RAMALLAH: Officials at the United Nations have urged the international community to acknowledge the lack of evidence against the six Palestinian human rights organizations that Israel sanctioned and designated as “terrorist groups” in October 2021, and called on governments worldwide to resume funding those organizations.
The six groups are Al-Haq; Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association; Defense for Children International — Palestine; Bisan Center for Research and Development; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
The officials criticized Israel for failing to provide any credible evidence against the organizations after banning them. They also expressed concern that Israel is abusing anti-terror laws to target and persecute Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations.
Shawan Jabarin, director of Ramallah-based Al-Haq, called the appeal against the ban “an important message from professional bodies that enjoy international respect. Although it is not binding, it reveals the falsehood of the Israeli occupation narrative.”
He told Arab News that Israel’s decision was political, not legal, and that countries’ response to it was determined by their relationship with Israel.
Jabarin believes that Israel is angered by the activities of Palestinian civil rights groups, including Al-Haq, which he said confronts Israel at international forums and exposes the crimes committed by the Israeli military and politicians against the Palestinians, including war crimes punishable under international law.
“It was easier for Israel to make a political decision and consider us a terrorist organization after it tried for 15 years to dry up our financial resources, attack our computers, and put pressure on our funders to stop their support,” said Jabarin.
Palestinian human rights institutions, including Al-Haq, played an essential role in preparing cases for the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli war crimes.
Al-Haq pursued foreign companies that invested in Israeli settlements and forced them to withdraw those investments, which they were told were in violation of international law.
Ghassan Al-Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst, told Arab News: “Israel has a problem with the work of Palestinian human rights institutions because they have recently succeeded in embarrassing Israel internationally over the issues of arresting children and torture. (It wants to) silence these voices that (turn) international public opinion against it.”
Al-Khatib said the harassment and persecution of these organizations has given their work and activities greater credibility internationally, especially after Israel failed to deliver on its promise to provide evidence linking the organizations to terrorism.
Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, which defends jailed Palestinians, told Arab News: “At first, Israel claimed that it had a secret file that proves the six institutions’ relationship with terrorism, but the world told Israel that a secret file cannot be used against human rights institutions and that evidence must be presented.
“We call on countries that have stopped supporting Palestinian institutions due to false Israeli accusations to resume support,” he continued.
Francis claimed that most countries have continued supporting the six institutions, except for those in the European Union.