Israeli Foreign Ministry imposes major sanctions on Palestinian civil society groups

Yasmina Kharroubi from Association for Civil Rights in Israel cries after being told to pay a fine for lying about the status of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. (Photo by Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images) The…

Israeli Foreign Ministry imposes major sanctions on Palestinian civil society groups

Yasmina Kharroubi from Association for Civil Rights in Israel cries after being told to pay a fine for lying about the status of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. (Photo by Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a notice this week branding six Palestinian civil society groups as “foreign agents,” warning them of possible criminal prosecution and other consequences if they do not comply with the order. The move immediately drew concern from the United States and European Union, which called on Israel to explain the ban.

For Palestinian civil society groups like the PLO-linked Al-Haq, the move represents the latest stage in the decades-long Israeli campaign to control the discourse surrounding the long-simmering conflict between the two sides.

The groups were ordered to immediately cease all activity and removed from the Foreign Ministry’s payroll.

Yasmina Kharroubi, from Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the freeze amounted to an administrative order and “violates the idea of Israel being a democracy.”

While the decision was not a surprise — the groups had been warned about it — the warning was alarming nonetheless. John Reed, senior adviser to the European Union delegation to Israel, said in a statement that “this action appears to have been motivated by the fact that they don’t align with Israeli government policy.”

According to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, the purpose of the ruling was to bring the groups under official control, accusing them of promoting anti-Israeli narratives. The decision triggered swift anger from European officials, who condemned the order.

“I think that is a ridiculous position that the Israeli government is taking,” Deakin University international law lecturer Bruce Pannier told The Associated Press. “All of these organizations are functioning in a deeply democratic and transparent way. They have never done anything at odds with the laws of the countries where they operate.”

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