By classifying six NGOs as “terrorist organizations”, Israel strikes at the heart Palestinian civil society

Israel dealt an unprecedented blow to Palestinian civil society and its international donors on Friday, October 22, by classifying six established human rights organizations among the “Terrorist organizations”. The order was signed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who distinguished himself in August by becoming the first member of the Israeli government in a decade to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Since then, Israel has repeatedly stated that it intends to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and the occupied territories, in particular through economic measures, while excluding any political negotiations with the Palestinians.

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However, these six NGOs play an eminently political role, as a counterweight to a Palestinian Authority at the end of the line. These are Al-Haq, active in denouncing the occupation of the territories by the army since 1967, and the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers; Addameer, who defends prisoners in Israel and documents administrative detentions, conducted without trial; the powerful Union of Agricultural Labor Committees; the Bisan research and development center; Defense for Children Palestine; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. On Monday, October 18, Israel had already announced the revocation of the attribution of Jerusalem residency status to Franco-Palestinian Salah Hamouri, one of Addameer’s main lawyers.

Israel argues that these organizations are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a movement born out of Arab nationalism and Marxism, a pioneer of Palestinian resistance, which was once the most active faction after Fatah. It remains considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the European Union. Historically, many civil society movements have developed in connection with factions, relying on their networks within the population.

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Israel claims that these groups now employ members of the PFLP and redistribute funds to it. In May, Israeli domestic intelligence had already accused NGOs in the West Bank of embezzling funds from several European countries – including Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Great Britain – for the benefit of the PFLP. Israel did not feel obliged to provide proof, however, Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard noted on Friday. Like the organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, he denounces “A declaration of war against the whole community of [défenseurs] of human rights ”.

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By classifying six NGOs as “terrorist organizations”, Israel strikes at the heart Palestinian civil society