Nine European countries said Tuesday that they have seen “no substantial evidence” to support Israel’s accusations that six Palestinian civil society groups are terrorist organizations and would not change its policies in support of the groups.
The rare joint statement was a major rebuke to Israel, which last October listed the groups as terrorist organizations, but has provided little evidence to support their claims. Human rights groups denied the allegations and accused Israel of escalating a long-standing crackdown about Palestinian opposition to its decades-long military rule.
“Allegations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups must always be treated with the utmost seriousness,” read the statement issued by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
“No material information was received from Israel that would justify revising our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations,’” he said.
“If evidence to the contrary were made available, we would act accordingly,” he added.
The announcement came a day before President Joe Biden is due to arrive on a visit that is expected to include meetings with representatives of Palestinian civil society, although he is unlikely to meet with any of the groups targeted by Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Israel accused the groups of serving as a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist movement with a political party and an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis for decades. Israel and Western nations consider the PFLP a terrorist organization.
The organizations included in the blacklist are the Al-Haq human rights group, the Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Labor Committees.
In its October 22 announcement, the Israeli Defense Ministry said the organizations are “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employ its members, including some who have “engaged in terrorist activities.” He said the groups serve as a “central source” of funding for the PFLP and have received “large sums of money from European countries and international organizations.”
Initially, the declaration of terror seemed to pave the way for Israel to raid their offices, seize assets, arrest staff and criminalize any public expression of support for the groups. But all six have continued to operate.
the dutch government announced in january that it would stop funding the Farm Work Committees Union after finding evidence that individual staff members were linked to the PFLP. But he said he found no evidence that the group had “organizational ties” to the PFLP or was involved in the financing or execution of terrorism, as Israel had alleged.
Israel has long accused human rights groups and international bodies of being biased against it and singling it out while ignoring more serious violations by other countries.
Most of the targeted organizations document alleged human rights violations by Israel, as well as the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority routinely detain Palestinian activists.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION