Israel’s decision last week to declare six Palestinian human rights groups terrorist organizations is causing tension in the country’s fragile coalition.

“It is highly problematic to define civil society organizations as terrorist groups,” said Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, on Saturday. “The matter must be examined carefully because it has implications for human rights and democracy. The defense establishment must present its findings and clear evidence to the public,” he added.

On Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that the six groups—Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees—operate as arms of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP is considered by several countries to be a terror organization, including the United States and the European Union.

Later in the day, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price claimed that Israel had failed to provide an advance warning of the move and said Washington would seek an explanation. The announcement also caused backlash from the European Union, the Palestinian Authority, international human rights organizations and progressive Democrats. However, officials in Israel insist that both the Biden administration and the European Union—both of whom have funded the Palestinian groups in the past—were briefed on the decision before it was announced. 

Labor Party MK Naama Lazimi said on Saturday that “unless intelligence led to the declaration of the Palestinian human rights organizations as terror groups, the move is serious and certainly puzzling for a sovereign state that should not only not flinch away from human rights groups,” but should support them. 

In response, Blue and White MK Yael Ron Ben-Moshe criticized Lazimi, saying her comments were uncalled for given that it was “an investigation by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and the defense and justice ministries that found that certain organizations aid terrorism, engage in terrorism and its senior officials are arrested for terrorist activity.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked commended Gantz on the decision, calling it “an important move based on solid intelligence from the Shin Bet and [the IDF] General Staff.”

These organizations, she said, had “disguised” themselves as human rights groups for years. These groups, she added, “actually aid terror activities by the PFLP and fuel support for the BDS [movement]. Many countries have funded these organizations, and it is good that they [the defense and justice ministries] are putting an end to it.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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