US Rep. calls Blinken to pressure on ‘Israel’ to reverse outlawing Palestinian NGOs

Washington (QNN)- Member of US House of Representatives, James McGovern, has sent a letter to Secretary of State, calling him to “firmly and unambiguously denounce” Israel’s outlawing of six Palestinian human rights groups.

“I write to express my grave concern over the October 22nd decision of Israeli Defense
Minister Benny Gantz to designate six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations,” the US Congress member, representing Massachusetts’s 2nd congressional district, wrote in his letter to Antony Blinken.

“If the order is left in place, it will allow the Israeli government to close these organizations’ offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their staff,” he added.

“Action against these NGOs escalated on Sunday, November 7’h, when the chief of the
Israeli army’s Central Command, who oversees activity in the West Bank, also signed an order
declaring the six Palestinian NGOs terror groups, thereby extending Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s declaration to the West Bank and seriously hindering the groups’ ability to operate.”

“Prior to Sunday’s action, the groups could still legally work in the West Bank, where they were
registered and active, regardless of Israel designating them terrorist organizations. The new order means that the Israeli army can act against these organizations immediately, arrest their employees on suspicion of membership in a terror group, raid their offices and confiscate
equipment where they operate in the West Bank.”

McGovern also welcomed the State Department’s expressed concern about Israel’s October 22nd decision and its request for clarification on these designations from the Israeli occupation government.

Since the initial announcement, press reports by Israeli and international media have appeared regarding the lack of proof to justify the terror label for these Palestinian groups, he wrote, adding he “respectfully
ask you to share with me the steps taken by the State Department to review these

“I urge you to take up the matter directly with the Government of Israel and ask that it reverse this decision. Given Sunday’s declaration to extend the designation to
the NGOs’ West Bank operations, it is even more urgent that the United States respond.”

McGovern said that many of these human rights organizations work closely with the
international community to develop Palestinian civil society, document human rights violations,
and defend Palestinians in Israeli courts.

“The Israeli government has targeted these organizations for decades because of their human rights activism, arresting and detaining staff, raiding their offices, targeting them for surveillance by state intelligence agencies, and making similar accusations to these organizations’ donors,” he noted.

“According to recent media reports, intelligence surveillance included using Pegasus spyware to hack their personal phones. Past Israeli accusations that these groups are linked to terrorist groups have been investigated and rejected by the United Nations, the European Union, and U.S. officials.”

McGovern called on Blinken to “firmly and unambiguously denounce the actions taken and urge the Israeli government to reverse its

Israeli War Ministry on 19 October 2021 issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.”

The Israeli War Minister office claimed that the six groups were “part of a network of organisations operating undercover in the international arena” on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist Palestinian resistance group, which was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in 1997 by the US State Department.

The groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.

The designation, made pursuant to a 2016 Israeli statute, effectively outlaws the activities of these civil society groups.

It authorizes Israeli occupation authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.

On November 7, the Israeli forces announced that the War Ministry’s designation had been implemented after occupied West Bank Army Chief Yehuda Fox signed an order declaring the six groups “illegal” claiming they were “part” of the PFLP and “endanger the State of Israel”.

The US State Department said that it would seek clarification from Israel after it declared the six Palestinian groups as terrorist organisations, noting that Washington was not warned of the move.

“We’ll be engaging our Israelis partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing with reporters.

Later, a representative from Israel’s internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet, tasked with briefing the U.S. Congress headed to the United States to justify the six groups being outlawed.

Israeli Haaretz said the representative presented evidence on an unrelated organization.

According to the Israeli newspaper, the 74-page document had previously been presented to European diplomats in May in an attempt to convince them to stop funding the organizations.

Sources who were shown it at the time said it did not convince them.

According to sources, Haaretz said, additional evidence was presented to the U.S. State Department and other officials with higher security clearances.

The Shin Bet’s document quotes one of them linking PFLP to Addameer, Al-Haq, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defence for Children International – Palestine.

“The institutions belonging to the Popular Front are related to one another and are the organisations’ lifeblood economically and organisationally. In other words, laundering money and funding the operations of the Popular Front,” Haaretz reported, citing the document.

Some Israeli analysts concluded the Shin Bet’s document does not offer concrete proof that the six human rights NGOs were used as a front for the PFLP.

Israel’s decision sparked a swift backlash around the globe, with the EU, US Jewish NGOs, progressive Democrats, and international human rights organizations expressing criticism.

The UN Security Council held a closed-door meeting to consider the matter, following which France, Estonia, Norway, Ireland and Albania called on ‘Israel’ to provide evidence for Gantz’s allegations.

At the end of October, independent UN human rights experts called the initial decision “a frontal attack on the Palestinian  human rights movement, and on human rights everywhere.”

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT, Lynn Hastings, said “these allegations are taken very seriously.”

According to her, however, none of the UN agencies, nor AIDA, have received written documentation which could serve as a basis for these allegations.

“We will continue to engage with all relevant partners for more information”, Mrs. Hastings explained.

(Source / 15.11.2021)

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