European countries reject Israel's claims against Palestinian NGOs

Israel backlisted the groups as terrorist organisations last year but has provided little evidence to support its claims.

Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq human rights group, at its offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Nine European countries said on Tuesday they would not change their policies on supporting six Palestinian NGOs as they had seen “no substantial evidence” to support Israel’s accusations that they are terrorist organisations.

Israel backlisted the groups last October but has provided little evidence to support its allegations.

The rights groups denied the allegations and accused Israel of escalating a long-standing crackdown on Palestinian opposition to its decades-long military rule.

“Accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness,” said a statement issued by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

“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 organisations’.

“Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly."

Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Israel accused the groups of serving as a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing movement that has a political party and an armed wing.

It has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis for decades. Israel and western nations consider the PFLP a terrorist organisation.

The blacklisted organisations are the Al Haq human rights group, the Addameer rights group, Defence for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

In its October 22 announcement, the Israeli Defence Ministry said the organisations were “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employ its members, including some who have “participated in terror activity".

It said the groups serve as a “central source” of financing for the PFLP and had received “large sums of money from European countries and international organisations.”

The terror declaration initially appeared to pave the way for Israel to raid their offices, seize assets, arrest staff and criminalise any public expressions of support for the groups. But all six have continued operating.

The Dutch government announced in January that it would stop funding the Union of Agricultural Work Committees after it found evidence that individual staffers were linked to the PFLP.

But it said it found no evidence the group had “organisational ties” to the PFLP or was involved in funding or carrying out terrorism, as Israel had claimed.

Israel has long accused human rights groups and international bodies of being biased against it and of singling it out while ignoring graver breaches by other countries.

Most of the organisations document claims of human rights breaches by Israel and the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel and the PA routinely detain Palestinian activists.

Updated: July 12, 2022, 9:46 PM
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL