Israel labels leading Palestinian human rights groups ‘terrorist institutions’

In its latest attack on Palestinian civil society organizations, Israel labeled a number of Palestinian human rights groups, including Al-Haq and Defense for Children International – Palestine, as “terrorist institutions.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Friday that the list included six organizations, which he claimed has links to militant “terror” groups. 

On the list were prominent institutions like Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

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Gantz’s office accused the groups of “operating under cover in the international arena” on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist resistance group which, like several other Palestinian political factions, Israel considers to be a “terrorist organization.”

The groups were also accused of working to “promote the goals of the terror organization , including the armed struggle [sic] destruction of Israel.”

Israel has a long history of targeting Palestinian civil society organizations by deeming them as “terror” organizations. In 2019, Al-Haq was one of several groups targeted in a smear campaign by then Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who accused the groups of “terrorism.”

The year before that, Erdan called on the European Union (EU) and European states to halt their financial support and funding to Al-Haq and a number of other human rights institutions that “have ties to terror and promote boycotts against Israel.”

Al-Haq is a pillar of Palestinian civil society, and for decades has documented human rights violations in Palestine and brought it forward to the international stage. In recent years, the group has been instrumental in efforts to get the ICC to open investigations into potential war crimes committed in the occupied territory. 

Addameer, a prisoners rights group which provides free representation to Palestinian political prisoners imprisoned in Israeli jails, is a household name in Palestine, and has also been the subject of frequent Israel attacks. 

In 2019, the group’s offices in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah were raided by the Israeli military, who seized computers, hard drives, files and equipment. It was the third time the army had raided Addameer’s offices since the early 2000s. 

Earlier this year, DCIP, which documents Israeli violations against Palestinian children, including the unlawful arrest and detention of minors, was also targeted in a military raid, during which computers and client files were confiscated.

At the time, DCIP General Director Khaled Quzmar condemned the raid as part of “an ongoing campaign to silence and eliminate Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations like DCIP.” 

“Israeli authorities must immediately end efforts aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations, and the international community must hold Israeli authorities accountable,” Quzmar said at the time. 

While Israeli authorities have largely failed to provide any evidence that these groups themselves have funded any of the PFLP’s activities, the groups are still targeted in large part due to the mere affiliation some of their staff have with the political faction. 

At the time of publication none of the Palestinian organizations listed in Gantz’s letter had issued a response. 

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