19 Aug 2022 7:15 am
Israeli forces have broken into, looted, locked down and barred the offices of seven organizations. Israel is thus expanding its campaign against civil society groups who dare to criticize its policies.
Hours after a Palestinian was shot dead in armed clashes following an Israeli raid in the occupied northern West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli army has entered the offices of several Palestinian legal, health and other interest groups, sealing the front doors and leaving notes , which they declared closed.
In October 2021, six of the organizations raided by Israel had been declared “terrorist” organizations and banned on the pretext of having ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Israel has so far provided little evidence to support the allegations.
Groups attacked included the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the well-established Al-Haq human rights group active since 1979, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), the Union of Agricultural Committees Labor (UAWC), the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Palestinian section of the Geneva-based organization Defense for Children International.
The Anglican Church in Ramallah was also attacked by the Israeli military, which the diocese strongly condemned. Although there is no justification for “this shocking incursion into church premises,” Israeli forces later justified it as a raid on Al-Haq, to which the church rented an office with a separate entrance. In a statement, the church described the violent action as “a violation of international law and a[en] terrorist[n] Act against the whole community”.
🚨🚨Breaking: This morning, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided Al-Haq’s office in Ramallah, confiscated items and shut down the main entrance with an iron plate leaving behind a military order declaring the organization unlawful 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Y8yqRdU4Db
— Al-Haq Al-Haq (@alhaq_org) August 18, 2022
The seventh organization to be raided by the Israeli military was the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), which runs dozens of clinics and health facilities in the occupied West Bank. Organizations’ offices were ransacked and their equipment confiscated. The doors were welded shut and a military order inscribed – in Hebrew – calling the organizations “unlawful,” banning their work.
BREAKING 🚨 The Israeli occupation forces raided UAWC’s office early this morning 18th of August, as well as the offices of the other #6organizations. They destroyed office equipment, confiscated materials and left a closing order behind. pic.twitter.com/hVaHrRIaKS
— Union of Agricultural Work Committees (@UAWC1986) August 18, 2022
Shavan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, described The Associated Pressthat the Israeli troops had come, blasted the door, entered and tampered with the files before sealing the entrance to the office.
Human rights activists see Israel’s attacks on the groups as part of a decades-long intimidation tactic of cracking down on political activists in the occupied territories. According to Dschabarin, however, this goal was hardly achieved, and work was resumed immediately after the Israeli troops had left:
“We don’t need permission from Israeli military or political officials. We move on, emboldened by our belief in accountability and international law,” said Jabarin, who also teaches at Bir Zait University and is a member of Human Rights Watch’s advisory board the Middle East and North Africa.
The Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank described the closure of the organizations as “a dangerous escalation and an attempt to silence the voice of truth and justice”. Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, said the Palestinian Authority will appeal to the international community to reopen the facilities.
Regarding the claim that the organizations are somehow cooperating with the PFLP, Jabarin said:
“These allegations are not new, and Israel has not even managed to convince its friends.”
The declaration of the groups as “terrorist” in October last year was sharply criticized not only by international and Israeli human rights groups, but also by the ONE, the EU and the USA had not shown themselves to be convinced. Several members of the US Congress had strongly criticized the classification, while the notoriously pro-Israel US State Department had asked Israel to provide an explanation for the move.
The European Union had also rejected Israel’s allegations against the groups on the grounds that there was a lack of evidence. Nine EU member states made it clear in July that Israel had not confirmed its allegations and that they would continue to work with the organizations concerned. Israel, on the other hand, has long accused human rights groups and international bodies of being biased against the country while ignoring serious abuses by other countries.
This week, seven months after the organizations were banned and just before the raids, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office simply repeated earlier claims that the groups were “operating under the guise of conducting humanitarian activities to further the goals of the terrorist organization PFLP promote, strengthen the organization and recruit agents”. However, various observers suspect it vicinitythat the focus of some of the organizations concerned on human rights violations not only by the Palestinian Authority, but also by Israel, is a reason for the Israeli military’s violent crackdown on their civil society activities.
On Thursday, the Israeli military said Palestinian gunmen fired on soldiers escorting Jewish worshipers on their way to a shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus, after which the soldiers returned fire. The army was referring to an incident in the early hours of the morning in which Palestinians say an 18-year-old Palestinian named Waseem Khalifa was killed.
Shortly after midnight, Israeli forces raided Nablus to secure access for Jewish settlers to Joseph’s Tomb east of Nablus, the army said. The Josefsgrab is an explosive place of prayer. Some Jews believe that the biblical Joseph is buried in the tomb, while some Muslims believe a sheikh is buried there. The army, in coordination with the Palestinian security forces, escorts Jewish worshipers to this site several times a year.
In any case, Jabarin is hoping for justice and, according to him, the criminal prosecution of members of the Israeli government that is necessary for this:
“We will continue to work with the International Criminal Court to prosecute the Israeli criminals. And they are illegal. The settlers are illegal, the occupation is illegal, and Gantz’s decision is illegal.”
But the beginnings of the investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, the chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had advanced, appear to be ebbing away under her British successor, Karim Khan, as Israel had hoped. While Israel and the US have argued that the ICC does not have the authority to investigate the two, because both countries have not recognized the Court’s Rome Statute, this has not stopped Chief Prosecutor Khan from threatening Russia, even though Moscow has Roman Statutes did not sign.
more on the subject – Beijing calls for thorough investigation into British and US war crimes