#StandWithTheSix: Palestinian NGOs 'will continue to work' despite Israel's forced closure
The six Palestinian NGOs designated as "terrorists" by Israel declared that they will continue to operate despite Israel's forced closure of their premises.
"We don't take our legitimacy from an Israeli military commander, but from our people and Palestinian law," they said.
The declaration was made at a press conference in Ramallah on Thursday, hours after Israeli forces forcibly closed the premises of seven Palestinian civil organisations, including the six offices of the six organisations designated as 'terrorist', during a night raid on the city.
"This attack aims at intimidating and reengineering the Palestinian civil society to stop documenting and exposing the abuses and violations of the Israeli occupation," Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq human rights organisation, told the press on behalf of the groups targetted in the raid.
The office of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) in #Ramallah after the Israeli army raided the place. The army raided and sealed the doors of 7 NGO's that were declared as ”terrorist groups” last year by Defence Minister Gantz. pic.twitter.com/19Vg3X9SAC— Oren Ziv (@OrenZiv_) August 18, 2022
"It is a message to the international community that Israel does not give any importance to international positions, and an attempt to isolate us," he said. "However, we will continue our work, because we don't take our legitimacy from an Israeli military commander, but from our people and Palestinian law, and our work is not a mere job to us, but it is our mission and our belief."
Early on Thursday, Israeli soldiers broke into the offices of Al-Haq human rights organisation, Addameer Prisoners' Support Association and Defense of Children International - Palestine, three of the most prominent Palestinian organisations that document and research human rights in the Palestinian territories.
The other groups targeted in the Israeli raid were the Bisan Research and Development Center, a socio-economic research think tank, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which provides technical support and expertise to Palestinian farmers, and the Union of Women Work Committees, which provides socio-economic support to Palestinian women.
The six organisations were designated as "terrorists" by the Israeli government last October.
Israeli forces also broke into the offices of the Union of Health Work Committees, which was not included in the Israeli designation, but whose general director, Shatha Odeh, had been arrested by Israeli forces for 16 months and released in early June.
"As I arrived at the offices, I found that Israeli soldiers had ceiled the entrance door with a large iron plate and that neighbours had broken and removed it already," Shawan Jabarin, of Al-Haq told The New Arab.
"The door lock was broken and the soldiers came into the premises, but they took nothing, although security cameras show that soldiers roamed inside the offices for some thirty minutes," Jabarin added.
Israeli forces also confiscated computers, printers and even chairs from the offices of the Women Work Committees and Bisan Research and Development Center.
All the organisations' entrances were sealed with iron plates and a printed note from the Israeli military commander was left for all to read. It orders the closure of the premises for "belonging to an illegal organisation and for the security of the region".
"Since the Israeli designation of our organisations as "terrorist" in October, we expected the Israeli forces to close our offices physically, but we didn't expect it to happen so fast," Ubai Aboudi, director of the Bisan research centre, told The New Arab.
"It is not the first time that Israeli forces break into the Bisan centre, so it didn't surprise us. We will continue our work," stressed Aboudi. "We have been receiving countless messages of support from our partners and friends around the world."
The six organisations under target by Israel have filed an objection against their designation and the subsequent Israeli military order to shut down.
On Wednesday, an Israeli government committee gave its final ruling to the objection, rejecting it and ordering the immediate closure of three of the six groups, hours before the actual raid on all six, in addition to the seventh, the Union of Health Work Committees.
The operation was carried out just hours after Israel's West Bank military commander dismissed the NGOs' formal appeals to cancel the designations.— +972 Magazine (@972mag) August 18, 2022
This marks a severe turn in Israel's persecution of Palestinian civil society, pursued with more gall and impunity than ever. pic.twitter.com/BCRzlXFPrS
"This new step makes our work even riskier, as our staff might be subject to arrest," Khaled Quzmar, director of Defense of Children International-Palestine, told The New Arab.
"We work directly with victims of Israeli violations, providing legal aid, psycho-social support and rights awareness to children subjected to Israeli violence and their families," explained Quzmar.
"Just today, we are starting an awareness workshop on children right for 50 children, aged between 13 and 15, but as determined as we might be to continue, families might be afraid to send their children now, and we understand it," he added.
The Israeli move came a month after nine European countries voiced their rejection of the Israeli designation of the groups. The European Union had previously said Israel's case against the groups didn't provide sufficient evidence.
In April, the UN urged governments to continue supporting the Palestinian designated groups after the European Union had suspended support for Al-Haq. In July, the EU resumed its support to the human rights group, qualifying the Israeli accusations of terror against Al-Haq as "unfounded allegations".
Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, condemned Israel's forcible closure of the organisations. He declared that "Palestinian civil society organisations are an integral part of the Palestinian society, legally registered and working under the Palestinian law."
In a visit to Al-Haq's offices in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that his cabinet and the Palestinian Authority "stand by the Palestinian civil society groups, who play a central role and documenting and exposing Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people."
"We call upon the international community to continue supporting these organisations, with whom we [the PA] who are registered and work on Palestinian soil, under Palestinian law, with whom we [the PA] cooperate in the spirit of partnership," he added.
Diplomatic representatives of European countries met on Thursday in Jerusalem to discuss Israel's closure of the Palestinian NGOs and are expected to make a public statement later during the day.