Amid Widespread Condemnations, New Israeli Measures to Harass Palestinian Civil Society Organizations

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




A new move was taken by the Israeli Occupation towards seven Palestinian organizations, 6 of which were classified as terrorist organizations at the end of last year. It returned this year and confirmed its decision again before raiding their headquarters, confiscating their equipment, and closing their doors, according to the Times of Israel on August 19, 2022.

In conjunction with a major international criticism and rejection of the Israeli measures, the representatives of the seven Palestinian organizations affirmed that the Israeli decision will not deter them from working on documenting the crimes of the Occupation against the Palestinians, and they will continue to work to continue exposing the ongoing Israeli crimes to the whole world, according to what was reported by the Palestinian News and Information Agency (Wafa).

Since 1967, "Israel" has banned more than 400 local and international organizations, including all major Palestinian political parties, among them Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with which "Israel" signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.


A Renewed Israeli Measure

On the dawn of August 18, 2022, Israeli forces stormed the occupied West Bank and closed the offices of seven Palestinian human rights NGOs, which it classifies as terrorist groups.

The Israeli authorities had decided in October 2021 to close 6 of these Palestinian organizations on the grounds that they were terrorist groups without applying any measures, but they closed them again after adding a seventh organization to them.

The seven organizations that were subjected to raids and closures are Al-Haq, which has been operating as an independent human rights organization since its founding in 1979 to protect and promote human rights. It has consultative status with the ECOSOC.

In addition to the Addameer Foundation, established in 1992, which provides legal follow-up to Palestinian prisoners in the Occupation prisons, and submits reports in this regard to the competent authorities in the UN. It is a member of the Global Network Against Torture.

There is also Defense for Children International - Palestine, which has been operating in Palestine since 1991 and has consultative status in the ECOSOC, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe. It monitors and documents Israeli violations against Palestinian children. Although the parent organization is international, "Israel" has not hesitated to pursue it more than once.

The fourth is the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which was established in 1986 at the initiative of a group of agricultural engineers. It is considered one of the largest agricultural development organizations in Palestine, which depends entirely on the work of volunteers.

The fifth organization is the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC), which was established in 1980, and works to advance the status of Palestinian women and empower them.

Second to last is the Bisan Center for Research and Development, which has been working in Palestine since 1989 to strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and contribute to building a progressive Palestinian society.

The last of these organizations is the Health Work Committees (HWC), a community healthcare organization established in 1985. it runs two Palestinian hospitals in the OPT as well as dozens of clinics.

The headquarters of these organizations are located in the cities of Ramallah and Al-Bireh, which are within the classified A area, which is completely under Palestinian security control, as classified by the Oslo 2 Accords signed between the PLO and "Israel" in 1995, which is considered an Israeli message to the PA is that it has the first and last decision in everything that happens in the occupied territories.


Political Decision

The Israeli Occupation government claims that the Palestinian NGOs are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and obtained large sums of money from European countries and international organizations to pay pensions to families of Palestinian security detainees and families of Palestinian martyrs, and to PFLP activists to enhance their role in the city of Jerusalem in particular.

Last year, the Israeli Occupation army raided the six organizations included in the decision, arrested a number of their employees, and closed them, but it insisted on continuing to work.

At that time, several European countries and human rights organizations criticized the Israeli actions against Palestinian civil society organizations, and those Palestinian organizations denied having any links with the PFLP.

It is noteworthy that following the Israeli decision last year, European countries stopped working with those six organizations covered by the decision, but they returned on July 11 and announced that they would continue to work with them due to the lack of evidence against the Israeli claim.

On August 17, 2022, Minister of the Occupation Army, Benny Gantz, announced his final classification of 3 Palestinian organizations (Addameer, Bisan, and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees) as terrorists in direct incitement against these organizations.

On August 19, 2022, Haaretz newspaper commented on the closure of Palestinian NGOs and said that Gantz's decision comes in light of great competition between Israeli parties for Knesset seats in the upcoming elections.

It is considered that what Gantz has done is unhappy behavior because he seeks to be a Prime Minister in the future, and he places great doubt on Gantz's thinking, just as he questions the leadership of his official Prime Minister Meir Lapid.

During a press conference held by representatives of the seven organizations in Ramallah, Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, said: "We will continue our work as if there is no law or an Israeli decision to close it," adding that "the Israeli decision is illegal and political with a security cover."

Jabarin called the Israeli authorities, saying: "I challenge you to prove any link to us with terrorism. You will not be able to."


Silencing the Palestinian Voice

On their part, official Palestinian organizations condemned the closure of seven human rights and civil organizations in Ramallah and Al-Bireh by the Israeli Occupation authorities.

The PA considered the Israeli decision a crime and a blatant attack on Palestinian civil society organizations, as well as an attack on the entire international human rights system, not only the Palestinian.

It called on the international community to take immediate and urgent action to protect the Palestinian people and to stop these attacks because of their serious repercussions and effects, emphasizing that there will be Palestinian action at all levels to confront this decision.

On its part, the National Commission for NGOs considered that "such aggressive acts fall within the context of the continuous and systematic aggression against the Palestinian people, and silencing the voice of Palestinian civil society and removing it from the context of the struggle."

In turn, the Palestinian Prisoners Club considered, in a statement, that "the ongoing aggression against Palestinian civil and human rights organizations is a dangerous escalation, through which the Occupation is trying to undermine human rights and civil society work, and strike everyone who contributes to supporting the Palestinian citizen, and who defends his rights."

The Prisoner Club indicated that since the beginning of this year, the Occupation has escalated the arrest of dozens of actors at the community and civil levels, the last of whom was the director of the HWC, Shatha Abu Odeh. The club points out that "what the Occupation recently committed is a prelude to what is more dangerous within the framework of the Israeli restriction of Palestinian human rights work in the occupied territories."


International Concern

As for international reactions, on August 18, 2022, the United States expressed its concern over the closure of the offices of NGOs in and around Ramallah by the Israeli security forces.

State Department spokesman Ned Price stated that "Israel promised to provide additional information to the United States regarding the closure of Palestinian NGOs," adding: "We will review what is presented to us and come to our own conclusion."

On August 19, 2022, nine EU countries, among them Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, and Denmark, rejected the new Israeli actions in the context of the worrying reduction of civil society space, emphasizing that a free and strong civil society is necessary to promote democratic values and for the two-state solution.

The UN also announced that it continues to make contacts with "Israel" regarding its army's storming of the seven human rights organizations.

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said in a press conference held in New York: "The Israeli authorities have not provided any convincing evidence to UN agencies or their NGO partners operating in the OPT to support their allegations."

He added, "The closure of the offices of these organizations limits humanitarian, development, and human rights work in the OPT."

On his part, the representative of the European Union in the Palestinian territories, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, confirmed, on August 18, 2022, that there is no evidence of the Israeli allegations that the seven organizations closed by the Occupation army are linked to terrorist groups or misuse of funds.

Burgsdorff expressed his solidarity with the partner organizations of the European Union, to which he has been providing support for years, pointing out that this support had a significant impact on enabling civil society to provide services to the needy.