WASHINGTON - Rep. Jim McGovern on Friday urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push the Israeli government to reverse the designation of six Palestinian civil society NGOs as terrorist groups and to "firmly and unambiguously denounce" the move.
McGovern, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote Blinken to express his "grave concern" with Defense Minister Benny Gantz's original decision, as well as the Israeli military's extension of the order into the West Bank earlier this week.
The Massachusetts Democrat noted that he welcomed the State Department's expressed concern and request for further clarification, but noted reports — including those in Haaretz — regarding the lack of sufficient proof to justify the terror label.
"I respectfully ask you to share with me the steps taken by the State Department to review these designations and I urge you to take up the matter directly with the Government of Israel and ask that it reverse this decision," McGovern wrote, stressing the urgency due to the designations' extension into the West Bank.
Gantz claimed last month the organizations have been operating as part of a West Bank network run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU, among others. The six civil society organizations in question 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.
McGovern stressed that Israel has "targeted these organizations for decades because of their human rights activism, arresting and detaining staff, raiding their offices, targeting them for surveillance by state intelligence agencies, and making similar accusations to these organizations' donors," adding that "according to recent media reports, intelligence surveillance included using Pegasus spyware to hack their personal phones."
He added that the U.S., United Nations and the European Union have investigated and rejected past allegations into the organizations, and how the international community and human rights monitors have both denounced the recent moves.
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"It is not enough to have expressed an initial leeriness regarding Israel’s decision to designate these six organizations as terrorist groups," McGovern wrote. "It is now time to firmly and unambiguously denounce the actions taken and urge the Israeli government to reverse its decisions."