On Friday, Six Palestinian civil society organisations were labelled as terrorist organisations by Israel, accusing them of funnelling donor funding to extremists, a move that drew condemnation from the United Nations and other international human rights organisations.
The groups were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a left-wing organisation with an armed component that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis, Israel’s defence ministry said in a statement.
Addameer and Al-Haq are Palestinian human rights organisations that monitor alleged rights breaches in the West Bank which is occupied by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
The proclaimed groups acquired huge quantities of money from European countries and international organisations through a variety of fraud and deception, the defence ministry claimed, saying that the funds were used to support PFLP activities.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International stated in a joint statement that the designations allow the Israeli authorities to shut down the offices of the alleged groups, take their assets, and arrest their workers in the West Bank.
The claims were dismissed by Addameer and Defense for Children International – Palestine, another group which was accused, by calling it as an attempt for dismantling Palestinian civil society.
The declaration has been described as ‘alarming’ by the United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian territory.
Anti-terrorism legislation should not be used to stifle legitimate human rights and humanitarian efforts, the Human Rights Office of United Nations in Palestine stated. It also added that some of the justifications that the Israeli government cited were imprecise or irrelevant.
Those designations were the latest step in a sustained campaign of stigmatisation against those groups, which has harmed their capacity to carry out their crucial work, the Human Rights Office stated.
The United States, an ally of Israel, was not given previous notice of the move and will engage Israel for more information on the basis for the designations, Ned Price, a spokesperson for the US State Department said.
He said in a statement that the United States believed that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a healthy civil society were crucial for an accountable and responsive governance.
Israel’s defence ministry warned that those organisations which identify themselves as functioning for humanitarian causes, served as a cover for the propaganda and finance of the ‘Popular Front’.
The PFLP, which is blacklisted in of the United States and European Union for terrorism, did not explicitly deny ties to the six groups, but mentioned that it maintained contacts with civil society organisations throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
Kayed Al-Ghoul, an official of PFLP stated that it was part of Israel’s tough war against the Palestinian people and civil society organisations in order to exhaust them.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International mentioned their concerns that the accusation was a shocking and worrying escalation that threatens to shut down the activities of some of the most important civil society organisations in Palestine.
During the Middle East conflict in 1967, Israel took the control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Palestinians are looking for land for a future state.