Israeli Military Raids Palestinian NGOs It Says Are PFLP Fronts
A picture shows the premises of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees in the West Bank city of Ramallah after it was raided by Israel forces, on Aug. 18, 2022. (Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Military Raids Palestinian NGOs It Says Are PFLP Fronts

Clashes erupted in Ramallah last night as an Israeli military force shut the offices of seven organizations that Israel accuses of terrorist activity. Earlier this month, the EU announced it would end cooperation with some of them.

Israeli security forces broke into the offices of seven Palestinian rights and civil society organizations in the West Bank before dawn on Thursday, accusing them of being fronts for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization.

The soldiers and border police seized files and equipment, welded the doors shut, and left copies of military orders declaring the organizations illegal at the offices in Ramallah and the adjacent city of Al-Bireh.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued an order last October declaring six of the organizations illegal: Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Works Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. The seventh group, the Health Work Committees, was outlawed the previous year.

Also last fall, Israel forwarded an intelligence report with alleged evidence of such illegal activity to the US and the European Union.

The European Commission froze its funding to Al-Haq and opened an investigation. Nine months later, in June 2022, the EU announced it found no real basis for further investigation and restored the funding to Al-Haq. On July 12, nine European Union states − Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden − said they would continue to work with the six Palestinian civil society groups, as no evidence of terrorism-related activity was found.

“They came in at around 3:20 am, into all the offices at once,” said Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq. “They did a lot of damage, and in other organizations, they also confiscated property, like printers and laptops,” he told The Media Line.

“Israel accuses us of terror activity, claiming it has secret evidence. We asked to see the evidence several times, but no one is willing to reveal it. If they had serious evidence, it would have been another thing, but they simply don’t have any,” he said.

Jabarin speculated on what might be behind the raid: “The occupation [i.e., Israel] wants to make our partners around the world afraid and isolate us. We don’t support violent resistance. We simply document the everyday crimes the occupation carries out and transfer the details to international organizations.”

According to Michael Sfard, the Israeli lawyer representing Al-Haq, “Gantz is one of the suspects in a criminal investigation against Israel [at the International Criminal Court] in The Hague. His declaration [criminalizing the organizations] is an effort to make sure no one on the ground helps the investigation. It’s a dictatorship’s way to work,” he told The Media Line.

Sfard, who specializes in human rights and international law, also has a theory about the timing of the raids: “It’s right after [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ statement in Germany [accusing Israel of committing ‘50 Holocausts’ against the Palestinians], so Israel knows European countries won’t criticize it now. It’s taking advantage of the general sentiment created,” the attorney explained.

A few hours after the raids, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah in a public show of solidarity.

“This institution and all the others are registered with the State of Palestine, and therefore are legal institutions that operate within the law,” he said.

Shtayyeh added that the Palestinian government will continue to support the civil society organizations and institutions and will recruit funds for them.

Gantz’s office released a statement on Thursday morning saying: “As part of the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Minister of Defense Benny Gantz ratified today (17.08.22) the designation made in October 2021 of the following organizations as terrorist organizations: the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Bisan, and Addameer. The designation was ratified by law in the State of Israel.

“The three organizations, which serve as branches of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), did not appeal against their designation as terrorist organizations in Israel,” the statement continued.

Asked why Al-Haq did not appeal its banning in court, Jabarin told The Media Line: “The legal procedure is so arbitrary, and the occupation doesn’t even show evidence. Since it’s a military judicial system, there’s no real legal process. We don’t have to take part in a mock trial intended to humiliate us and which doesn’t give us a real chance to defend ourselves.”

The Israeli military’s announcement about the raid said: “IDF soldiers and Israel Border Police forces operated overnight to close institutions used by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization. The soldiers closed seven institutions and confiscated property belonging to the terrorist organization. During the counterterrorism activity, rocks and Molotov cocktails were hurled toward the soldiers who responded with riot dispersal means.”

Gantz did not respond to The Media Line’s questions.

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