The Israeli government has effectively outlawed six prominent Palestinian human rights organisations by declaring them terrorist organisations, in what is considered a major escalation of its crackdown on political activism within the occupied territories.
The declaration has allowed Israel to raid offices, seize assets, arrest staff and criminalise any public expressions of support for the groups. A majority of the targeted organisations document human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, "both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists", The Star reports.
The designated groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, The Bisan Center for Research and Development, THe union of Palestinian Women's Committees and THe Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
The Israeli Defence Ministry has alleged that the organisations are covertly linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The Palestinian local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights hihglighted that Israel has listed "extremely vague or irrelevant reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities."
They called on Israel to "fully respect the rights to freedom of association and expressions, without any interference or harassment against the organisations or their staff" noting that some of the Palestinian organisations were considered "key partners", reported The Star.
They added that “Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work."
The U.S State Department echoed the same sentiment, looking to seek more clarification behind the proscriptions. Spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington that they had not been given advance warning about the designation and noted that "respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International released a joint statement calling the decision "appalling" and an "unjust" noting it to be an "attack by the Israeli government on the International human rights movement."
#Israel's decision to designate six Palestinian civil society groups including @Addameer & @alhaq_org "terrorist organizations" is a shocking assault on human rights. Joint statement by @amnesty & @hrw: https://t.co/hiS0HEfRZE #NGO
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) October 22, 2021
Mohammed El-Kurd, a prominent activist, poet and reporter from occupied East Jerusalem, condemned the move as a "clear declaration of war against Palestinian civil society."
This is a clear declaration of war against Palestinian civil society. These orgs, which the public relies heavily on, provide the world with vital data and analyses that expose Israeli crimes. “Anti-terrorism legislation” is nothing but a racist tool to crush Palestinian society.
— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) October 22, 2021