Palestinian NGOs fume as Israel declares them to be 'terrorist organisations'

Palestinian NGOs fume as Israel declares them to be 'terrorist organisations'
The civil society and human rights groups targeted by the declaration said the measure was part of a growing crackdown on them by Israel and its supporters.
3 min read
23 October, 2021
Palestinian NGOs say they have suffered a sustained crackdown at the hands of Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists [Getty]

Palestinian NGOs have expressed outrage at Israel's decision to label them as terrorist organisations, demanding that Israel revoke the designation and the international community hold the Israeli authorities accountable.

The Israeli Defence Ministry's decision, announced Tuesday, effectively bans six major human rights and civil society organisations from operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. They are: Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defence for Children International - Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees.

Three of the groups issued statements on Friday and Saturday condemning the declaration, made using Israel’s domestic Anti-Terrorism Law of 2016. 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned Israel for its declaration, which "authorises Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities," the two human rights groups said in a joint statement.

Prisoner rights organisation Addameer said the designations were "a sinister, unprecedented, and blanket attack" on human rights and civil society organisations, and that the anti-terror law used is "purposely vague and baseless".

Both Addameer and legal NGO Al-Haq said that application of the Israeli anti-terror law on the occupied Palestinian territories was unlawful. Al-Haq said it "serves to entrench the maintenance of its settler-colonial and apartheid regime of institutionalised racial discrimination and domination over the Palestinian people as a whole."

The head of Defence for Children International - Palestine said his organisation has been relentlessly targeted with disinformation campaigns "by a network of rising nationalist Israeli civil society organizations and associated organizations outside of Israel, with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

"After years of delegitimisation and disinformation campaigns against us have failed to silence our work, Israeli authorities now choose to escalate repressive tactics by labeling civil society organizations as terrorists," General Director of DCIP, Khaled Quzmar said in a statement.

Israel's targeting of civil society and human rights groups has come under international scrutiny before. UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said in August of this year that she was concerned by the arrests, harassment and criminalisation of human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.

Responding to news of the terrorist group declarations Lawlor said: "Human Rights Defenders are not terrorists & should never be smeared like this."