Palestinians Call on UN to Condemn Israel's Labeling of Six NGOs as Terror Groups

The UN mission calls the announcement by Defense Minister Benny Gantz an 'attempt to intimidate and forcibly silence' these organizations from exposing Israel’s violations against Palestinians

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A symbolic funeral for PFLP founder George Habash in Nablus in 2008. Habash died in Amman, Jordan, where he is buried.
A symbolic funeral for PFLP founder George Habash in Nablus in 2008. Habash died in Amman, Jordan, where he is buried. Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh / AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Palestinians' UN observer mission asked the Security Council on Sunday to condemn Israel's designating of six nongovernmental organizations as terror groups, calling it "false and libelous slander."

On Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the six organizations operate in a West Bank network run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been classified as a terror group by the European Union and countries including the United States.

The six civil society organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

In a letter on Sunday, the Palestinians' UN mission called Gantz's announcement "a clear attempt to intimidate and forcibly silence" these organizations' "reporting and exposure of Israel’s violations against the Palestinian people."

It said that this "false and libelous slander is part of a systematic campaign against Palestinian civil society for daring to expose the occupation’s crimes, including violations against women and children."

These words echoed a similar statement Friday by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, while the six groups have said they will not be deterred by any efforts to silence them.

In Israel, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Gantz's announcement "threatens to shut down the work of Palestine's most prominent civil society organizations," with B'Tselem calling the move "a characteristic act of totalitarian regimes."

In the United States, members of Congress and liberal Jewish organizations also condemned Gantz's statement, with many of the lawmakers urging the Biden administration to pressure Israel to repeal the move.

The United States has said that Israel failed to warn it about the decision, but an Israeli security official has said that Israel provided intelligence on how the groups "operate as an organized network" under the PFLP's leadership.

According to the Defense Ministry, the six groups "have received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations while using fraud and deception methods."

The ministry said the money has been used by the PFLP to promote terrorism, recruit members and pay salaries to terrorists as well as to security prisoners and their families.

Washington was informed on how these organizations siphoned money to the PFLP, and how they recruited activists both to the PFLP and its military wing, the official added.

Among the organizations, Al-Haq compiles reports on human rights violations in the territories by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the past year it has published reports on issues such as torture in PA prisons and freedom of expression in Palestinian society.

Addameer offers legal aid to Palestinians in Israeli prisons and lobbies against practices such as administrative detention and solitary confinement by the Israeli authorities.

Defense for Children International-Palestine, a branch of the Geneva-based Defense for Children, provides aid to children being tried in Israeli military courts and conducts research on children imprisoned by Israel, as well as on the impact of the occupation on children’s rights.

The Union of Agricultural Work Committees says it seeks to promote “farmers’ steadfastness and sustainable livelihoods.”

Two of the organization’s former leaders, Samer Arbid and Abed el-Razeq Faraj, are also members of the PFLP. The latter has been accused of being an accomplice in the August 2019 murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in the West Bank.

The Bisan Center think tank says it criticizes the Israeli occupation's role in poverty in the West Bank and the PA's neoliberal policies, and has published a journal with articles on disengaging economically from Israel.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees trains women to take part in politics, helps establish cooperatives, strives to preserve traditional handicrafts and offers legal and psychological aid to women.

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