US lawmakers denounce Israel’s blacklisting of Palestinian NGOs | Israelo-Palestinian conflict
A group of US lawmakers has urged the Biden administration to publicly reject Israel’s labeling of six Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups, in the latest international campaign against the Israeli decision.
In a letter Monday to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, 21 members of Congress – all Democrats – decried the lack of available evidence supporting Israeli allegations against Palestinian organizations.
“The United States must always and consistently speak out against the efforts of all countries that attempt to undermine civil society and the necessary work of humanitarian organizations. Counter-terrorism legislation should not be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian activities,” reads the letter, led by progressive MP Ayanna Pressley.
“Furthermore, repressive tactics such as the criminalization of organizations should not be used to suppress or deny the right to freedom of association, or to stifle political dissent, or limit the peaceful activities of civil society.”
The United States must condemn any effort anywhere to undermine life-saving humanitarian work.
This is why I led 21 colleagues in a letter to the @StateDept regarding Israel’s criminalization of 6 Palestinian human rights organizations supporting low income people, women and girls, clean water and more. pic.twitter.com/e7d9MOjjxL
— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) July 18, 2022
Israel blacklisted the six main Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations in October 2021 for alleged links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) political faction.
Israeli Ministry of Defense order all but bans Al-Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Union of Agricultural Labor Committees and Addameer.
“These groups work directly with Palestinian women and girls, children, low-income families, prisoners and civil society activists, providing direct services and monitoring human rights abuses by Israeli authorities. and Palestinians,” U.S. lawmakers said Monday.
The letter requested a briefing by Biden administration officials with the signatories to discuss the designation and the alleged evidence Israel said it provided to Washington to justify blacklisting the groups.
“The evidence supporting this designation has not been provided publicly or to all members of Congress, despite multiple requests,” he said. “We urge you to publicly reject this decision, call on the Israeli government to reverse course, confirm a date for an interagency briefing with the signatories below, and report back to Congress on your efforts within 30 days. .”
Over the past few months, numerous international bodies and foreign governments have denounced the Israeli decision, but Washington has yet to state a clear position on whether it believes the blacklisting was justified.
Last month, a State Department spokesperson told Al Jazeera in an email that “the US government has not designated any of the organizations in question, and we have not provided funding to any of these organizations. groups”.
The spokesperson added that the United States had made it clear to Israel and the Palestinian Authority that “independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and Israel must be allowed to continue their important work.”
Monday’s letter comes shortly after President Joe Biden returned from his first trip to the Middle East, during which he visited Israel and promised to strengthen US-Israeli relations.
Since taking office in January 2021, Biden and his top aides have generally avoided outspoken criticism of Israel. But Washington’s European allies were more explicit in rejecting Israel’s decision regarding Palestinian NGOs.
Earlier this month, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden released a statement rejecting the blacklisting of groups. He said Israel had not provided “substantial information” to back up its claims, stressing that a “free and strong civil society is essential for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution.”
The European Commission also recently resumed funding for organizations after a months-long suspension.
The UN Human Rights Council also denounced the Israeli decision, while Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called it “appalling and unjust” in a joint statement last year.