Israel says six Palestinian groups 'illegal' in West Bank

AFP , Sunday 7 Nov 2021

Israel's army on Sunday said six Palestinian civil society groups previously designated as "terrorist" organisations could no longer operate legally in the occupied West Bank.

Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haq human rights group
Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haq human rights group, at the organization s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. AP

Last month, Defence Minister Benny Gantz declared that the prominent organisations were acting in collaboration with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), labelled a terrorist organisation by many Western states.

Those designations sparked outrage among leading international rights groups as well as Israeli ones that partner with the targeted Palestinian organisations.

On Sunday, the army, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, announced that Gantz's decision had been officially implemented in the Palestinian territory.

Army chief for the West Bank, Yehuda Fox, signed an order declaring the six groups "illegal" as they were "part" of the PFLP and "endanger the State of Israel."

The move will exposing the organisations' staff to extra risks.

The groups banned are Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC).

Separately, AFP has obtained a copy of a 74-page dossier prepared by the Shin Bet internal security agency that has Israel has shared with some foreign governments to implicate the groups.

The dossier, first obtained by the Israeli publications +972 Magazine and Local Call, is based substantially on testimony from individuals who were not affiliated any of the targeted groups.

Among them is Said Abedat, who worked as an accountant for a different Palestinian organisation, called the Health Work Committee.

Abedat, identified as a "PFLP operative", claimed in statements given to police that the six groups are staffed by mostly PFLP operatives.

But it is not clear what evidence he offered to support that claim.

Asked about criticism that its dossier lacks firm evidence, the Shin Bet declined to comment.

Prominent Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who is advising one of the targeted groups, Al Haq, told AFP that "no one has provided a shred of evidence" to implicate the organisation.

"The dossier exposed in +972 Magazine is made of absolutely nothing that could remotely justify designations," he said.

The defence ministry has said the groups had hosted PFLP meetings, employed "convicted terrorists" and operated as a "lifeline" for the PFLP through "fundraising, money laundering and recruitment of activists".

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