JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Friday effectively outlawed six prominent Palestinian human rights groups by declaring them terrorist organizations, a major escalation of its decades-long crackdown on political activism in the occupied territories.
The declaration appeared to pave the way for Israel to raid their offices, seize assets, arrest staff and criminalize any public expressions of support for the groups. Most of the targeted organizations document alleged human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.
Israeli and international rights groups condemned the move as an assault on civil society and expressed solidarity with the targeted organizations. Many noted that Israel already outlaws even peaceful political activities in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians want the territory — which Israel captured in the 1967 war — to form the main part of their future state.
The designated groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, as well as the Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said they are secretly linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular, left-wing movement with a political party as well as an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel and Western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organization.
The ministry’s statement was released during the Israeli and Palestinian weekend. Representatives from the targeted organizations could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Defense Ministry said the organizations are “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 organizations," without elaborating.
Israel has long accused human rights groups and international bodies of being biased against it and of singling it out while ignoring graver violations by other countries.