Israeli security forces conducted a predawn raid Thursday on the offices of seven Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank, confiscating property and sealing their doors. Defense Minister Benny Gantz had earlier declared six of the groups to be terrorist organizations. Israel claims they work for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The seven organizations that were shut down are civic organizations of which any democratic society would be proud. One is a branch of an international organization that sees to children’s rights and monitors the arrests and interrogations of children. Another helps Palestinian farmers who have lost their lands. Al-Haq documents human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and collects data about detentions without trial and torture during interrogations. Addameer provides legal aid to prisoners, while Bisan Center for Research and Development is a research institution. On Thursday, they were joined by the Union of Health Work Committees, which was outlawed in 2020.
- U.S. says Israeli info on Palestinian NGOs not enough, 'concerned' over raids
- Israel raids outlawed Palestinian rights groups' offices in West Bank
- Israel closes Palestinian rights groups it labeled terrorist
Israel has never provided concrete proof that these organizations have ties to terror. Last month, nine European Union countries issued a joint statement in which they announced that they would continue funding the six groups Gantz ordered closed because Israel hadn’t given them any evidence that would justify changing their policy toward the organizations. “A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution,” the statement said.
But Europe isn’t needed in order to find the defense establishment’s decision puzzling and even to be outraged by it. These organizations are not armed groups, they do not use violence and their goal is to help members of their own people who live under the Israeli occupation. Closing them says that Israel prohibits not only violent resistance to the occupation, but also any other type of Palestinian activity.
Gantz has turned their closure into something akin to a personal Flag March, perhaps for political gain and to prove to his critics on the right that he is tough on the Palestinians. This is despicable behavior for a man who seeks to become prime minister. It creates serious doubts about Gantz’s judgment and also about the leadership of his superior, Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Both of them should stop persecuting civil-society organizations and focus on Israel’s real problems.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.