Last week, Israeli authorities raided several prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations in the West Bank, breaking down doors and confiscating materials. The Israeli government accuses these NGOs of being involved in terrorism, but the evidence it has shared with allied governments since it first leveled these accusations last October has not been viewed by them as sufficient to substantiate such claims. Many Israeli NGOs and democracy advocates have condemned the raids and called for the Israeli government to present credible evidence of terrorism publicly or reverse course and withdraw the “terrorist” designation. Multiple appeals from US lawmakers and a recent joint statement from European leaders have also called on the Israeli government to provide evidence and clarify its actions against these groups. The list of Israeli organizations protesting last week’s raids is long. It includes: Breaking the Silence, Standing Together, HaMoked, Ir Amim, Gisha, Zazim, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Supporting Israel sometimes means standing in solidarity with Israeli organizations that are engaged in principled dissent based on Israel’s Jewish and democratic values. In that spirit, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have signed on to a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the U.S. Administration to urge Israel’s government to provide clear evidence of terrorism or reverse course in its policies towards the affected organizations (see letter below).
August 23, 2022
Honorable Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Blinken,
We are writing to express our deep concern with the latest escalation of the Israeli government’s campaign of suppression against Al Haq; Addameer; Defense For Children International-Palestine; Bisan; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees –six Palestinian nongovernmental organizations engaged in human rights and civil society work that the Defense Ministry designated as “terrorist organizations” in October of last year.
Terrorism poses a constant threat to Israel’s citizens, and it is never justified. As pro-Israel organizations we regard such terrorism as a matter of the utmost seriousness. Yet in this matter, Israel has failed to provide any public evidence to substantiate its allegations against the six Palestinian NGOs. The secret documents distributed to European diplomats, members of Congress, and administration officials by the Israeli government have fallen far short of providing concrete evidence of alleged activity that would justify designating the groups as terrorist organizations. This June, after reviewing the documents, nine European states officially rejected the designation. The U.S. government, too, did not find Israel’s case for outlawing these organizations convincing.
We therefore condemn the recent raids on the West Bank offices of these Palestinian human rights organizations and the detention of the organizations’ directors as well as the original decision to brand them as “terrorist organizations.” We fear that this may be an escalation of a broader attempt to suppress not just these organizations but to create a chilling effect pursuant to which other Palestinian and Israeli peace and human rights organizations fear similar reprisals for their work.
On August 18, 2022, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the Israeli evidence presented to the United States had not resulted in a change to the American designations of these NGOs. On August 22, it became public that the CIA was unable to find sufficient evidence to support Israel’s decision to label the six prominent Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist organizations.”
Given this information and the rapidly escalating attacks against these NGOs, we urge the State Department to clearly state whether the evidence presented by the Israeli government has provided clear, credible, and compelling grounds to substantiate the designation. If it has not, we urge you to publicly denounce these raids and call on the Israeli government to reverse its “terrorist” determination and cease its ongoing campaign of harassment.
Americans for Peace Now
New Israel Fund
Partners for Progressive Israel
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights