Israel Raids Outlawed Palestinian Rights Groups’ Offices in West Bank

Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared six Palestinian human rights groups terrorist organizations in 2021, however, several European countries claim Israel had failed to prove these allegations

The Israeli army raided the offices of several prominent Palestinian human rights organizations in the West Bank on Thursday, groups which it had declared illegal over alleged links to terrorism back in October.

One of the groups, Al-Haq, reported that Israeli soldiers stormed its Ramallah offices and left a military order declaring the organization illegal.

Three additional organizations, Addameer, Bisan Research Center and the Union of Palestinian Committees, were also reportedly raided. Addameer reported that Israeli forces broke down its office doors and confiscated material.

Michael Sfard, the lawyer who represents Al-Haq, denounced the raid as a ‘despicable act by the Defense Minister meant to thwart the investigation in The Hague (in which [Gantz] may be a suspect himself) while behaving like the last of the dictators acting against prominent human rights defenders with the power of the gun.

‘Let’s recall that this is all happening after the government failed to convince the European countries who one by one determined that there is no basis for the accusations against the organizations. An urgent international intervention is needed to protect Palestinian human rights defenders from the Israeli dictatorship.’

The IDF spokesperson reported that Israeli soldiers and border police, raided overnight Palestinian groups that form part of a network run by the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine terror group (PFLP). The forces shut down seven institutions and confiscated material belonging to the groups. During the operation the soldiers used riot control equipment to combat stone throwers and Molotov cocktails hurled at them.

Last October, the Defense Ministry claimed six Palestinian organizations were part of a network operated by the PFLP. Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order declaring the groups Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees as terrorist organizations. The organizations deny this allegation.

Thursday’s early morning raids represent a serious escalation just a month after the country’s Defense Ministry demanded that lawyers representing the six Palestinian NGOs designated as terror groups receive official permission from the finance and defense ministers to represent the organizations, or face a prison sentence of up to seven years.

The new requirement came just two days ahead of a hearing on the legality of the decision to outlaw the organizations. Sfard said it was ‘extremely difficult to avoid interpreting it [the demand] as a government threat made against a lawyer engaging in entirely legal work.’

In the face of Israeli moves to shutter the organizations, several European countries issued a joint statement last month saying they will continue working with them because Israel had failed to prove its claim that they should be considered terrorist organizations.