israeli army raid, Ramallah, West Bank, August 18, 2022 (Oren Ziv)

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  August 18, 2022

Property confiscated in move decried as ‘appalling attack’ on Palestinian civil society in occupied West Bank

Israeli forces have raided the offices of six Palestinian human rights groups in the occupied West Bank that it previously accused of being terrorist organizations, a move decried as an “appalling attack” on Palestinian civil society.

Property belonging to the prominent advocacy groups was confiscated and entrance doors sealed by soldiers in the early hours of Thursday.

At the offices of Al-Haq, an internationally respected human rights organization based in Ramallah, the front door was welded shut and a Hebrew statement left saying it would remain closed for “security reasons”. The minister of an Anglican church on the ground floor of the building, which rents the space to Al-Haq, said the church was also raided and its glass doors smashed.

In October Israel outlawed Al-Haq; Addameer, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; the Bisan Center for Research and Development; and Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P).

Israel argued the groups had ties to the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular, leftwing movement with political and armed wings. Israel and western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organization.

However, Israel has provided little evidence to back up the accusations. All six organizations deny the allegations and three have challenged the designation in Israel’s courts.

Washington said it was “concerned” by Israel’s closure of the Palestinian NGOs. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday: “We have not changed our position or approach to these organizations.”

Last month a group of EU member states that fund some of the Palestinian organisations’ activities rejected the Israeli claims, saying that “a free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and the two-state solution”.

The European Commission restored suspended funding to Al-Haq in June. The EU is also expected to continue working with the other affected groups.

Later on Thursday, staff from Al-Haq removed the metal sheet covering its office door and vowed to get back to work despite the seizure of computers and other equipment.

“We were established here not by Israel, not by their decision and we will continue our work,” Al-Haq’s director, Shawan Jabarin, told a press conference.

The Israeli military said it had closed seven institutions and seized their property in Thursday’s raid. The seventh appears to have been the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel banned from working in the West Bank in 2020.

On Wednesday, the office of the Israeli defence minister, Benny Gantz, reiterated its claim that the groups “operate under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian