An Israeli lawyer has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal investigation into Defence Minister Benny Gantz's designation of six Palestinian NGOs as "terrorist" groups, the Jerusalem Post reported today.
Eitan Mack urged Mandelblit to "freeze the declaration" until the investigation is completed. According to the newspaper, the lawyer represents the left-wing Israeli NGO Combatants for Peace.
In his letter to the attorney general, Mack referenced Section 281 of the Israeli penal code that allows for a four-year prison sentence to be imposed on someone who deliberately provides false information that leads to the deprivation of rights. Gantz's action, he pointed out, has affected the freedom of movement and expression of those working in the organisations in question, and has also affected their freedom of occupation and association.
Mack also suggested that Gantz had targeted these six NGOs simply because they have been critical of Israel and provided information against the occupation state to the International Criminal Court. They have also worked with and for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, he noted.
The international community and human rights groups have criticised Gantz's designation of the NGOs. The UN Security Council held a closed-door meeting on Monday to consider the matter, following which France, Estonia, Norway, Ireland and Albania called on Israel to provide evidence for Gantz's allegations.
On Tuesday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings, said that labelling the NGOs "deepens the concern of the UN Agencies and the Association International Development Agencies (AIDA), working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)."