Israel labels six Palestinian NGOs as ‘terrorist’ organisations, approves new settlements
According to Israeli Defence Minister Gantz, the targeted groups are linked to the militant group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His decision has been criticised by international NGOs and human rights groups. For Human Rights Watch, it is a “brazen” attack against freedom. B'Tselem calls it a move worthy of “totalitarian regimes”. Over 1,300 new housing units are slated for construction in the West Bank.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Friday declared six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organisations.
For Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director, this is a “brazen attack” and a "dangerous escalation" that threatens to “cripple” the work of Palestinian civil society groups against “Israeli human rights abuses”.
According to Israel, the targeted charities and advocacy groups have links with militant movements, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
According to Israel’s Defence Ministry, the groups are “part of a network of organisations operating under cover in the international arena” on behalf of the PFLP, a Marxist-Leninist group.
Two of the six groups targeted by Israel are Addameer, a prominent organisation that supports Palestinian political prisoners, and Al-Haq, a major human rights advocate that works with the United Nations.
The other four are the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and Defence for Children International-Palestine.
For Defence Minister Gantz, these NGOs operate “under the guise of ‘civil society organization’, but in practice belong” to a terrorist group whose purpose is to “destroy Israel”.
All the organisations targeted by the government are said to be controlled by the PFLP and use “operatives who were involved in terrorist activities”.
The United States is among those surprised by the decision. The US State Department contacted Israeli authorities to request more information.
In a rare rebuke against the Jewish state, State Department spokesperson Ned Price called for “respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society”.
For Amir Makhoul, a leading Palestinian activist and writer who spent 10 years in Israeli jails, “The Israeli defence minister's decision is a clear and direct targeting of human rights organisations that present the most credible case of Palestinian human rights before the criminal courts and international institutions."
Criticisms also come from B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, for whom the decision “is a move that characterises totalitarian regimes”. Israel’s “current government,” it says, “is not a government of change but a continuation government of the violent apartheid regime that has been in place for many years between the sea and Jordan river”.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities yesterday announced the construction of 1,300 new homes in the occupied territories of the West Bank, in addition to the 2,000 already approved in August.
According to reports from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the new houses will be built in seven different settlements starting with 729 in the town of Ariel, in the north.
Israeli lawmaker Mossi Raz, from Meretz, told the Times of Israel newspaper that the “building settlements outside Israel harms Israel”.
Hagit Ofran from the anti-settlement group Peace Now said plans to build new homes will complicate any efforts to create a Palestinian state.
Palestinians see the building of more settlements as the death knell of any hope left for a two-state solution.