The heads of the six Palestinian human rights organisations blacklisted recently by Israel have spoken at length about the decision to a global audience convened by some of the most prominent think tanks in Washington. They revealed that the occupation state had used secret "evidence" obtained through torture and lies when making the "terrorist" designation.
The meeting was convened by influential American organisations the Middle East Institute, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Century International and the International Crisis Group.
The decision by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz to label the groups as "terrorists" has been met with near universal condemnation. There has been speculation over his motive as well as serious misgivings over a dossier sent to the US and EU to justify his authoritarian move.
During the virtual meeting a few days ago, representative from the six groups revealed that the secret "so-called evidence" against them is based in part on prisoners' confessions obtained under torture. This "evidence" has already been laughed off by the Europeans.
Israel is said to have presented its claims against the organisations months ago to European governments and funders sponsoring the groups. Belgian officials investigated and rejected the allegations as "propaganda" and "lies".
"This is state terrorism at its finest hour," said Ubai Al-Aboudi of the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, pointing to the European rejection of the evidence. "They presented their so-called evidence dossier back in May through the Belgians. We have a joint programme supported through a Belgian NGO by [the Belgian government]… The Belgians did their own investigation. The Belgian minister in charge of international cooperation went in front of parliament and said this is propaganda… There is no proof in the file."
Others repeated the claim made recently that the Israeli move is a countermeasure against an investigation launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the occupation state's alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. "We believe that there is a political reason behind this decision," said Khaled Quzmar of Defence for Children International – Palestine. "We know that because of our work in the US and in the ICC, they are trying to silence us or forbid us from continuing our mission."
Quzmar claimed that his organisation had crossed Israel's "red lines" when it began giving information to the ICC and the US Congress, including Representative Betty McCollum. The Democrat lawmaker has slammed the Israeli decision, saying that the "terrorist" label is being weaponised to silence the work of human rights organisations.
Representatives of the group at the virtual meeting echoed McCollum's claim. One said that the entire case is a manipulation of anti-terror laws to punish "human rights organisations that are struggling with their people to achieve self-determination." Israel has used these laws for decades to target critics and to advance its annexation of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The human rights groups called on the US to put pressure on Israel to withdraw the designation.