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August 9 2022 1:32 PM ˚
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Israel’s designation of Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups is a shot in the dark

Osama al sharif
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. (Photo: Jordan News)
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In a normal country and in normal times a decision to designate certain NGOs as terrorist organizations would be accompanied by a series of damning evidence, revelations by investigative panels, and corroborative proof from multiple credible foreign sources. But Israel is not a normal country, and its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and people can never be normalized or accepted by the international community.اضافة اعلان

So, it was shocking to all — Palestinians, the US, the EU, and international human rights organizations —when Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order last Friday, declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank terrorist organizations. A statement by the Israeli Defense Ministry said that the “organizations operate in a network run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.” 

That claim has been contested by the Palestinian Authority, NGOs, and international human rights organizations. The move itself has puzzled the US and EU, who were not consulted beforehand and who demanded more information. The move has also angered Israeli coalition member and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor Party head), who said the decision to classify Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups was hasty and harmful. “The manner in which this classification was carried out has caused great damage among our greatest and most important friends,” Michaeli said at a Labor Party meeting this week.

Israelis and Palestinians gather to denounce Israel’s decision to declare six Palestinian groups as “terror organizations.”  Israel’s move attempts to silence the “only viable record of daily violations” against Palestinians, writes Jordan News Editor-in-Chief Osama Al Sharif. (Photo: AFP)

The Palestinian groups in question include human rights organizations: Addameer offers legal support to prisoners and collects data on arrests and administrative detentions, and actively works to end torture and violations of prisoners’ rights. Defense for Children International monitors the killings of children and the well-being of arrested children in Israel. There is also a women’s rights organization and an agricultural labor association included in the designations.

While evidence of direct links to the PFLP has not been provided — most of the organizations receive funding from the EU and US — it is true that the Palestinian nationalist organization, with a Marxist mandate, has been classified by the EU, the US and Israel as a terrorist group. 

The PFLP is a member of the PLO and its candidates have contested Palestinian legislative elections in the past two election cycles. One prominent member is an activist named Khalida Jarrar, who was recently released from Israeli incarceration. In principle, the PFLP, which has little influence inside the West Bank, has ideological differences with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority and does not recognize the state of Israel.

Gantz’ move has raised eyebrows in the EU and the US, not to mention within the ruling Israeli coalition. In a clear and strong rebuke issued on the same day of the Israeli announcement, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told journalists that “we believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are critically important for responsible and responsive governance.” He added that the US will “be engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations,” while stressing that Israel did not give the US advance warning that the organizations would be named.

Equally important, the EU said in a statement this week that it “takes very seriously” Israel’s labeling of six Palestinian rights and civil society groups as terror organizations, adding that previous allegations were unsubstantiated. It went on to say that the EU “exercises maximum diligence” to avoid financing or supporting terrorist groups, and past accusations that Palestinian civil society groups were misusing EU funds remain unsubstantiated.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), who worked closely with the targeted organizations, said in a joint statement that “the decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.”

However, Gantz’ motive behind this controversial move is easily explained. These NGOs with their strong ties to international organizations and key state funders expose, on the ground, Israeli violations, on an almost daily basis; against civilians, children, women, and Palestinian farmers and landowners. They provide hardcore information to international human rights groups such as HRW and Amnesty International, among others. It is this information and data that find their way to UN and other bodies’ reports on the state of Palestinians under occupation, including atrocities and possible war crimes committed by Israeli occupation authorities against civilians. 

In the absence of punitive measures taken against Israel by individual states or groups, the only viable record of daily violations against Palestinians is provided by Palestinian NGOs associated with international human rights organizations. A stark example of how Israel treats reports of its human rights violations happened a few days ago when Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, tore to pieces the Human Rights Council’s yearly report on the podium of the UN General Assembly.

In hoping to redefine the Palestinian question, Israel is trying to “downsize” the conflict and impose a new reality on Palestinians under occupation. But in order to do this, it is not enough to clamp down on Palestinian NGOs; they also need to silence the UN’s Human Right Council and international human rights organizations. Even for an abnormal, and emboldened Israeli state, this will prove to be an impossible task.

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