Aug 19, 2022
U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib on Friday urged the Biden administration to "hold Israel accountable" after the country's forces raided and shuttered the offices of seven Palestinian human rights groups in the occupied West Bank, a move that drew international outrage.
"Exactly 100 days since American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated by an Israeli sniper, the apartheid government moved to shut down seven human rights organizations at the core in fighting for the lives, liberties, and freedoms of millions of Palestinians," Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, said in a statement.
"I call on the White House to denounce this unwarranted aggression against Palestinian civil society and take action to reverse this decision."
"These acts are a direct result of the Biden administration's complete failure to defend Palestinian human rights against racism and ethnic cleansing," Tlaib continued. "The silence by our country is enabling more death and violence. We must hold Israel accountable."
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Israeli soldiers stormed the West Bank offices of Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Works Committees (UAWC), the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC), and the Union of Health Workers Committees, groups that have been deemed unlawful by the Israeli government on unsubstantiated "terrorism" accusations.
Earlier this year, United Nations human rights experts said Israel's "disturbing" claims against the groups have "not been accompanied by any public concrete and credible evidence."
"We note that the information presented by Israel has also failed to convince a number of governments and international organizations," the experts added.
Tlaib observed in her statement Friday that the groups whose offices were raided and ransacked by Israeli forces "provide medical services to countless people throughout occupied Palestine, where the apartheid government of Israel routinely denies them care solely because they are Palestinian."
"They document human rights abuses against children and civilians no matter who commits them. There is no excuse for the Israeli government's actions," said Tlaib. "No matter the lies invented to justify this ridiculous attack against human rights defenders, this campaign will not succeed because countless Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, and people all around the world are increasingly seeing the reality of apartheid Israel's treatment of Palestinians."
"I call on the White House to denounce this unwarranted aggression against Palestinian civil society," the lawmaker continued, "and take action to reverse this decision."
\u201cExactly 100 days since American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated by an Israeli sniper, the Israeli apartheid govt shut down seven human rights orgs at the core of fighting for the lives & freedoms of millions of Palestinians. My statement and call for accountability:\u201d— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib) 1660917917
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) joined Tlaib in denouncing the raids and criminalization of leading Palestinian rights organizations.
"They were senselessly raided and shuttered," tweeted Pressley, who had previously raised alarm about Israel's allegations against the groups. "Baseless accusations have serious consequences, and the U.S. must urge Israel to reverse course."
During a press briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration is "concerned" about the Israeli raids and closure of Palestinian human rights offices, but he did not explicitly condemn the government's actions.
"We have reached out to the Israeli government... for more information regarding the basis for these closures and we'll continue to seek additional information and to convey our concern directly and privately to our Israeli partners," Price added. "Our Israeli partners in turn have assured us that more information will be forthcoming regarding the basis for their actions."
Pressed by reporters, Price said that "we have not seen anything that has caused us to change our approach to or position on these organizations," admitting that the U.S. government--far and away the largest exporter of arms to Israel--doesn't share its ally's view about the targeted rights groups' supposed "terrorist" connections.
Nine European countries have also rejected Israel's claims about the organizations and vowed to continue working with the groups on humanitarian efforts in the occupied territories.
The groups have promised to keep operating in defiance of Israel's suppression attempts.
The Associated Pressreported in November that a confidential Israeli government dossier purporting to detail the human rights groups' links to terrorist organizations "contains little concrete evidence and failed to convince European countries to stop funding the groups."
Addameer, one of the organizations whose offices were stormed Thursday, said in a statement that "the global failure to hold Israel accountable has encouraged, if not provoked, [the] raids and closures."
"The world must treat Israel's actions for what they are: an attempt to silence criticism and erase civic space for Palestinian human rights defenders," the group added.
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