Jerusalem24– The European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Office is not expected to open an investigation into six Palestinian NGOs declared as “terrorist organizations” by Israel, according to European sources quoted by Haaretz.
One diplomat told Haaretz that the evidence submitted by Israel to the EC regarding the NGOs alleged terrorist links “doesn’t meet the required threshold of proof.”
“It’s simple, we were given evidence, and we did not find it to be compelling enough.”
A placid response from Palestinian civil society
Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed the order designating six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist organizations on 19 October 2021, namely Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).
The six organizations denied all accusations, and released multiple statements including joint statements with different human rights and civil society organizations condemning the Israeli attack on civil society.
Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin spoke to Jerusalem24 following the news of the developments at the European Commision. “We are not in a defensive position; we have continued our work. The Israeli decision is a political decision.”
“They took this decision but they failed to dry up our resources. They tried to silence us, and failed to push us back from our mission and the work that we do in accountability when it comes to the International Criminal Court.”
– Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin
In May 2021 the European Commission suspended its financial support of Al-Haq – even before Gantz had issued his order – after Israel presented arguments about the organization’s alleged ties to the PFLP. The European Commission also froze its funding of the UAWC, via Oxfam.
Jabarin says, “When the EU terminated the project with Al-Haq, they violated their principles and values, they also violated the articles of the contract between us and them. […] If something like this were to happen in any other place the EU would have reacted directly in strong words and a clear position – but this is not the case when it comes to Palestinian civil society organizations.”
Global condemnation of attacks on civil society
A joint statement undersigned by 24 Palestinian and Israeli human rights and civil society organizations in October 2021 described the order as “a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work. Documentation, advocacy, and legal aid are fundamental activities for the protection of human rights worldwide.”
United Nations human rights experts also condemned the order, stating: “This designation would effectively ban the work of these human rights defenders, and allow the Israeli military to arrest their staff, shutter their offices, confiscate their assets and prohibit their activities and human rights work.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, which issued its first report last Tuesday, also took note of “the increasing attacks on and efforts to silence human rights defenders and civil society organizations.”
“Silencing the voices of civil society deprives Palestinians of one of the few remaining avenues of redress and advocacy in seeking to ensure their fundamental human rights.”
– UN Commission of Inquiry on the oPt, East Jerusalem, and Israel
Will the Europeans follow through?
In response to a statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry that they nevertheless expected European countries to abide by Israel’s terror designation and block aid to the organizations, Jabarin says: “This is up to them. If they don’t want to change their position, we are going to keep continuing our work. We have our partners and principal partners who are ready to stand strongly behind us, we will continue fighting for justice for Palestinians.”
Most European countries’ representatives have as of yet avoided making public statements about their position, in part because they are waiting for the EU to declare its conclusion on the matter.
“This is a challenge for the Europeans as individual countries and as a collective European Union,” says Jabarin. “They have to take action and respond to the Israeli statement – and respond by actions not just by words, […] by supporting the Palestinian organizations politically, financially and legally.”
“That is what we need – if they do believe in the importance of the civil society and they want to maintain the relationship with civil society and not impose any conditions on their contracts.”