Israel accuses Palestinian rights groups of terrorism

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Friday declared six prominent Palestinian human rights groups to be terrorist organizations, saying they were secretly linked to a left-wing militant movement.

It was not immediately clear what the distinction would mean for the groups. Most of the targeted groups document alleged violations of human rights by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.

The designated groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, as well as the Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said they are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular, left-wing movement with a political party as well as an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.

The ministry’s statement was released during the Israeli and Palestinian weekend. Representatives from the targeted organizations could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Defense Ministry said the groups “constitute a network of organizations active undercover on the international front on behalf of the ‘Popular Front,’ to support its activity and further its goals.” It said they are “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employ its members, including some who had “participated in terror activity.”

It said the groups serve as a “central source” of financing for the PFLP and had received “large sums of money from European countries and international organizations,” without elaborating.

Spokespeople for the European Union delegations to Israel and to the Palestinian territories did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Palestinian Authority condemned what it said was an “unhinged assault” on Palestinian civil society.

“This fallacious and libelous slander is a strategic assault on Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to oppose Israel’s illegal occupation and expose its continuing crimes,” it said in a statement.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the government’s declaration “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations.”

“B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, is proud of our joint work over the years – and is steadfast to continue so.”