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Over 290 US, intl. groups call on Biden to stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian NGOs

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Palestinian man stands inside of the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on August 18, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

More than 290 American and international organizations have called on US President Joe Biden to adopt proper measures and stop Israeli military attacks on Palestinian civil society organizations in the occupied West Bank, arguing that his administration’s consistent support for the Tel Aviv regime has put the safety and well-being of Palestinian human rights defenders at serious risk. 

The organizations said in a letter that while many in the international community were swift to condemn the Israeli regime’s shameful political maneuver in October 2021 to designate six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist” under the draconian Counter-Terrorism Law, Washington has refused to act or reject this clear attack on Palestinian groups.

The US administration “even took affirmative steps including canceling the valid US visa held by the head of one of the targeted organizations. The response so far has only enabled and empowered Israel to sustain and escalate its repression,” they highlighted.

“The targeted organizations form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farm workers, and justice and accountability for international crimes,” the groups said.

They urged the US president to condemn the Israeli regime’s repressive tactics and escalating campaign of criminalization and intimidation against Palestinian civil society organizations as well as their staff and board.

The American and international organizations also called for rejection of unsubstantiated accusations levied against Palestinian civil society organizations, and demanded Israeli authorities rescind the designations.

They also urged the US government to take diplomatic action, in concert with European countries, which serves to protect the targeted Palestinian organizations, their staff, premises and assets.

The groups went on to ask US officials to refrain from imposing any obstacles or policies that would prevent direct engagement between Washington and Palestinian civil society, or otherwise preclude full, comprehensive public understanding of the severity and impacts of Israeli repression.

They also demanded an end to US efforts to undermine the right of Palestinians and Palestinian civil society organizations to pursue justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The organizations finally urged suspension of US military funding to the Tel Aviv regime and cessation of any diplomatic efforts that enable systemic impunity for Israel’s gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights.

On August 18, the Israeli army stormed and ordered the closure of Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh.

The organizations’ offices were ransacked and their equipment confiscated. Doors were welded shut, with an Israeli military order posted on them declaring the organizations “unlawful”.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, al-Haq rights group, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Palestine chapter of the Geneva-based Defense for Children International, and the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) are the NGOs shut down by Israel.

The closures mean that it is illegal under Israeli military law for the employees to enter their offices.

Six of the organizations raided had been designated as “terrorist” organizations in October 2021 by the Israeli regime, which claimed they were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Mazen Rantisi, head of the board of directors at the UHWC, which runs several hospitals and dozens of clinics across the occupied West Bank, said the closures are part of a longstanding Israeli policy.

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