Nine European Union states released a joint statement on Friday condemning Israeli raids of the offices of six Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank.
"We are deeply concerned by the raids…as part of a worrying reduction of space for civil society in the occupied Palestinian territories," the statement issued by the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said. "These actions are not acceptable," the foreign ministries added.
According to the statement, "no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate [them] as 'terrorist organizations." It added, "Should convincing evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly."
In addition, EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev stated in a tweet that he shares "international concerns over Israeli raids on the Palestinian civil society organizations." He added, "I will raise this issue with Israeli authorities with no delay. A free civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for advancing the two-state solution."
In October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order declaring Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees as terrorist organizations. The Defense Ministry claims that they are part of a funding network operated by the largely-defunct Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a charge that all six groups deny.
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In July, ten European states which fund the organizations, either directly or through foundations, said that they will continue to work with the NGOs, because Israel had failed to prove its claim that they should be considered terrorist organizations.
Diplomats from six countries told Haaretz in recent months that Israel had sent them information intended to prove its claims through both diplomatic and intelligence channels. “It's simple, we were given evidence, and we did not find it to be compelling enough,” one diplomat said. Another said the evidence “does not meet the required threshold of proof” that the NGOs were transferring money to the PFLP as Israel claimed.
On Thursday, IDF soldiers and Border Police raided the offices of the organizations and closed them down. Al-Haq and Addameer stated that the military forces welded shut the doors to their offices, covered them with steel plates and affixed a military order to them declaring the organizations illegal.
Gantz's office reiterated its rationale for the government's approach to the groups on Wednesday, saying “the organizations operate under the guise of performing humanitarian activities to further the goals of the PFLP terrorist organization, to strengthen the organization and to recruit operatives.”