Multiple European Countries Reject Israel’s Designation of Six Prominent Civil Society Organisations

In a Joint Statement issued today, nine European countries rejected Israel’s designation of six prominent Palestinian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as “terrorist organisations” finding it to be baseless and lacking in evidence.   

Today’s Joint Statement provides that: 

“No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organisations’. Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly. In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory]. A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution.” 

Regrettably, the United Kingdom is not among the nine governments who have signed the Statement, which comes nine months after the October 2021 designation of six Palestinian civil society organisations as “terrorist” by Israel’s Minister of Defence. The designation was followed by a Military Order by Israel’s Central Command outlawing the activities of these civil society groups. It granted wide powers to Israeli Occupation Forces to close NGO offices; seize their assets; and arrest and imprison their staff members.  

The six organisations are: Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners; Al-Haq, a human rights organisation that works with the United Nations; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; the Bisan Centre for Research and Development; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; and Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P). Online campaigns have been launched, such as #StandWithThe6, to support these organisations. 

ICJP welcomes today’s Joint Statement issued by these Foreign Ministries and reiterates its support for Palestinian civil society organisations. It condemns the Israeli occupation. ICJP reminds the UK government of its obligations under international law, most notably to respect and ensure respect for the provisions embodied in the laws of war, which require, inter alia, occupying authorities to take all measures in their power to restore and ensure the public safety of the people living under their control.  

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) should pay heed to findings that are based on carefully documented, and detailed research, for example, Amnesty International’s recent finding that Israel operates a system of apartheid against the Palestinian population under its control. A finding with which Palestinian, Israeli and international groups including Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and Al Haq, all reached independently as presented at ICJP’s recent Responding to Apartheid Conference.  

The ICJP encourages the UK Foreign Office to follow its European counterparts and add its name to the Statement. The UK’s foreign policy should not be supportive of, or apathetic to, repressive acts that criminalize civil society organisations in a bid to eliminate dissent and avoid accountability. It should be seeking to end apartheid through the application of the international obligations it is a signatory to.