Palestinian activist defies Israeli interrogation order
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian rights activist said Israel tried to summon him for questioning on Sunday as it continued a crackdown on Palestinian rights groups based in the West Bank.
European and American diplomats have pushed back against Israeli officials’ claim that the targeted groups are linked to terrorism.
The Israeli order apparently given to Shawan Jabarin to report to a military prison follows a widely criticized raid last week against six Palestinian civil society organizations in the occupied West Bank. Nine European countries, using unusually harsh language, called the raid “not acceptable”, while the United States expressed concern.
Jabarin, director of one of the targeted groups, Al-Haq, said on Sunday he received a five-minute “threatening call” from Israel’s Shin Bet security service ordering him to come to Ofer military prison in the West Bank. busy. . He said an officer threatened arrest, questioning and “other things” if he didn’t comply.
“I won’t change my mind, but if he wants to arrest me, he can certainly do it as the occupying power,” Jabarin said. He said he invited the officer to Al-Haq’s office and demanded that the summons be sent officially through lawyers, not by telephone.
The Shin Bet did not respond to a request for comment.
Last year, Israel banned six rights groups, including Al-Haq, saying they had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP is a left-wing secular movement with a political party as well as an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel and the United States have labeled the PFLP a terrorist organization.
Rights groups deny the Israeli claims. Jabarin called the claims of links to the PFLP “total nonsense and complete lies.” Nine European countries also rejected the Israeli charges, citing a lack of evidence.
Despite criticism, Israeli soldiers entered the West Bank city of Ramallah last Thursday in an armored convoy and blew up the entrance gates to the offices of Palestinian groups. Soldiers seized documents, computers and smashed furniture and appliances before sealing off entrances.
The nine European countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden – stepped up their criticism of Israel over the weekend. end, saying the latest raids are “part of a worrying shrinking space for civil society” for Palestinians.
“These actions are not acceptable,” they said in a joint statement, adding that they had seen no evidence of extremist links.
Last week, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “concerned” about the raids and closures, but Israel had pledged to provide additional information. Western diplomats visited one of the offices hours later to show support for the banned groups.
Groups raided include Al-Haq, a veteran, internationally respected Palestinian rights group; Addameer, which defends Palestinian prisoners held by Israel; Defense for Children International-Palestine; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.
On Sunday, some 45 Israeli and Jewish advocacy groups issued a statement of solidarity with the targeted Palestinian groups.
“Defending human rights is not terrorism,” the statement said. “We refute these baseless statements and call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to reverse its decision.”
Major Israeli human rights groups, including B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, as well as the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, were among the signatories.
Rights advocates described the raid as part of a decades-long crackdown in the occupied territories against political activism.
“We know there is a price to pay for defending rights and citizens, and we are moving forward,” Jabarin said.