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Israel to send delegation to US to justify banning Palestinian rights groups

Israeli foreign ministry and security officials will make the case to Biden administration to outlaw six Palestinian organisations, Haaretz reports
A Palestinian flag-bearer runs through teargas on the outskirts of Gaza City in November 2018 (AFP)

Israeli officials will visit the US later this week to justify the decision to outlaw six Palestinian human rights organisations, Haaretz reported.

Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz signed a military order on Friday that effectively banned six groups from operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, claiming they had links to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The order applies to Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners, and Al-Haq, a human rights organisation that works with the United Nations.

Also listed are the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and Defense for Children International - Palestine.

A senior Israeli security official told reporters on Sunday that intelligence connecting the six Palestinian organisations to the PFLP was "ironclad", Haaretz reported.

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The official said that envoys from the foreign ministry and the Shin Bet security force will head to the US with "unequivocal" information proving the groups' ties to the leftist group.

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Friday's decision essentially makes the groups' work illegal and permits Israel to shut workplaces, take property and detain employees, all while banning financial or open backing for their operations, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Al-Haq, an organisation documenting rights violations since 1979, denied the accusations on Saturday and appealed for "international solidarity".

"It is no coincidence that Israel's recent escalation of punitive measures against Al-Haq and fellow civil society organisations has come in the immediate aftermath of the opening of an International Criminal Court investigation into Israel’s crimes in the Situation in Palestine," the group said in a statement.

US officials have said they were not informed prior to the Israeli decision and they wanted more evidence that the groups had links to the PFLP.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a lawmaker who is often outspoken about the plight of Palestinians, slammed Israel's decision, calling it "anti-democratic and contrary to the values expected of a US ally".

"This is nothing more than an attempt to silence supporters of Palestinian rights. It is anti-democratic, and contrary to the values expected of a US ally. I urge the Biden administration to immediately call upon the Israeli government to reverse their decision and restore these organizations' ability to continue their important work," she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territories said on Saturday that the reasons cited by Gantz were “vague or irrelevant”, and denounced the decision as the latest move in a “long-stigmatising campaign” against the organisations.

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