Israeli soldiers raided the offices of seven Palestinian human rights organizations and an Episcopalian church last week. Tel Aviv accused them of having ties to terror cells, to which the NGOs and church denied the claim, saying the raids were launched to intimidate and shut them down.
Mazen Rantisi, the head of the board of directors of the Health Work Committees, told Al Jazeera that the raids were meant to intimidate and destroy “Palestinian society.”
The raids occurred on Thursday and targeted seven offices. Dozens of Israeli soldiers took part in these raids that included computers and documents being seized and doors being welded shut, The New York Times reported. The Israelis pinned a note to these doors stating that they were no longer able to operate.
Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Israeli member of the Knesset, took to Twitter shortly after the raid to criticize Benny Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, who criticized one of the NGOs for helping terror organizations recruit.
“[Gantz] declared six Palestinian human rights organisations as terror groups, the international community didn’t buy the lie, so today he sent the occupation forces to shut them down,” she wrote.
The raids occurred while tensions remain high in the region after the UN condemned Tel Aviv’s bombings earlier this month killing some 50 Palestinians including 19 children, wounding several hundred and destroying scores of buildings.
Israel also faced criticism after its forces killed Shireen Abu Akleh this past May, a journalist for Al Jazeera, who was reporting on a raid at a refugee camp in Jenin.
Besides the NGOs, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East called Israel’s raid on church grounds in Ramallah “a violation of international law and a terroristic act against the entire community.”
The Church Times, a UK news outlet, reported that the grounds were raided by Israeli forces in the early hours of Thursday morning. Offices for Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO, are on the church compound and were a target of the raid, the report said.
One church official told the news outlet that the raid occurred at 3 a.m. and there were shots heard and stun grenades. Families live there and the “sound of gunshots, stun grenades, and the smashing of doors caused terror among the families living inside the compound,” the diocese said.
“Places of worship and church compounds should be sanctuaries for communities to feel safe to practice their faith and ministry,” the diocese added, before calling on a “speedy and impartial investigation into this incident, followed by serious disciplinary action against the offenders.”
TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has long noted the tense relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has raised international concerns and accusations that it is operating apartheid-like conditions. (See “ISRAEL ACCUSED OF APARTHEID BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH” (4 May 2021), “AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: ISRAEL’S TREATMENT OF PALESTINIANS AMOUNTS TO APARTHEID” (8 Feb 2022), and “APARTHEID STATE OF ISRAEL CLAMPING DOWN ON PALESTINIANS” (26 Apr 2022).
In April of 2021, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said, the “oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a performance that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution.”
And this past January, the human rights group Amnesty International said that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians meets the internationally accepted definition of apartheid.
As for continually labeling those who criticize Israel for being in violation of international law as “anti-Semites,” some 20 years ago, its attorney general accused the state of imposing apartheid measures:
“We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one—progressive, liberal—in Israel; and the other—cruel, injurious—in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”
—Israel’s former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair, 3 March 2002
Brad Parker, a senior policy adviser for Defense for Children International-Palestine, told the NYT that the raids on the NGO offices were a “significant escalation.”
“That is a significant step forward in their campaign to criminalize and silence our work,” he said.
Most of the organizations that were targeted criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
Al Jazeera reported that the Israeli army frequently conducts raids in Palestinian towns, “which often result in Palestinians being killed or injured.”
A 58-year-old Palestinian man was shot in the head on Friday and died from his injuries. Local reports said he was returning home from dawn prayers. The Israeli army told Al Jazeera that its forces responded to “a number of armed men” who tossed Molotov cocktails and “responded with fire.”
TRENDPOST: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke out against the raids and said Israel’s decision to designate these NGOs as terror organizations “has not been accompanied by any public concrete and credible evidence.”
Even the U.S., which always sides with Israel on these matters, issued a statement expressing concerns over these raids.
“We are concerned about the Israeli security forces’ closure of the six offices of the Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah today,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said.
“We have reached out to the Israeli government, including at senior levels, including here from Washington as well as from our embassy in Jerusalem, for more information regarding the basis for these closures.” Price said.
(The U.S. sends Israel about $3.8 billion each year in support.)
The Trends Journal has reported on how Jewish groups influence U.S. elections in the form of political donations. In 2020 alone, pro-Israel groups donated $30.95 million to candidates in federal elections, according to non-profit OpenSecrets.org. (See “AIPAC FLEXES $ MUSCLE: DUMPS IN MILLIONS TO POLITICAL LACKEYS,” “AIPAC ATTACKS U.S. CANDIDATES CRITICAL OF ISRAEL,” and “U.S. ELECTIONS: DUH-MOCK-RACY. BIG MONEY RULES.”)
But some Palestinians see Israel growing a little more desperate with the shifting landscape in the Democrat party in the U.S.
Lubna Hammad, an organizer with the advocacy group Yalla Indivisible, told Al Jazeera that Palestinians are “still very much facing an uphill battle politically before we see an end to American support for Israeli apartheid.”
“But the conversation happening now, the increased scrutiny of the American relationship with Israel, would have been impossible just a few years ago,” she added.