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A Palestinian man picks pineapples during a harvest at a farm in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 9, 2017. According to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, this is the first time in the past decade that pineapples have been successfully cultivated in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian man picks pineapples during a harvest at a farm in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 9, 2017. According to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, this is the first time in the past decade that pineapples have been successfully cultivated in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

CIA Report Finds No Proof for Israeli Claim That Palestinian NGOs Are 'Terrorist' Groups

"The United States should very clearly call on the Israeli government to reverse these designations, and to allow these organizations to continue their vital work," said one human rights advocate.

Kenny Stancil

A classified report from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was unable to find evidence supporting Israel's move to designate six Palestinian human rights groups as "terrorist organizations," The Guardian reported Monday, citing two sources familiar with a study undertaken by the agency.

"The United States has for too long turned a blind eye, and in some cases even greenlighted, quite serious Israeli government abuses."

In October, Israel labeled Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees as terrorist groups.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed that the NGOs were "controlled by senior leaders" of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and employed its members, including some who had engaged in "terror activity" carried out by the movement's armed wing.

As The Guardian reported Monday:

Earlier this year, Israel passed intelligence about the designation to the U.S., but a CIA intelligence assessment of the material did not find any evidence to support the claim, according to two sources familiar with the study.

The CIA report "doesn't say that the groups are guilty of anything," one source said. The assessment was highly classified, a second source said.

The apartheid regime's brazen act, which has criminalized the crucial work being done by a half-dozen of Palestine's leading NGOs, was widely condemned by civil society groups based in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere.

The Biden administration, by contrast, has not publicly rebuked its ally's decision, though Secretary of State Antony Blinken has left the Palestinian groups off of the White House's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Taking into consideration the CIA's assessment, which confirms the baseless nature of Gantz's accusations, "the United States should very clearly call on the Israeli government to reverse these designations, and to allow these organizations to continue their vital work," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian.

"The reality here is that the United States has for too long turned a blind eye, and in some cases even greenlighted, quite serious Israeli government abuses," said Shakir. "The position toward the Palestinian human rights organizations highlights a much larger failing in U.S. government policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and puts the United States squarely out of touch with the consensus in the human rights movement."

Last Thursday, in an escalation of its campaign to prevent Palestinian human rights organizations from pursuing their advocacy work, the Israeli military stormed the offices of seven NGOs in the occupied West Bank, stealing property, shuttering office access, and posting official notices declaring the groups illegal.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, quickly implored the Biden administration to "hold Israel accountable" for its attack. Emboldened by continued U.S. inaction, however, Israeli authorities on Sunday reportedly detained Khaled Quzmar, the director of Defense for Children International-Palestine, for roughly two hours.

Following last week's raids, state department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged that the U.S. government had examined the evidence compiled by Israel in an attempt to justify its 10-month-long assault on the outlawed Palestinian groups—evidence that United Nations human rights experts and nine European Union governments have rejected as shoddy.

"What happened last year is the Israeli government designated these organizations," said Price. "We have not followed through with any designations, nor have we changed our approach to these organizations."

Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said Monday that the Biden administration "has had ten months to convince Israel" to rescind its unfounded terror charges.

"Instead, this is now Israeli law," Friedman added.

The CIA's report, according to The Guardian's summary, appears to vindicate those who have denounced Israel's unsubstantiated "terrorism" allegations. That includes Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and the 21 House Democrats who joined her last month in urging Blinken and national intelligence director Avril Haines to publicly oppose the punitive classification of groups opposed to Israel's ongoing war crimes.

"A reported lack of evidence to support this decision," the lawmakers wrote, "raises concerns that it may be a deeply repressive measure, designed to criminalize and silence prominent and essential Palestinian human rights organizations."


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