On October 19th, Israel’s defense ministry issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.”
The groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
The designation effectively outlaws the activities of these civil society groups.
It authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.
The Israeli defense ministry said they were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular political movement with an armed wing that in the past carried out attacks against Israel.
The groups “were active under the cover of civil society organizations, but in practice belong and constitute an arm of the [PFLP] leadership, the main activity of which is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel”, the defense ministry said.
It claimed they were “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employed its members, including some who had “participated in terror activity”.
The groups serve as a “central source” of financing for the PFLP and had received “large sums of money from European countries and international organizations”, the defense ministry said.
The Palestinian Authority said the move was an “unhinged assault” on Palestinian civil society.
“This fallacious and libelous slander is a strategic assault on Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to oppose Israel’s illegal occupation and expose its continuing crimes,” it said in a statement.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the government’s declaration “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations”.
Meanwhile, on October 24th, Israel announced plans to build an additional 1,355 homes in the West Bank, on top of a previously announced figure.
The newly announced homes are to be constructed in seven settlements, according to a statement from the Ministry of Construction and Housing.
The largest construction project, 729 homes, would be in the already existing town of Ariel, in the northern West Bank.
“After a long period of stagnation in construction, I welcome this tender. I will continue to maintain Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria,” said Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, using biblical-era terms for parts of the territory occupied by Israel.
Plans for some 2,000 new dwellings had been announced in August, prompting concern over the expected approvals this week from the United States.
State Department spokesman Ned Price called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”
Member of the Israeli parliament Mossi Raz, from the left-wing coalition party Meretz, was quoted as saying that the “building of settlements outside of Israel harms Israel.”
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