Israel closes the offices of Palestinian rights organizations it has labeled terrorist groups


Israeli troops early Thursday stormed the Ramallah offices of several Palestinian advocacy groups it has designated as terrorist organizations, sealing the front doors and leaving notices declaring them closed.

Israel has said the groups were effectively operating as an arm of the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a claim the groups denied. They accused Israel of trying to silence criticism of alleged human rights violations.

On Wednesday night, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ratified the October 2021 decision to label some of the organizations as terrorist groups linked to the PFLP: the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Research and Defense Center of Bisan and Addameer, who represents Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli military courts.

Separately, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command denied appeals by the Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq, and Defense for Children-International in Palestine, a group that defends Palestinian children, for them to be removed from the terrorist list.

Other groups, including the Union of Agricultural Labor Committees, are also listed as linked to the PFLP.

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The IDF said Thursday morning that troops had closed the offices of seven organizations in the West Bank overnight, seizing “property belonging to terrorist organizations.”

?????????Breaking: This morning the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah, confiscated items and blocked the main entrance with a iron leaving behind a military order declaring the organization illegal 1/ 2

— Al-Haq Al-Haq (@alhaq_org) August 18, 2022

“During the counter-terrorist activity, rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the soldiers, who responded with riot-dispersal means,” the IDF added.

According to Al-Haq and DCI-P, troops confiscated “client files”, welded the doors of their offices in Ramallah and left notices declaring the organization illegal.

“They came, blew the door open, went in and got into the files,” Shawan Jabarin, director of al-Haq, told The Associated Press, adding that they were still looking into whether it had been seized. some document

BREAKING: Israeli forces broke into our Ramallah office early this morning, seizing client files, welding the door shut and leaving a notice ordering the organization to close. #StandWithThe6

— Defense of Children (@DCIPalestine) August 18, 2022

In a statement, the United Nations Human Rights Office said the closures “appear to be completely arbitrary” and accused Israel of failing to provide evidence to support claims that the organizations carried out illegal activities.

“Human rights defenders must immediately protect themselves from these unjustified attacks,” the office added.

Last year’s declaration sparked a swift backlash around the world, with the European Union, the Palestinian Authority, US Democratic Progressives, American Jewish groups and international human rights organizations voicing criticism.

Most of the organizations targeted document alleged human rights violations by Israel, as well as the Palestinian Authority, which routinely detains Palestinian activists. Many have received considerable funding in grants from EU member states and the United Nations, among other donors.

Representatives of international groups and organizations have denied the charges and accused Israel of trying to silence criticism of alleged human rights violations.

In July, nine EU member states said Israel had not supported its allegations and would continue to work with the targeted groups.

“These accusations are not new and Israel did not convince even its friends,” Jabarin said.

Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haq human rights group, at the organization’s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Jabarin said “neighbors and strangers” who were nearby during Thursday’s attack had opened the office in Ramallah as soon as Israeli forces left, and that al-Haq staff were inside and resuming her job.

“We do not take permission from any Israeli military or political official. We are moving forward, buoyed by our belief in responsibility and international law,” he said.

The AP called the closure of the organizations a “dangerous escalation” and said it was “an attempt to silence the voice of truth and justice.” Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, said the PA will appeal to the international community to reopen the institutions.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said Thursday’s raid should “concern anyone who values ​​human rights.”

“Yesh Din calls on the countries of the world to intervene to stop Israel’s political persecution of Palestinian human rights organizations, which seeks to justify the continuation of the crimes of occupation and apartheid in the West Bank,” he added.

The Ministry of Defense stated that the organizations in question “operate under cover for the FPLP” and work “under the guise of carrying out humanitarian activities to further the objectives of the FPLP terrorist organization”.

“Organizations operate to strengthen the organization and to recruit operatives. They also help raise funds for the terrorist organization through a variety of methods including forgery and fraud.”

“All five organizations are controlled by the PFLP, employ PFLP operatives in management and field positions, and operate to conceal their affiliation with the terrorist organization, out of fear of security agencies in Israel and the countries where they raise funds” .

Palestinian documentation: Security forces enter the headquarters of the “Global Movement for the Protection of Children” in Ramallah@GalAharonovich

— here news (@kann_news) August 18, 2022

The NGO Monitor, which tracks anti-Israel nonprofits, said Gantz’s ratification was “a response to Europe’s refusal to engage with the evidence.”

“Even without any classified intelligence, the open-source information published by NGO Monitor clearly shows the links between the PFLP and European-funded NGOs,” said Gerald Steinberg, founder of the monitor.

Both Israeli military and civilian law prohibit supporting or joining a terrorist group, and violators can face years in prison. Israeli authorities can also confiscate assets belonging to terrorist organizations and prohibit financing their activities; donors may also be subject to significant jail time.

Israeli authorities have previously charged that the PFLP has stolen millions of euros from civil society organizations affiliated with its members to finance terrorist activities. In May last year, the Shin Bet arrested four suspects, including a Spanish citizen, who were believed to have funneled European funds to the PFLP.

Associated Press and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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