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European countries say Israel hasn’t backed up terror label for 6 Palestinian groups

9 foreign ministries including France, UK, Germany say they received ‘no substantial information’ about NGOs that would justify a policy change on funding

A Palestinian woman walks into the al-Haq human rights group organization's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
A Palestinian woman walks into the al-Haq human rights group organization's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Nine European countries rejected Israel’s designation last year of six Palestinian organizations as terror groups, saying Tuesday that Jerusalem failed to present information backing up its claim.

The European countries said they will continue funding and supporting the Palestinian civil society organizations in the absence of any evidence of terror ties.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden stressed that “accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness. The designations needed therefore to be assessed carefully and extensively.”

However, “no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations.’”

“Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly. In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society” in the West Bank and Gaza, the statement concluded.

“A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution,” the statement said.

Palestinian employees at the offices of Addameer in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after IDF forces raided 3 Palestinian NGOs, on December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

In December of last year, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that half a dozen civil society groups were being designated as terror organizations, saying they were effectively operated as an arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.

The move sparked a swift backlash around the globe, with the European Union, the Palestinian Authority, progressive US Democrats, US Jewish groups and international human rights organizations expressing criticism.

An EU statement at the time noted “past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to some of our Palestinian [civil society organization] partners have not been substantiated.”

The US State Department also said that it would seek an explanation for the move.

The six organizations named by Gantz’s office were some of the most prominent rights groups in Palestinian civil society. Many have received considerable funding in grants from EU member states and the United Nations, among other donors.

They are the Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq; Addameer, which represents Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli military courts; Defense for Children-International, a group that advocates for Palestinian children; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center; and the Union Of Agricultural Work Committees.

Representatives of the groups and international organizations have denied the charges and accused Israel of trying to silence criticism of alleged human rights abuses.

Both Israeli military and civilian law ban supporting or joining a terror group, and violators can face years in prison. Israeli authorities can also seize assets belonging to terror organizations and forbid funding their activities; donors may also be subject to significant jail time.

Israeli authorities have charged before that the PFLP has pilfered millions of euros from civil society organizations affiliated with its members to fund terrorist activities. In May of last year, the Shin Bet arrested four suspects, including a Spanish citizen, who were believed to have channeled European funds to the PFLP.

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