The United States has said that it is “concerned” by Israel’s raids of the West Bank offices of Palestinian NGOs, stressing that there is not enough evidence to prove their designation as terror organisations.
On Thursday, Israeli forces swept into the West Bank and carried out raids on the offices of seven NGOs, at least six of which the Israel’s defence ministry had declared illegal last October and accused of having links with ‘terrorism’, namely with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The NGOs consisted of Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) – all of which denied Tel Aviv’s accusations.
In a press briefing the same day, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that “We are concerned about the Israeli security forces’ closure of the six offices of the Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah today.”
The information cautiously given by Israel only to a limited number of people – such as officials of the US and EU – did not, however, prove sufficient to justify the raiding of the NGOs’ offices and their closure. “Through the course of our review of this information, we have not changed our position on or our approach to these particular organizations,” Price said.
“Different parties can read information differently, can perceive threats differently,” he said. “We are going to continue to review any information that’s provided to us.” The Secretary of State stressed that the US “conveyed the message that there must be a very high bar to take action against civil society organizations. Our Israeli partners have in turn conveyed back to us that they have met that high bar.”
Price further emphasised the necessity of maintaining and preserving independent civil society organisations in the West Bank and Israel, saying that they “must be able to continue their important work. Civil society is an integral element to thriving democracies in the world.”
Despite Washington’s expression of its concerns over the raids and acknowledgement of the lack of evidence, it stopped short of condemning the Israel’s actions unlike the UN Human Rights office and the EU, the latter of which insisted it “will continue to stand by international law and support [civil society organizations] that have a role to play in promoting international law, human rights, and democratic values.”