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Israel - Unban the 6 human rights groups

Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrives for a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2021 [ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrives for a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2021 [ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Last Friday, Israel outright banned six leading Palestinian human rights groups.

To do so, "Defence" Minister Benny Gantz and his government unilaterally designated them as "terrorist" groups.

The Israelis presented no evidence for this new claim.

This is quite simply an attack on Palestinian existence. There are no forms of Palestinian public life that are considered permitted and legal by Israel.

When I lived in the West Bank between 2005 and 2007, I witnessed this first-hand. Any Palestinian demonstration against the occupation – no matter how peaceful – would be outlawed, and the area declared a "closed military zone".

And now, it seems Israel wants to declare even the liberal concept of "human rights" to be a closed military zone.

READ: Israelis Against Apartheid slam terrorism designation of 6 Palestinian groups

The six groups are Al-Haq, Addameer, Defence for Children International, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees.

As Maureen Murphy, my colleague at The Electronic Intifada, has put it, anyone who has ever had any contact with any of these groups in Palestine will know that the Israeli claims against them are simply insane.

Any Palestinian or international group of any description operating in the West Bank – including major global charities like Oxfam – already work under the most stringent and onerous accounting and reporting regimes in the world.

This is because Israel has for many years propagandised against Palestinian human rights groups and smeared via its Israel lobby in the West with vague and sinister allegations of "terror".

Now, as a lawyer with the Centre for Constitutional Rights Diala Shamas put it, Israel has given up efforts to persuade or bully European and US donors to defund and marginalise Palestinian human rights groups and has instead crudely resorted to a draconian ban.

The allegation against the six groups – again, made entirely without evidence – is that they act as fundraising bodies for leftist Palestinian political party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Like virtually all other Palestinian parties, Israel banned the PFLP many years ago, smearing it as a "terrorist" group.

Palestinians have a right under international law to defend themselves from Israel's armed aggression. Resistance is not terrorism.

But even that aside, Israel's allegations are ludicrous.

Israeli propaganda outlets claimed that the PFLP "created" the six groups as fronts to enable fundraising for their alleged armed activities.

READ: Germany 'concerned' over Israel's terrorist designation of Palestinian NGOs

But this makes absolutely no sense. These are not new groups. Al-Haq, for example, was established in 1979 and has a long and reliable track record. Its work is well-regarded the world over.

If it was a "front" for the PFLP all along, then why did Israel wait 42 years to ban it? And where is the proof?

The truth is that this is just another case of crude Israeli forgery against entirely peaceful charity and human rights work in Palestine – in some ways, like the case of Mohammed El-Halabi, the Gaza aid worker deliberately framed by Israel.

Support for the six groups has come from all over the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israeli group B'Tselem – which called the move "an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes."

The European Union (EU), the UK and the US have refused to condemn Israel's blatantly aggressive ban on Palestinian human rights groups.

READ: US lawmakers enter resolution condemning Israel's NGO designations

While the EU has made vague noises about how it "will continue to stand by international law," it has effectively given Israel the green light to continue its crackdown by refusing to condemn it.

This is a disgrace that we should campaign to reverse.

Israel must un-ban these six groups immediately. Time is of the essence.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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