Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has signed on Friday an order declaring six civil society organizations in the West Bank as terrorist organizations.
A statement by the Defense Ministry said that the organizations operate in a network run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
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Some of these groups operate as human rights organizations: Addameer offers legal support to prisoners and collects data on arrests and administrative detentions, and actively works to end torture and violations of prisoners' rights. Defense for Children International Palestine monitors the killings of children and the wellbeing of arrested children in Israel.
The NGOs also include a women's rights organization and an agricultural labor association.
According to the statement, these groups "have received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations while using fraud and deception methods." The money was then used by the PFLP to promote terrorism, recruit members and pay salaries to security prisoners and their families as well as terrorists.
"The groups are controlled by the senior leadership of the PFLP and employ many members of the group in jobs in both management and on the ground – including activists who were involved in terrorism," the statment read.
The six groups are Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the The Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
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A joint statement by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called the decision "appalling and unjust." This move constitutes "an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement."
"This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations," the joint statement read.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates "unequivocally condemned" on Friday Gantz's decision.
"This fallacious and libelous slander is a strategic assault on Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to oppose Israel’s illegal occupation and expose its continuing crimes," a statement by the ministry said.
The ministry added that "this outrageous step is the latest in a systemic and relentless campaign against Palestinian civil society organizations and leading human rights defenders."
The ministry also warned "of possible serious consequences from this unprecedented assault and holds Israel fully responsible for the safety of the organizations’ staff."
Israeli human's right organization B'Tselem said that "Israel’s ‘change’ government’s classification of Palestinian human rights organizations as terror organizations is not merely declarative."
"It is a characteristic act of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations," B'Tselem added.
All of the organizations are affiliated with the Palestinian political left, and some have criticized the Palestinian Authority in the past. For example, last March, Al-Haq published a report on the state of freedom of expression in the Palestinian Authority. Al-Haq is also one of the organizations who are advancing proceedings in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Israel's actions in the settlements.
Over the years, Israel has taken a variety of actions against members of the various organizations, and only this week the organization Addameer announced that Israel has revoked the permanent residency of one of its lawyers, Salah Hammouri, of East Jerusalem. According to the organization, the decision was justified due to Amouri's involvement in "terrorist activity or affiliation with a terrorist body" according to confidential information.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees is an organization that assists Palestinian farmers, especially in Area C. Two members of the organization, Samer Arbid and Abdel Razeq Farraj, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have been indicted for involvement in the 2019 murder of Rina Shnerb. Arbid was charged with murder and Farage was charged with aiding and abetting.
Prisoners' rights organizations, including Addameer and Defense for Children International Palestine, issued a statement Friday following the decision, calling it "a continuation of the attack on the Palestinian people and their institutions ... in an attempt to erase Palestinian civil society." The organizations added that in recent years they have suffered from boycotts, arrests of their employees and restrictions on their work in the field of human rights.