Six Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) serving around half a million Palestinians have been branded “terrorist” by Israel, a move likely to intensify pressure on international donors to withdraw support for the groups, Reuters reports.
The agencies had already been widely criticized by Israeli authorities, following the US decision last month to suspend $65 million in aid to organizations with ties to the Palestinian Authority.
The six groups — including two Islamic groups and three independent groups — deny being involved in militant activity. The NGO Action Center, which runs a children’s program, said in a statement that it would appeal the decision.
The decision was backed by the Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday, although the Israeli Cabinet was set to debate the issue on Saturday.
The White House said in May it was redirecting funding to the PA following the death of a Palestinian captive, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Washington had begun withholding “billions of dollars” of foreign aid from Palestinian entities.
Other groups threatened with closure include Gaza’s Islamic Jihad; Islamic University in Gaza; the Association for Solidarity with the Detained; the Palestine Human Rights Association; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; and al-Haq, a human rights organization.
The groups named in the decision represent a variety of Palestinian sectors, including those close to Hamas and one, Jihad al-Azzam al-Khaldi, that has acted as an underground parliament in Gaza for years.
In a statement, Al-Haq said that it is “very concerned” about the upcoming Cabinet meeting, adding that it would “defend our rights and hope there is no attempt to shut us down.”
The ruling came just days after Washington announced plans to withdraw its funding for international organizations in the Palestinian territories that the State Department deemed “associated” with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The decision sparked a backlash from international relief and development organizations, with the EU warning it could not guarantee the continued financing of programs if the decision stands.
And a Belgian lawmaker, Emmanuel Marsigny, this week resigned from the board of a development group funded by the US after he wrote in an email about his anger about Washington’s decision to halt funding.
“It is so crazy to me that a so-called ally can crush countries,” Marsigny told The Guardian. “This is the least of our worries. These countries should not be received in this way.”