Palestinian rights campaigner refuses Israeli interrogation

Shawan Jabarin was told to report to an Israeli military prison, an order with which he refused to comply

Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq human rights group. AP
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Israel tried to summon a Palestinian rights campaigner for questioning on Sunday, as it pressed ahead with a crackdown on rights groups in the West Bank.

European and US diplomats have rejected Israel's claims that the groups concerned are linked to terrorism.

The order for Shawan Jabarin to report to a military prison followed a widely criticised raid last week on six Palestinian civil society organisations in the occupied West Bank.

Nine European countries, using uncharacteristically blunt language, called the raid “not acceptable,” while the US expressed concern.

Mr Jabarin, who is director of one of the targeted groups, Al Haq, said on Sunday that he received a five-minute “threatening call” from Israel’s Shin Bet security service ordering him to go to the Ofer military prison in the West Bank.

He said an officer threatened him with arrest, interrogation and “other things” if he did not comply.

“I will not change my mind but if he wants to arrest me then he can surely do it as an occupying power,” Mr Jabarin said.

He said he invited the officer to Al Haq office and that he demanded the summons to be sent officially through lawyers, not over the phone.

The Shin Bet did not respond to a request for comment.

Israeli forces raid NGOs in Ramallah - in pictures

Israel last year outlawed six rights groups, including Al Haq, claiming they had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PFLP is a secular, left-wing movement with a political party and an armed wing. It has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel and the US have designated the PFLP a terrorist organisation.

The rights groups deny the Israeli allegations. Mr Jabarin called the claims of PFLP ties “utter nonsense and complete lies".

Nine European countries have also rejected the Israeli charges, due to a lack of evidence.

Despite the criticism, Israeli soldiers last Thursday entered the West Bank city of Ramallah in an armored convoy and blew up the front doors of the Palestinian groups’ offices.

Soldiers seized documents and computers, and broke furniture and appliances before sealing the entrances.

Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden intensified their criticism of Israel over the weekend, saying the latest raids were “part of a worrying reduction of space for civil society” for Palestinians.

“These actions are not acceptable,” they said in a joint statement, adding they had seen no evidence of extremist links.

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US State Department spokesman Ned Price last week said Washington was “concerned” about the raids and closures but Israel had pledged to provide more information.

Western diplomats visited one of the offices hours later in a show of support for the outlawed groups.

The groups raided include Al Haq, a veteran, internationally respected Palestinian rights group; Addameer, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel; Defence for Children International Palestine; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Bisan Centre for Research and Development.

On Sunday, about 45 Israeli and Jewish advocacy groups issued a statement in solidarity with the raided Palestinian groups.

“Defence of human rights is not terrorism,” it read. “We repudiate these baseless declarations and call on the international community to pressure Israel to revoke its decision.”

Major Israeli human rights groups, including B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and the liberal pro-Israel group J Street were among the signatories.

Rights defenders have described the raid as part of a decades-long crackdown in the occupied territories on political activism.

“We know that there is a price to defend rights and citizens and we are moving forward,” Mr Jabarin said.

Updated: August 22, 2022, 7:15 AM
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