The authorities of the Al-Haq organization, in front of the press after the closure of their offices, in Ramallah, in the West Bank, this Thursday. Photo: REUTERS
Israel raided and closed the Ramallah headquarters of six Palestinian organizations it declared “terrorist” last year on Thursday.
It was a further step in what human rights groups and parts of the international community see as part of a strategy to silence and intimidate Palestinian civil society.
The Israeli army broke into the offices of these NGOs in Ramallah, West Bank, by force at dawn, searched them, seized documents and materials and even sealed the entrance with a metal plate to some of them.
The operation took place in the occupied West Bank area, where Israeli troops can in principle access only for security reasons in coordination with the Palestinian National Authority, which it condemned Israeli actions and called for an urgent reaction from the international community.
The headquarters of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, in Ramallah, after Thursday’s raid. Photo: AFP
sealed with iron
“This morning, the Israeli occupation forces broke into Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah, confiscated items and sealed the main entrance with an iron plate, leaving behind a military order declaring the organization illegal.” Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO dedicated to monitoring respect for human rights in the occupied territories, said the first hour on his Twitter account.
Israeli forces also ransacked and closed down the Bisan Research and Development Center, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the International Children’s Defense, the Union of Agricultural Labor Committees and the Human Rights Association. and support for prisoners (Addameer), all of them declared “terrorists” from Israel in October last year.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the operation “a blatant crime and an attack not only against Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations, but also against international organizations”.
NGOs accused of being terrorist groups have decades of experience in social activism in the Palestinian territories and all of them were members of respected international organizations and received funds from abroad, mainly from Europe. That is why Abbas urged the international community to “take urgent measures to protect the Palestinian people”.
As a gesture of support, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Shtayeh, went to the Al-Haq facilities, where he met with representatives of the affected organizations, encouraged them to “keep working” and congratulated them on their work.
“These organizations operate within the limits of Palestinian jurisdiction, respect Palestinian laws and that is why we authorize them. Israel’s allegations are baseless,” Shtayeh said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayeh with members of the Al-Haq Foundation after Thursday’s Israeli raid. Photo: AFP
The workers of these NGOs have stressed their intention to continue working and not be intimidated. “We are not just employees, we believe in what we do, we are human rights defenders and we act on our beliefs. We will not allow anyone, the Israeli occupation forces or anyone else, to stop us from doing our job, which is 100 % legal. “” Al-Haq’s legal expert Tasheen Elayan told EFE.
Elayan told about it Israeli troops also raided and vandalized the entrance to the Anglican church of St. Andrewas Al-Haq’s offices are on the floor above it, and it was the neighbors themselves who removed the iron plate as soon as the soldiers left.
“Nobody likes going to jail, but if I have to go to jail for something I believe in, why not?” Elayan speculated.
Defense for Children International director Khaled Quzmar, who has been accustomed to “attacks by Israeli far-right groups and their security forces” for years, shares this view.
“They failed in their attempt to silence us, to stop our work, which is why this escalation started last year when they broke into our offices for the first time and then declared us a terrorist organization.” Quzmar explained to EFE, who insists Israel still did not submit the alleged evidence of its ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), considered terrorist by Israel, the US and the EU.
The arguments of Israel
Israel claims that the six NGOs have acted as weapons of the PFLP for years by raising funds and recruiting members for them, but these organizations have filed an appeal against their designation as terrorists because the Israeli authorities have not presented any evidence in this regard.
Both the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli army – the competent authorities in the occupied territories – have refused these resources. For this reason, on Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, have ratified their designation as terrorist groupswhich has opened the doors to forced closures and seizures of assets, in addition to the possible prosecution of its members.
Israel’s actions against these Palestinian NGOs have also been rejected by the international organizations collaborating with them and, more recently, by the Foreign Ministries of Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.
“Allegations of terrorism must always be treated with the utmost rigor. The appointments have been the subject of a broad and careful consideration. No substantial information has been received from Israel to justify a review of our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs based on of the Israeli decision to appoint them. ” as ‘terrorist organizations’, “the countries said in a joint statement in July.
Sarah Gomez weapons