Palestinians fume over labelling of NGOs as terrorist organizations

The PA denounced Israel's decision to designate six NGOs as terrorist organizations as an “unhinged assault on Palestinian civil society.”

 Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and several Palestinian factions and civil society groups have condemned Israel’s decision to designate six NGOs as terrorist organizations affiliated with the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

A statement issued by the Defense Ministry on Friday named the six organizations as Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq-Defending Human Rights, Defense for Children – International, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

The six groups “constitute a network of organizations active undercover on the international front on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and are controlled by senior leaders of the PFLP,” the ministry said.

The PA denounced the decision as an “unhinged assault on Palestinian civil society.”

The PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “this fallacious and libelous slander is a strategic assault on Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to oppose Israel’s illegal occupation and expose its continuing crimes.”

Palestinians hold Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) flags, December 23, 2013 (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)Palestinians hold Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) flags, December 23, 2013 (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

The move is “the latest in a systemic and relentless campaign against Palestinian civil society organizations and leading human rights defenders,” the ministry said, warning of “possible serious consequences from this unprecedented assault.”

It called on the international community to rise to the occasion and “defend these organizations’ right to work without persecution and the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to advocate for their freedom.”

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the international community and all human rights organizations to condemn the measure which, he said, “contradicts international resolutions and laws.”

Shtayyeh condemned the move as a “serious violation of international law” and said that the targeted organizations operate in accordance with Palestinian laws.

Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesperson for the ruling Fatah faction, accused the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of seeking to “silence voices that expose its crimes against humanity and its flagrant violations of international and humanitarian law.”

Israel, he added, “is an entity based on dictatorship, and its claim to democracy is a lie and a cover for its crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The PFLP, the second-largest PLO faction after Fatah, did not deny links to the six organizations.

Reacting to the decision, the PFLP said that it constitutes “a continuation of the aggression against the institutions of the Palestinian people and civil society organizations that carry out their role and duty towards the Palestinian people.”

Kayed al-Ghoul, a member of the PFLP political bureau, said in a statement that the Israeli measure “aims to tighten the siege on the Palestinian people and its institutions and prevent NGOs from providing services to the Palestinian people.”

According to al-Ghoul, the decision aims to prevent the NGOs from “exposing Israeli policies and practices at various levels.” The decision, he added, also aims to “divert attention from efforts to prosecute the leaders of the occupying state in European courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

The Palestinians are “proud of the affiliation of any of their sons with any national faction that resists the occupation, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” al-Ghoul said.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) said in a joint statement that the “arbitrary designations target six of the most eminent organizations and human rights defenders engaged in critical human rights work, including the documentation and monitoring of human rights violations, accountability work to prosecute Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, and legal and advocacy efforts to bring Israel’s occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid regime to an end.”

The two groups called on the international community to demand that Israel revoke the decision and "halt the employment of illegal practices and policies of intimidation and harassment.”

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights denounced the decision, saying it was “a continuation of the aggression practiced by the occupation against our people and their national and civil institutions that operate according to Palestinian law, and part of its targeting of the Palestinian narrative because of the important role of Palestinian civil work in pursuing the crimes of the occupation.”

The decision to classify the six NGOs as terrorist organizations is “a continuation of the systematic policy of the Israeli occupation authorities in targeting Palestinian civil society institutions in violation of the rules of international laws, and are crimes that require the prosecution and trial of those involved,” the commission argued.

Al-Haq, one of the six groups declared a terrorist organization, rejected the designation.

“The baseless allegations represent an alarming and unjust escalation of attacks against the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and the right to self-determination,” Al-Haq said in a statement. “Israel’s widespread and systematic smearing of Palestinian human rights NGOs and human rights defenders aims to delegitimize, oppress, silence and drain their work and resources.”

Al-Haq claimed that the Israeli decision came in the immediate aftermath of the opening of an International Criminal Court investigation into Israeli “crimes.”

Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin said that the allegations against his group were the “result of the Israeli failure to challenge the work of the organization on the basis of law or evidence.”

Hamas also condemned the Israeli decision, dubbing it “one of the forms of war waged against the Palestinians and a terrorist act.”

Hazem Qassem, a spokesperson for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said that the decision aims to “weaken the Palestinians and deprive them of the services provided by these organizations.”

“We call for launching a national campaign to confront the decisions of the occupation against our national civil institutions,” he said.  “We call on the international community not to deal with the false Zionist narrative and expose the Zionist terrorism that stands behind such decisions.”