The Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, sent the army and security services today to shut down the six Palestinian human rights organizations which he designated as “terror organizations” in October of last year. Defense Minister Gantz’s declaration last year was met with swift condemnation from international human rights organizations and bodies, including the United Nations.
Of the six organizations, three did not appeal their designation as “terrorist organizations” in Israel and decided to waive the Israeli legal process. Meanwhile, the three organizations that did submit appeals had their submissions rejected by the commander of the Central Command, according to the Israeli military. The Israeli military claimed, “all the organizations in question operate under the cover of the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] and its mission, in the territories of Judea and Samaria [occupied West Bank] as well as abroad.” Defense Minister Gantz rejected all international demands to give convincing evidence for their designation as “terror organizations” or explanation as to why they are being forcibly shut down.
Ten European countries decided to continue supporting the six organizations and announced that they were not convinced that they constitute an arm of terrorist organizations. The organizations in question are Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children-International, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. Their main offices are in the cities of Ramallah and Al-Bira.
According to Al-Haq, Israeli soldiers confiscated items and shut down the main entrance to their offices with a metal plate, before leaving behind a military order declaring the organization unlawful. This was echoed by Addameer, which also states that throughout the raid on their offices, materials were confiscated.
According to an Israeli military spokesperson, the raid was conducted as part of the Israeli military’s “fight against terrorism,” specifically against the PFLP, claiming that the outlawed organizations form a part of the PFLP’s network, a claim heavily disputed by the organizations.
The military’s announcement also claimed that “the organizations operate under the guise of carrying out humanitarian activities to promote the goals of the terrorist organization the Popular Front, to strengthen the organization and recruit operatives, and also assist in raising funds for the terrorist organization using a variety of methods of forgery and deception. The six organizations are controlled by the Popular Front, employ Popular Front activists in management and field positions, and work to hide their existence out of fear from the security agencies in Israel and in the countries where the organizations raise donations for their activities.”
The army did not hide that this was an operation led by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet or Shabak). The army’s announcement stated, “The announcement of these organizations and the revelation that they are disguised arms of the terrorist organization the Popular Front is part of a joint effort by the Security Agency, the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF), the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against the activities of the Popular Front.”
The Hadash party condemned the announcement and the raid. Supposedly Left-wing parties that support the current government, such as Meretz and the Labor Party, have remained silent as of the time of writing this article. The Islamic United Arab List (Ra’am) – which is also a part of the current governing coalition – has also remained silent regarding the raids.
Hadash said in a statement they “strongly reject this decision and wish to point out that it was rejected by international bodies and organizations as well, including the European foundations that fund these organizations. But the [Israeli] military and its government are in constant fear of any group or organization that documents and publishes the crimes of the occupation that are prevalent everywhere. This decision aims to silence these organizations and paralyze their work.”