The UN, European Union, US and Amnesty International have expressed concern over Israeli raids on seven West Bank-based Palestinian civil society organisations.
Before dawn on Thursday, Israeli troops broke into the offices of the organisations. Following searches, they seized computers and documents, and sealed the premises. Israel has argued that the organisations are “terrorist” and “unlawful”, citing unsubstantiated ties to the Israeli-outlawed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The UN Human Rights Office (UNHCR) said: “Despite offers to do so, Israeli authorities have not presented to the United Nations any credible evidence to justify these declarations.” UNHCR accused Israel of seeking to shrink the scope of Palestinian rights work and said: “Human rights defenders must be immediately protected from these unjustified attacks.”
EU chief diplomat Joseph Borrell’s spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said: “The EU will continue to stand by international law and support civil society organisations.”
After expressing US concern, state department spokesman Ned Price said: “We have not changed our position or approach to these organisations. We have seen nothing in recent months to change [our position].”
Amnesty International’s regional deputy director Amna Guellali said: “These organisations have contributed enormously to human rights in the [occupied Palestinian territories] and across the globe, yet Israeli army boots trample all over their work.”
Amnesty called “on all governments to condemn the Israeli army’s attacks on Palestinian civil society”, to press for the organisations’ reinstatement and support international court investigations into Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
Last October Israel banned six of the organisations: Al-Haq (a human rights organisation), prisoner support group Addameer, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, and Defence for Children International – Palestine. The European Commission suspended funding to two organisations but resumed it in June. Ireland continued to support al-Haq and Addameer and urged the commission to restore funding.
The seventh organisation to be outlawed by Israel is the Union of Health Workers Committees, which operates hospitals and clinics across the West Bank.
A-Haq’s staff wrenched off the metal sheet covering its doorway and returned to work despite the confiscation of equipment and files. Established in 1979, al-Haq is an award-winning organisation which documents Israeli and Palestinian Authority human rights violations.
Al-Haq’s director of programmes Tahkeem Alyan told Middle East Eye the raid was “expected” due to “continuous Israeli incitement against Palestinian institutions”. He said attacks on al-Haq have increased since it reported Israel’s actions to the International Criminal Court. “Israel does not want anyone to hold it accountable for its crimes, and to be brought to trial.”
To justify the raids, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the terror designation of three organisations had become law while three others had appeals rejected. The seventh was banned in 2020.
The Irish Times received no reply to a request for comment from the Israeli press office.