On Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist Organizations”


On October 22, 2021, the Israeli government declared six Palestinian human rights groups to be “terror organizations” – a designation that effectively outlaws the groups, criminalizes their work under Israeli law and enables Israel to seize assets, arrest staff, prohibit funding, and punish public expressions of support and solidarity. With this terror designation, the Israeli government has escalated its longtime efforts to crush the Palestinian organizations that document Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights and seek to hold Israel accountable. 

On August 17, 2022, the Israeli government issued a declaration ratifying the designations, followed by raids at dawn targeting all 6 NGOs – confiscating property, welding doors shut, posting closure orders — along with a 7th NGO that had been previously designated by Israel.

Below is a list of FMEP resources (including podcasts, webinars, and more) analyzing the implications of that declaration.

  • US gives green light to Israel’s attacks on human rights groups (Electronic Intifada) 8/26/22 citing FMEP’s Lara Friedman‘I found the most troubling element of the US response to what happened last week to be the statement about waiting for more evidence,’ Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace said during the DAWN webinar. ‘Because waiting for more evidence is not a passive statement. It is an active green light and encouragement for Israel to crack down further on these groups in order to try to manufacture more circumstantial evidence,’ she added.Friedman pointed to the discredited secret dossier on the groups that was given by Israel to European diplomats in May 2021 and supposedly contained information that justified the terror designations. ‘That dossier consisted virtually entirely of circumstantial evidence in the form of statements made by Palestinians under interrogation after they had been arrested by Israelis for similar charges,’ Friedman said. ‘This is coercive interrogation,’ on top of an already coercive military court system that leaves Palestinians with no due process. In another recent event, Friedman noted that Israel operates a ‘plea bargain factory”’ in its military courts. Juana Rishmawi, a Spanish aid worker in her 60s, took a plea deal that saw her sentenced to 13 months in prison for her work with the Health Work Committees, which was declared illegal by Israel in early 2020. The Health Work Committees was not informed of the designation until Israel began an escalated campaign against it, arresting its director, Shatha Odeh, and closing its headquarters in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. ‘What [Rishmawi] pled guilty to effectively was unknowingly providing aid to an organization that Israel defines as a terrorist group,’ Friedman told the DAWN webinar. Israel held up Rishmawi’s plea agreement, made in a highly coercive context in which Rishmawi had no hope of actual justice, as proof against the targeted organizations.
  • Israeli Raids on Palestinian Civil Society Organizations — The Costs of International Inaction” 8/25/22 – featuring representatives of the 6 targeted Palestinian NGOs, moderated by Raed Jarrar (DAWN), and with moderators/discussants Zaha Hassan (Carnegie Endowment), Khaled El Gindy (Middle East Institute) and Lara Friedman (FMEP). Co-convened by the Middle East Institute, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, DAWN, the International Crisis Group, Century International and USMEP.
  • Israel’s Unrelenting Campaign against Palestinian NGOs and the US Response” 8/23/22- Arab Center Washington DC video conversation featuring Jonathan Kuttab (Arab Center Washington DC), Susan Power (Al Haq), and Lara Friedman (FMEP), in conversation with Khalil Jahshan (Arab Center Washington DC).
  • As Israel Raids Palestinian Human Rights Groups, US Response Is Muted (Jewish Currents 8/23/22) citing FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “‘In some ways, Congress did the same thing the administration did. They were shown evidence, they were clearly pressed by Israel to join in and support this, and they decided, ‘there isn’t enough evidence,’’ said Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. ‘But most of them didn’t decide to say anything to defend the right of NGOs to exist and operate.‘”
  • Israel’s assault on Palestinian NGOs is shutting off access to international community (Middle East Eye 8/23/22) – citing FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “…’Most people looked at these designations when they first came out 10 months ago and understood this to be an effort to cut off international funding to them. If you cut off international funding to them, they’re no longer able to function,’ Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, told Middle East Eye.” And “Friedman said that by not offering a clear rejection of Israel’s actions, ‘it’s like being guilty until proven innocent’. ‘It’s as if we’re going to basically operate in a space where we’re never going to stand up to Israel on this,’ she told MEE. ‘How long do you keep this process open before these organisations really can’t function anymore? At which point taking a position is irrelevant.‘”
  • Twitter thread launched by FMEP’s Lara Friedman 8/23/22 tracking statements/tweets by members of Congress concerning the assault on Palestinian NGOs.
  • Over 190 Organizations Demand International Community Stand Against Raids and Closures of 7 Palestinian Organizations 8/22/22– statement in support of the 7 Palestinian organizations organized by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and signed by FMEP
  • CIA unable to corroborate Israel’s ‘terror’ label for Palestinian rights groups (The Guardian 8/22/22) – citing FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “According to Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the US government’s public stance is a mixed one. ‘A lot of us would have liked to see an affirmative rebuttal of the designations,’ she said. ‘They didn’t do that, but there’s been nothing undertaken by this administration that would suggest they are viewing these organizations as terrorist organizations.’ But, she added: ‘The US administration has had 10 months to convince Israel” to reverse the designations. “Instead, this is now Israeli law.’
  • Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman 8/19/22: “Why is Israel attacking Palestinian human rights defenders? The same reasons it’s getting set to implement new restrictions on access to the West Bank for foreigners. The same reasons it has prioritized branding criticism of Israel/Zionism as “antisemitism” worldwide. This is about isolating & erasing Palestinians in the public consciousness. It is about delegitimizing Palestinians – as a people & a cause – & monopolizing the public narrative. It is about preventing the world from knowing what Israel is actually doing to Palestinians. It is about preventing any efforts to demand, let along enforce, accountability on Israel – by Palestinians or anyone. It is about ensuring that Israel is held to a different – lower – standard than other countries with respect to international law. In short, it is about assuring permanent Israeli impunity as it carries out policies that the world is belatedly recognizing as a form of apartheid to expand and cement permanent Israeli domination between the Mediterranean Sea & the Jordan River…all at the expense of the fundamental rights of millions of Palestinians whose crime ISN’T some vague association w/ terrorism, as Israel wants the world to believe, but rather IS their existence/persistence as Palestinians & their demand for rights as human beings.”
  • Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman 8/19/22: “If you saw the DOS response yesterday as sign Biden Admin is finally pushing back on Israel’s assault on Palestinian NGOs, you are mistaken. JI [Jewish Insider] gets the headline/analysis right: “State Dept. stops short of condemning Israeli raids on Ramallah-based NGOs.” [excerpts] “Price stopped short of condemning the operation or rejecting Israel’s rationale for it.” “Price told reporters that Israel had pledged to provide further information to the US supporting the raids and said that the U.S. would review that ‘on a timely basis and very carefully.’” What does “timely basis” mean? Well, Biden Admin has been sitting on Israel’s initial “evidence” dump for 10 MONTHS. They clearly assessed that it was BS and…decided to say NOTHING. Giving Israel a green light to expand the assault on Pal NGOs this week. And now Biden Admin will stay silent even longer: while it waits for more “evidence” from Israel, while it takes forever to assess that evidence, and – if past is precedent – when the results of that assessment will cause friction with Israel. Also see JPost [Jerusalem Post] framing/analysis: “Israel to justify its closure of 7 Palestinian NGO offices to US — Washington contacted Israeli officials for more information after security forces raided the offices of seven groups in the West Bank, Ned Price said.”
  • Podcast (8/18/22): This is Not a Drill: Israel Brings the Hammer Down on the Palestinian NGO Sector, ft. Omar ShakirIn this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks with Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, about Israel’s further targeting of Palestinian human rights/civil society, with the “ratification” 8/17/22 of Israeli decisions to designate 6 Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations, and Israel’s move 8/18/22 to raid and shut down the groups.
  • Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman 8/18/22: “A thread on the Biden Admin & attacks on Palestinian NGOs: The Biden Admin owns a big part of Israel’s attack on Palestinian NGOs. The Biden Admin has had Israel’s “evidence” for almost a year. It clearly knows this “evidence” is BS — otherwise there is zero doubt they  would have validated Israel’s designations/designated the groups themself. But knowing the evidence was BS, they appear to have taken the politically & morally cowardly approach of staying silent — a approach that amounts to foreign policy gross negligence/complicity. Make no mistake: This is a Chekov’s gun situation. Israel put the gun on the table last October. The Biden Admin saw that gun and decided to do nothing to pressure Israel to remove it. Now, the Biden Admin cannot claim surprise when Israel aims/fires that gun at Palestinian human rights defenders. Or later, when Israeli aims/fires more widely at the Palestinian rights sector. Or later, when other illiberal govts clamp shut down NGO critics. The only question is: will the Biden Admin, which claims to care about human rights, finally, belatedly, weigh in now to convince Israel to put down the gun?  They can if they want — and it could make a difference… but as always, the cost of weighing in now will be far higher than it would have been before Israel fired the gun, and before  Israel & the US entered elex seasons (which Israeli officials probably had in mind when they chose their moment). But the cost of NOT weighing will be far higher — for human rights, for rule of law, and for the viability of civil society worldwide.”
  • Podcast (1/14/22): “Israel Again Tries & Fails To Connect Palestinian NGOs to Terrorism” featuring Oren Ziv, photojournalist, a founding member of the Activestills photography collective, and a staff writer for Local Cal, in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman.
  • (11/16/21) Funders for Palestine (including FMEP): Open Letter to Defend Democracy and the Rights of Palestinian Civil Society  Press release, including:

    “The cynical weaponization of anti-terrorism laws poses an existential threat both for Palestinian human rights defenders and those defending human rights globally,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a philanthropic organization that promotes a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The breadth of signers of this letter underscores funders’ shared recognition of the urgency of challenging this dangerous tactic, and of the moral obligation to defend partners on the ground who, in essence, have been singled out for attack because they have done their work defending human and civil rights too well.”

