Calls have grown to reverse Israel’s designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organisations.
The label effectively outlaws the rights groups. Some have close ties with rights organisations in Israel and abroad.
Israel claims the affected groups are a front for a small faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) with a violent history, known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israel’s terror label for the six groups, including some that receive European funding, appears to have caught the US and Europe off guard.
Israel later insisted some officials from the administration of US President Joe Biden were notified in advance.
The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalise funding and expressions of support.
Rights groups expressed outrage over the “terror” label.
Palestinian activists said they were counting on international pressure to have the decision reversed.
“We hope that the International community will put enough pressure on Israel so that it will back down,” said Ubai Al Aboudi, head of the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, one of the affected groups.
Mr Al Aboudi said he was previously charged by Israel with being a PFLP member, but denied ever belonging to the group.
Sahar Francis, the director of the prisoner rights group Addameer, said she was grateful for the international statements of support, and that “we expect this campaign and pressure to continue in order for it to be fruitful.”
Addameer is also one of the affected groups.
Shawan Jabarin, who heads the veteran rights group Al Haq, said Israel’s designation came as a surprise and that the groups had not been given notice. Two of the six groups said they would not be forced underground despite the uncertainty of their new status.
An Israeli defence official alleged on Saturday that the six groups “operate as an organised network” under the leadership of the PFLP. The official said the groups serve as a lifeline for the PFLP through fund-raising, money laundering and recruiting activists.
The six groups have denied the allegations and denounced Israel’s terrorism designation as an attempt to silence reporting on rights abuses in the occupied territories, mainly by Israel, but also by the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian autonomy government.
The six groups denied the allegations and have denounced Israel’s terrorism designation as an attempt to silence reporting on rights abuses in the occupied territories, mainly by Israel, but also by the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian autonomy government.
The UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory said the reasons cited by Israel’s defence minister were “vague or irrelevant” and denounced his decision as the latest move in a “long stigmatising campaign” against the organisations.
The EU delegation to the Palestinian territories acknowledged financing activities by some of the rights groups. It said past allegations of the misuse of EU funds by partners “have not been substantiated” but that it takes the matter seriously and is looking into it.