Closure of Palestinian NGOs shuts off int’l institutions from outside world
Palestinian NGOs which have been closed in recent Israeli raid may have no ability to continue operation despite the UN and European government promises to maintain their relations; hence, shut off from the outside world, experts say.
Share It :
Last week, Israeli forces raided and closed the offices of seven Palestinian NGOs: Al-Haq; Addameer; the Bisan Center for Research & Development; Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP); the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Health Workers Committees (UHWC).
"The raid and closure of the organizations’ offices and the targeting of the general directors already makes it harder for these organizations to normally continue with their work and cooperation with other states and institutions," attorney Rabea Eghbariah of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said.
For months, Israel has been working to outlaw these groups. In October, Israel declared all of the groups, except UHWC, "terrorist groups" - a claim repeatedly denied by the NGOs.
Israel then delivered classified intelligence dossiers to Europe and the US, explaining the claims that the groups had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist political party with a paramilitary branch.
So far, the European Union has rejected Israel's actions, saying in a nine-member joint statement that they would "continue to stand by international law and support [civil society organizations] that have a role to play in promoting international law, human rights, and democratic values".
The United Nations also condemned Israel's move and the UN experts called on the international community to continue, and even increase, its funding of the groups.
Eghbariah added that while Israel's designation does not have any international jurisdiction - and so far no other country has followed Israel's lead - the terror labelling may still "expose third parties to liability under Israeli law and deter international actors from cooperating with, platforming or funding these institutions".
The attorney for Adalah, which is representing the six organizations, added that the issuance of travel bans, prison sentences, and the seizure of funding all are real and tangible obstacles that could impede the groups' work at home and abroad.
Travel bans have already been used against the directors of two organizations - Sahar Francis of Addameer and Ubai Aboudi of Bisan - when they were refused entry to the US. Meanwhile, Khaled Quzmar, general director of DCI-Palestine, was arrested by Israel over the weekend.
Civil society organizations, a key pillar in the social and economic development of Palestinians living in territories occupied since 1967, obtain most of their funding from donor states abroad.
So when Israel moved to label the groups as "terrorists", many experts saw it as a plan to cut off their international funding streams.
"Most people looked at these designations when they first came out 10 months ago and understood this to be an effort to cut off international funding to them. If you cut off international funding to them, they're no longer able to function," Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace said.
The concerns turned into a reality when in May 2021, European donors of two of the groups - Al-Haq and PCHR - halted and in June, following a 13-month suspension of funding, the EU announced it would resume funding after it found "no suspicions of irregularities and/or fraud" and "did not find sufficient ground to open an investigation".
But even though the donors have recommitted to funding the Palestinian NGOs, Israel's domestic actions against them may make it difficult for Palestinian civil society to utilize or even obtain the funds they need to operate.