  • Podcast (11/9/21): “Israel’s Anti-Terror Law & Pegasus are Terrorizing Palestinian Human Rights Defenders,” featuring Ubai Aboudi, director of Bisan Center for Research and Development, in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman.
  • Webinar (11/5/21): “The Terrorism Smear: Israel’s Move to Shut Down Palestinian Human Rights Work,” featuring leading human & civil rights experts Jamil Dakwar (ACLU), Rabea Eghbariah (Adalah), and Dima Khalidi (Palestine Legal), together with Lara Friedman, discussing the work of the targeted Palestinian NGOs, the context and impact of this terror designation, reactions from governments and NGOs in the U.S. and the EU, and expectations of impact.
  • Churches for Middle East Peace webinar (11/5): Unpacking the Designation of Six Palestinian NGOs as Terrorist Organizations, featuring CMEP Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon in conversation with Lara Friedman, President of Foundation for Middle East Peace, and Mike Merryman-Lotze, Director of the Israel/Palestine Program at the American Friends Service Committee.
  • Podcast (11/4/21): “Secret Israeli dossier provides no proof for declaring Palestinian NGOs ‘terrorists’” featuring journalist Oren Ziv with FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin
  • Podcast (11/3/21): “Terror Designations — Israeli Capital Punishment for Palestinian NGOs” featuring human rights attorney Michael Sfard with Lara Friedman
  • Podcast (11/2/21): “Show us the evidence” featuring human rights attorney and Member of Knesset Gaby Lasky with FMEP non-resident fellow Peter Beinart
  • Webinar (10/29/21): Israel’s Designation of Six Palestinian NGOs as “Terrorist”: Costs and Consequences. Special webinar featuring representatives from the six targeted Palestinian NGOs: Ubai al-Aboudi (Bisan Center for Research and Development), Fuad Abu Saif  (Union of Agricultural Work Committees), Sahar Francis (Addameer), Shawan Jabarin (Al-Haq), Tahreer Jaber (Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees), Khaled Quzmar (Defense for Children-International). Co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy & FMEP’s Lara Friedman, This event was co-sponsored by FMEP with the Middle East Institute (MEI), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Century International, the International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Carter Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
  • Podcast (10/29/21) featuring Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al Haq, with FMEP non-resident fellow Peter Beinart, Spotlight on Al Haq
  • Podcast (10/27/21) featuring award-winning Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab with FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Using ‘Terrorism’ Charges to Target NGOs: Lessons from the Case of Mohamed Halabi”
  • Podcast (10/26/21) featuring Omar Shakir (Human Rights Watch) and FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Not Without Precedent: Unraveling the History of Israel’s Escalating War on Palestinian Solidarity Work
  • Podcast (10/22/21) featuring Sarit Michaeli (B’Tselem), Inès Abdel Razek (PIPD), and FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Israel Declares War on Palestinian Human Rights Defenders”
  • Lara Friedman’s comment (10/22/21) on Israeli designation of Palestinian NGOs as terrorists: “Israel moves to weaponize an approach I’ve long dubbed “6 degrees of terrorist contamination” — Israel declares leading Palestinian NGOs to be PFLP-affiliates. This “6-degrees-of-terrorist-contamination” approach is NOT about targeting terrorism. It is about shutting down Palestinian NGOs that challenge Israeli policies — NGOs that nobody seriously alleges actually are involved in/support/incite/finance terror. This approach has long been marshaled by Israel & some of its defenders against well-known, highly respected NGOs for involvement in activities that cannot by any definition be characterized as terrorism, or as directly by terrorist group, or as benefiting a terrorist group. And to be clear: Israel & some of its defenders have long sought to use this 6-degrees approach as a silver bullet to delegitimize & destroy all NGOs that dare collect/report data on or seek to challenge Israeli violations of Palestinian rights (see: NGO Monitor).”
  • Lara Friedman’s Twitter thread tracking statements, responses, and other resources related to Israeli designation of 6 Palestinian NGOs as “terrorists,” including from Israeli, Palestinian, and international NGOs, UN and government voices, and other prominent voices (started 10/22/21, updated constantly).
  • Lara Friedman’s Twitter thread (10/24/21) tracking how Israel ignores actual terrorism in the pasts of Jewish Israelis in right-wing journalism, activism, and politics.
  • Lara Friedman’s Twitter thread (10/23/21) documenting how illiberal governments around the world use “terrorism” charge to attack human rights defenders and civil society sector.