The Israeli banning of six Palestinian NGOs has become an international case
Palestine– A swarm of convictions, nationally and internationally, rose in reaction to the decision by the Israeli Ministries of defense and justice to place six Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the blocklist of terrorist organizations for their alleged ties to the Popular Front. for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist party recognized as a terrorist group also by the United States and the European Union.
Add Ameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, the Palestinian section of the International Committee for the Defense of Children (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Works Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Committees for Women (UPWC) – are the six organizations targeted by the decree issued on Friday by the Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. According to the ministry, NGOs would have been a “central source” of the PFLP, receiving large sums from European states and international organizations.
The US State Department told journalists it had not been informed about the decision in advance by the Israeli government. For which it will demand “more information on the elements behind these designations,” underlining the importance of “respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society.” Words that Israel interpreted as a first criticism of the new Bennett government by the Biden administration. The Israeli Defense Ministry was quick to reply that it had provided the evidence behind the designations to the American counterpart, alluding to a lack of internal communication between the Pentagon and the US State Department.
Following an investigation conducted between March and May by the Shabak (internal intelligence operating in the Palestinian Territories) and the Unit for Combating Terrorism, the Israelis have also provided European counterparts with evidence in recent months that would show that the organizations in question are involved in fundraising and laundering operations for the PFLP, in activists’ recruitment and the payment of salaries to convicted terrorist families.
Specifically, members of the UAWC NGO – Samer Arbid and Razak Praj – and the Bisan research center – Ataraf Rimawi – were arrested and sentenced last year as members of the terrorist cell affiliated with the PFLP, responsible for the killing of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in August 2019. In 2018, the Arab Bank had stopped bank transfers in favor of the NGO DCI-P due to some members of the association with the PFLP.
However, the Ministry of Defense has not made public the detailed documentation underlying the designations, calling it “classified material” that will be forwarded to the relevant authorities. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Environment Minister Tamar Zandbergen, both members of the left-wing Meretz party, asked Gantz to clarify the decision – an “earthquake” Zandbergen called it. Gantz’s announcement shocked the world of civil activism, as the NGOs in question are considered among the most active and esteemed associations of Palestinian civil society.
In particular, the historian Al Haq has been active since the 1970s in denouncing human rights violations by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority (PNA). “This is a shocking and unjust decision, an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement.” Said Human Rights Watch, confirming that “it is proud to work with our Palestinian partners, who represent the best of civil society. global and to which we will not lack our support even following this outrageous decision.”
Even in Israeli activism, there is a stand against the minister’s decision, seen as a “punitive move” aimed at silencing voices critical of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories since these are particularly active NGOs in the Palestinian territories. A movement to boycott the Jewish state and document Israeli violations underlying the investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague opened against Israel this year. “This is a grave precedent, an arbitrary and illegal decision to silence us and make us give up in our battle,” Shawan Jabareen, the director of Al Haq, told Repubblica.
According to the Israeli Supreme Court, Jabareen is a member of the PFLP, charges he calls “lies.” However, even the well-known Israeli NGO B’tselem confirms to Repubblica that she will continue to collaborate with her Palestinian counterparts, defining the decision as draconian, a form of intimidation as in the worst totalitarian regimes.”
“The civil activity of these organizations is real, but it is only part of reality,” said General Yossi Kuperwasser, former director-general of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, who has followed the affair closely over the years. “Much of the information underlying the designation had always been known to Israeli civilian organizations, but they preferred to turn a blind eye, some for political reasons, others for lack of understanding of the elements. The assassination of Rina Shnerb was when the Israeli services understood that it was necessary to get to the bottom of the matter “.
According to the Israeli NGO Ngo-Monitor, tracking the allocation of international funds to the spectrum of associations active in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the results of the Israeli intelligence investigations in May are currently being examined in several European countries. Belgium and the Netherlands – which in the meantime have blocked funds from UAWC – and the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) has opened a preliminary investigation to check the possibility that European Commission funds to Palestinian NGOs are diverted to activities in support of Terrorism.