US says concerned about Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian NGOs, unconvinced by previous information

US says concerned about Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian NGOs, unconvinced by previous information

The US on Thursday expressed concern over the Israeli military’s raid on seven Palestinian human rights organizations in the West Bank earlier in the day. It also said it decided not to follow Jerusalem’s lead in blacklisting the groups after receiving Israeli intelligence information about the organizations last year.

“We are concerned about today’s closure by the Israeli security forces of the six offices of Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“We have reached out to the Israeli government, including at high levels, including here in Washington as well as from our embassy in Jerusalem, for more information on the basis of these closures,” Price said, adding that Israel is ready to provide information to be sent to the US because of the raids.

The Israeli Defense Ministry blacklisted six of the civil society groups in October 2021, putting their staff at risk of arrest and their funding at risk of seizure. Israel has claimed it has “ironclad” intelligence services linking the groups to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel and the US have labeled a terrorist organization.

Israel was only willing to share this information privately, and several Democratic lawmakers, as well as European Union officials privy to the information, concluded that doing so was insufficient to justify the terror label.

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Price confirmed Thursday that the US did not find the intelligence information convincing enough to follow Israel’s lead in blacklisting the Palestinian groups.

“During reviewing this information, we have not changed our position or our approach to these particular organizations,” Price said.

He refrained from condemning Israel’s actions against the Palestinian organizations.

“Different parties may read information differently and perceive threats differently,” Price said. “We will continue to review any information that is provided to us.”

“We sent the message that the bar must be set very high to crack down on civil society organizations. In turn, our Israeli partners have told us that they have met this high bar,” Price said.

Asked how the US is measuring this “high bar,” Price declined to elaborate, but acknowledged “the terrorist threat Israel faces” and noted Jerusalem’s right to raise such concerns.

The six blacklisted organizations — al-Haq, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Bisan, and the Union of palestine Women’s Committees — are prominent, established groups.

Most organizations have documented alleged human rights abuses by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Many have received significant funding in the form of grants from EU Member States and the United Nations, among other donors, but not from the US.

Al-Haq was told last month that its EU funding, which had been suspended, would be restored after an investigation into the organization’s finances found no irregularities.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Benny Gantz ratified the 2021 decision to blacklist the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Bisan Research and Advocacy Center and Addameer, which represents Palestinian security detainees before Israeli military courts.

Separately, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command rejected appeals by Al-Haq and Defense for Children-International in Palestine to be removed from the terror list.

The sixth organization, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, also remained listed as affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The IDF said Thursday it had raided and closed the offices of all six groups along with a seventh, the Health Works Committees.

Price expressed US concerns about the raid hours later in a press conference.

“We will continue to seek additional information and will raise our concerns directly and privately with our Israeli partners,” Price said, adding that the US would review any information Israel provides in a timely manner.

“We have, over the course of recent events, but also in recent months and beyond, made it clear to our Israeli government partners and the Palestinian Authority that independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and Israel must continue to be important work,” Price said, hinting The Biden administration’s concerns about how Israel and the Palestinian Authority treat human rights organizations.

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