Palestinian NGO head: Calling us terrorists imperils Israeli democracy

Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, one of the NGO’s targeted by Gantz said: "The laws used to target Palestinians can be used against everyone."

 Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israeli democracy is endangered by Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s classification of six Palestinian non-governmental groups as terrorist organizations, Palestinian activists told their Israeli counterparts at a meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday.

“This decision is dangerous, dangerous not only for us,” said Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, one of the NGO’s targeted by Gantz.

“The laws used to target Palestinians can be used against everyone,” she said.

 Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin and Sahar Francis, director of Addameer.  (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF) Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin and Sahar Francis, director of Addameer. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Francis said the terrorist organization was particularly surprising given the work her group had done this year with Israeli organizations on COVID-19 assistance.

“It is really schizophrenic. Many colleagues here know me for many years. It was quite a surprise for them to hear that I am a terrorist.” Francis said, adding a bit of gallows humor.

Gantz has not provided any proof to back his claim, which has been widely condemned by the international community, including the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

On Monday, EU Representative to the Palestinians Sven Kühn Von Burgsdorff visited the six Palestinian NGOs Gantz targeted. On Wednesday, representatives of some 25 Israeli non-governmental groups paid a solidarity visit to the Al-Haq office in Ramallah to voice their opposition to the terrorist designation.

The groups included left-wing NGOs such as B’Tselem, Ir Amim and HaMoked.

B’Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad said Gantz’s actions were the latest move by Israel to oppress Palestinians.

Specifically, he mentioned the NGOs’ role in submitting material against Israel to international organizations, such as the International Criminal Court. The ICC is now weighing whether to allow Israelis to be sued for war crimes against Palestinians.

“None of our colleagues standing in this room will be investigated in The Hague, but Defense Minister Gantz will,” El-Ad said. “Gantz is personally responsible in his role as chief of staff for crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. It is therefore clear why Gantz wants to define the organizations that expose them as ‘terrorist’ organizations,” he added.

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin called on the international community to come to the assistance of the NGOs by pushing Israel to rescind the classification.

“This is testing the international community,” Jabarin said. “We need the international community to stand behind the values we represent.”

On Wednesday, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the EU was in “touch with Israeli authorities to seek clarification” about the terrorist designations. “We were not informed in advance of these designations and have not received detailed evidence.”

He said previous allegations against Palestinian civil society organizations have not been substantiated.