Nine European nations condemned the IDF raid Thursday on the offices of seven Palestinian nongovernmental organizations it designated as terror groups, while the United States separately voiced its concern.
“These actions are not acceptable,” the nine countries said in a joint statement. It was issued Friday by the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
“The further reduction of civil space in the oPt [Occupied Palestinian Territories] remains a source of concern. We stand firm with NGOs to uphold the right to freedom of expression and association in the oPt,” they said. “A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for a two-state solution.”
These European nations have been at odds with Israel over its designation in October of six NGOs as terror organizations, explaining that Israel has not shown them compelling evidence to back up that claim.
They reiterated this point in their statement on Friday.
“No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations.’
“Should convincing evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly,” the nine European countries stated.
“No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations.’ Should convincing evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly,”Nine European nations
The six NGOs in question are Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
In January 2020, Israel had also designated the Union of Health Work Committees as a terror group for its affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The IDF and the Border Police raided the offices of all seven and sealed their doors, even though they are located in Area A of the West Bank, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
US responds to NGO closure
“There must be a very high bar to take action against civil society organizations,” Price said, adding that Israel has explained to the US that the information it has on the NGOs meets that standard.
“We have reached out to the Israeli government, including at senior levels” with a request to view that information, he said.
Officials from the US Embassy in Jerusalem and from Washington asked Israel “for more information regarding the basis for those closures,” Price said.
The US is “concerned” by the closures and “will continue to seek additional information and to convey our concern directly and privately to our Israeli partners,” he said. “Our Israeli partners in turn have assured us that more information will be forthcoming regarding the basis for their actions.
“We have made clear... that independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and Israel must be able to continue their important work,” Price said, adding that a review of the information Israel has provided to the US on these organizations in the past has not caused the Biden administration to change its designation.
The US has neither funded these seven NGOs nor declared them to be terror organizations.
Price clarified that the US designated the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1997. Israel has claimed that these seven NGOs have funneled aid to the PFLP and are affiliated with it.
“We have not seen anything that has caused us to change our approach to our position on these organizations,” Price said.
EU delegation visits Ramallah
On Thursday afternoon, EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff led a delegation of diplomats to Ramallah to pay a solidarity visit.
“The EU 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,” his office tweeted after the visit.
The United Nations similarly condemned the move and said it had similarly not received any information from Israel that proved that these organizations were engaged in terror activity.
The six NGOs issued a statement saying that on Thursday morning, “armed military forces bashed through the front doors of the offices, welded iron slabs over their entrances and affixed to each a military order for the immediate closure of the organization and their offices.
“Private property and information from three of the offices were seized, adjoining properties damaged and military debris, including sponge-grenades, tear-gas canisters, and rubber-coated and live bullets, were left around the properties,” the statement said.
“The violent enforcement of these designations impose financial and safety risks upon these organizations, as their finances and assets may be confiscated and their staff members directly targeted, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned,” the NGOs said.
They accused the IDF of attempting to “dismantle crucial mechanisms that work to uphold human rights.” The groups called on the international community to urgently intervene against Israel’s actions and work collectively to demand the rescinding of the designations.