Palestinian Christians condemn in ‘strongest terms’ Israel’s terrorist designations

The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem (Muhesen Amren - APA Images)

Jeff Wright

Mondoweiss  /  October 26, 2021

Palestinian Christian groups say Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian groups as “terrorist organizations” targets all Palestinian civil society organizations.

Ten globally recognized Christian organizations in Palestine “condemn and denounce in the strongest possible terms” Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian groups, including leading human rights groups, as “terrorist organizations.”

On Friday Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz said, “The groups are controlled by the senior leadership of the PFLP and employ many members of the group in jobs in both management and on the ground – including activists who were involved in terrorism.” The organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

The Christian organization said in their response, “This designation targets all Palestinian civil society organizations” and claimed the move was aimed at “silencing” civil society groups advocating for Palestinians. The groups called on churches, governments, and human rights organizations around the world “to reject and condemn this decision” and “to pressure Israel to revoke the decision, and to continue to support the right of Palestinians to justice, freedom and dignity.”

The statement was signed by Sabeel, Kairos Palestine, Diyar Consortium, East Jerusalem YMCA, The Joint Advocacy Initiative, Arab Orthodox Union Club Jerusalem, Arab Educational Institute, YWCA of Palestine, Bethlehem Bible College, and Wi’am: the Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. 

“The Church must always speak truth to power, remaining faithful to the teachings of Christ by exposing the unjust decision of leaders,” Director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem Omar Haramy said.

“Our fear,” Haramy continued, “is that the international community will accept these allegations without demanding proof or employing an independent third party to investigate whatever evidence Israel may provide. Short of demanding transparent, unassailable proof, a hesitancy on the part of the international community to take a strong stand will reveal the effectiveness of Israel’s bullying, leaving our people to the mercy of the Israeli security system.”

Haramy pointed to a “shrinking space for freedom of expression in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” When civil society groups point to human rights violations, he said, they “face threats and defamation. Israel and its supporters play the terrorism and antisemitism cards.” He added, “These organized attacks aim to destroy the reputation of our CSOs [civil society organizations] in order to reduce the credibility of their reports and to create a distraction from the content of the reports.”

Rifat Kassis, General Coordinator of the Christian Palestinian initiative Kairos Palestine, charged, “It’s a message from Israel to the global community, governments, church partners and other donors.” Kassis speculated, “Gantz’s declaration is another effort on Israel’s part to intimidate our friends and to cut off funding from U.S. and global supporters.”

One of the organizations on the list, Defense of Children International-Palestine, or DCIP, co-launched “No Way to Treat a Child,” a campaign with the American Friends Service Committee that provided support to Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s House Resolution 2590 that sought to limit aid to Israel over the detention of Palestinian children. The resolution, co-sponsored now by 30 members of Congress mandates that U.S. funds not be used by Israel to underwrite warrantless arrest, incarceration, and physical abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli detention. 

Kassis also said that Gantz is named, along with other Israeli officials, in the files Palestinians presented to the ICC alleging war crimes after the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Designating the six Palestinian groups as terrorist organizationsKassis said, “works to silence and puts at risk their ongoing witness to Israel’s mounting violations.”

“Global civil society and governments around the world should not allow Israel to continue with impunity its grave violations of international law and human rights conventions,” Kassis said. “It’s time now to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation and its apartheid practices.”

Jeff Wright is a retired pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves as a mission co-worker appointed to Kairos Palestine