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Nine EU states refuse 'terrorist' label for Palestinian civil society groups

Prominent NGOs Addameer and Al-Haq are among those accused of militant links
Activists gather at Al-Haq Foundation in Ramallah to denounce Israel's decision to declare six Palestinian human rights groups as "terror organisations", on 27 October 2021

Nine states in the European Union announced they would continue working with the six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel designated "terrorist" associations last year because of a lack of evidence for that claim.

The joint statement came on Tuesday and the groups include the prominent advocacy organisations Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners, and Al-Haq, a human rights organisation that works with the United Nations. 

Israel declares six Palestinian civil society groups 'terrorist organisations'
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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.

The foreign ministries of Belgium; Denmark; France; Germany; Ireland; Italy; the Netherlands; Spain; and Sweden said they had not received "substantial information" from Israel that would justify reviewing their policy.

"Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly," they said. "In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the OPT (occupied Palestinian territories).

"A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution.”

In October 2021, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declared six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organisations, accusing them of militant links, in a move condemned by various human rights defenders. The declaration came with criticism from both the United Nations and human rights organisations. 

In a statement, Gantz’s office said they are “part of a network of organisations operating undercover in the international arena” on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist resistance group.

"These organisations operated under the guise of 'civil society organisations', but in practice belong to and form an arm of the organisation's leadership, the purpose of which is to destroy Israel while taking part in terrorist acts," the statement added.

In April, United Nations human rights experts urged the international community to resume funding for the Palestinian civil society groups. 

"We call on the funding governments and international organisations to swiftly conclude that Israel has not established its allegations and to announce that they will continue to financially and politically support these organisations and the communities and groups they serve," the groups - which included J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, among others - said in a statement at the time.

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