US demands answers from Israel over NGO terror designations
The United States is seeking answers from Israel over its decision to designate six Palestinian rights groups as terror organisations, the State Department’s spokesman said on Friday.
The measure applies to Addameer, a detainees' rights organisation, Defense for Children Palestine, legal NGO Al-Haq, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.
Speaking in a telephone briefing on Friday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Washington will “be engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations”.
“The Israeli government did not give us advance warning” of the move, he added.
“We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance,” Price said.
Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civil society groups effectively outlaws their activities, threatens jail time for employees, volunteers and donors and allows for the seizure of assets.
The move drew a wave of condemnations on Friday, from local and international rights groups, as well as world bodies.
“The designation decisions published by the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing of Israel list extremely vague or irrelevant reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities such as provision of legal aid and “promotion of steps against Israel in the international arena,” the UN Human Rights Office in Ramallah said.
An EU statement, meanwhile, highlighted that “past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to some of our Palestinian partners have not been substantiated.”
Rights watchdogs Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, who collaborate extensively with groups on the list, slammed TEl Aviv's decision as "an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement".