Several dozen Israeli rights groups on Monday denounced Israel for shuttering the offices of Palestinian advocacy organizations that it has labeled terror groups, saying the allegations were baseless.
The joint condemnation came after Israeli forces last week raided the Ramallah offices of several groups that have been accused of acting as an arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization. The organizations have denied any links to the PFLP, while the United States and European Union have cast doubt on the terror claims.
“These declarations are baseless,” the 45 Israeli organizations said in a statement, referring to the terror listings. “The US administration, the European Union and other allies of Israel found Israel’s allegations unconvincing.”
The organizations blacklisted last October are the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center, Al-Haq, Defense for Children-International in Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Addameer, which represents Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli military courts.
The office of a seventh group, the Health Work Committees, was also shut down last week.
“Documentation, advocacy and legal aid are the core of human rights work around the world. Criminalizing such activity is a deplorable act characteristic of repressive regimes,” the Israeli groups said in Monday’s joint statement.
They also voiced solidarity “with our fellow human rights defenders in Palestinian society” and urged international pressure on Israel to revoke the decision.
Among the more prominent groups that signed the letter were Peace Now, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and J Street.
We join more than 40 human rights and peace organizations to protest the violent intervention into Palestinian civil society orchestrated by Israeli government and army. We stand in solidarity with human rights defenders in Palestine. Human rights are not terrorism#StandWithThe6 pic.twitter.com/dzJ5LX390F
— Peace Now (@peacenowisrael) August 22, 2022
Separately Monday, the Guardian reported Monday that the US Central Intelligence Agency has not found any evidence to support the terror designations after Israel provided intelligence on the matter. The CIA report “doesn’t say that the groups are guilty of anything,” a source familiar with the report told the British daily.
Following the closure of the offices last week, the US State Department expressed concern over the raids and said it would not follow Israel’s lead in blacklisting the Palestinian groups, but refrained from condemning the Israeli actions. The UN said the raids “cannot be taken lightly” and called for the protection of civil society groups.
Most of the organizations have documented alleged human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority. Many have received considerable funding in grants from EU member states and the United Nations, among other donors, but not the US.
Israel’s Defense Ministry blacklisted the six civil society groups in October 2021, putting their employees at risk of arrest and their funding at risk of seizure. Israel has claimed it has “ironclad” intelligence tying the groups to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel and the US have labeled as a terror organization.
Israel has only been willing to share that intelligence privately, and several Democratic lawmakers, as well as European Union officials privy to the information, concluded that it was not sufficient to justify the terror label.
The terror designation last year 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.
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 previously charged that the PFLP has pilfered millions of euros from civil society organizations affiliated with its members to fund terrorist activities.