Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz today declared six prominent Palestinian human rights groups terrorists organisations which funnel donor money to outlawed groups.
Under the ruling, the work of 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 has been banned. Gantz said the groups have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group banned by the Israeli occupation.
The groups, which document alleged human rights violations by Israeli occupation forces and authorities and the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Palestinians. they include Addameer, which represents Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli military courts, and Defense for Children-International, a group that advocates for Palestinian children.
“[The] declared organisations received large sums of money from European countries and international organisations, using a variety of forgery and deceit,” Gantz said, alleging the money had supported PFLP’s activities.
Addameer and another of the groups, Defense for Children International – Palestine, rejected the accusations as an “attempt to eliminate Palestinian civil society.” “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,” Al-Haq Director Shawan Jabarin told the Times of Israel.
The designations authorise Israeli authorities to close the groups’ offices, seize their assets, arrest their staff in the occupied West Bank and ban supporting their activities.
The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian territories said it was “alarmed” at the announcement.
“Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” it said, adding that some of the reasons given appeared vague or irrelevant.
“These designations are the latest development in a long stigmatising campaign against these and other organisations, damaging their ability to deliver on their crucial work,” it said.
An official with the PFLP said they maintain relations with civil society organisations across the West Bank and Gaza, without specific mention of the six bodies in this ruling, Reuters reports.
“It is part of the rough battle Israel is launching against the Palestinian people and against civil society groups, in order to exhaust them,” PFLP official Kayed Al-Ghoul said.
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International said the “decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organisations.”
” Silencing, intimidating & criminalizing #Palestinian civil society org’s & human rights defenders are #Israel‘s way of covering up its abuses while maintaining its impunity. It’s the occupation that must be held to account,” wrote Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi on Twitter.
The decision comes just four days after Israel revoked the residency of Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri from his hometown of Jerusalem on the basis of “breach of allegiance” to the state, paving the way for his forced deportation from his homeland. Hamouri, the son of a Palestinian father and French mother, is a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate for Addameer.