Jerusalem24 – Israeli forces raided human rights organization Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah this morning, confiscating documents and equipment, and sealing the main door with an iron plate. The army pinned to the metal plate a military order for the closure of Al-Haq, which further declares the organization unlawful.
The offices of five other NGOs were raided, namely Defense for Children International-Palestine, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
These civil society organizations are the six organizations outlawed by Israel in October 2021 for purportedly practicing terrorism. Israel has never offered any evidence of the six NGOs’ involvement in terrorist activities, and both the European Commission and individual EU countries, which have expressed doubt about the accusations since the beginning, resumed their financial aid to the organizations in July this year.
According to Al-Haq, the European Commission had already established by July 2021 that there was no indication of fraud in the organizations’ activities, and Al-Haq officially took the Commission to court when it kept its funding suspended despite the absence of evidence of fraud.
A seventh organization, the Union of Health Work Committees, was also raided. Director Shatha Odeh Abu Fannouneh was arrested by Israeli authorities in July 2021 and released in June 2022.
Late last night, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced the permanent designation of three of the NGOs as “terrorist organizations,” namely Bisan, the Union of Women’s Committees, and Addameer.
Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard, who represents Al-Haq along with lawyer Alon Sapir in Israeli courts as part of their ongoing challenge to the government’s terrorist designation, issued a statement on Facebook this morning:
*The only reason* for the announcement is the desire to thwart the investigation of the International Criminal Court (in which Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who signed the announcements in Israel, is probably a suspect himself). Israel behaves like a typical dictatorship, targeting human rights defenders, raiding the offices of human rights organizations, and making use of the power of the gun to silence criticism of its actions.
International intervention is urgently required.”
A little over a month ago, Sfard and at least two other Israeli lawyers representing several of the NGOs received a letter from the Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Defense stating they were guilty of terrorism for representing terrorist organizations and receiving payment from them.
Sfard wrote at the time: “In view of the timing and significance of the letter, it is very difficult not to interpret it as a threat by the government towards a lawyer whose work is strictly legal.”