LONDON: The CIA could not find any evidence to support Israel’s claim that six prominent Palestinian rights groups were “terrorist organizations,” intelligence sources told The Guardian.
Last October, the Israeli government labeled the following groups as terror-related: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, 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.
Israel claimed that these outfits were fronts for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing Palestinian political party that has a paramilitary wing.
Two sources told The Guardian that Israel shared intelligence with American partners about the decision to designate the groups as terror-related, but in its own assessments, the CIA did not find any evidence supporting the Israeli position.
The CIA report “doesn’t say that the groups are guilty of anything,” one source, who has knowledge of the CIA assessment, told The Guardian.
The second source confirmed that the assessment was classified to high levels of security protection.
The US has not publicly criticized Israel’s assessment, but Washington’s security apparatus has not listed any of the six groups as terror outfits. No other Western intelligence organizations have shared Israel’s assessment.
Omar Shakir, Israel/Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian that “the US should very clearly call on the Israeli government to reverse these designations, and to allow these organizations to continue their vital work.”
He added: “The reality here is that the US has for too long turned a blind eye, and in some cases even green lighted, quite serious Israeli government abuse.
“The position toward the Palestinian human rights organizations highlights a much larger failing in US government policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and puts the US squarely out of touch with the consensus in the human rights movement.”
The lack of support from foreign governments on its designation has not prevented Israel from continuing to target the six groups.
On Thursday, the Israeli military raided the West Bank offices of all of the designated outfits. Soldiers took property from the charities and sealed off office doors.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed after the raids that Washington had assessed Israel’s evidence for the designations.
“What happened last year is the Israeli government designated these organizations,” he said. “We have not followed through with any designations, nor have we changed our approach to these organizations.”
Price did not answer questions from The Guardian about the CIA’s assessments on the Israeli decision. The CIA also did not respond to the newspaper’s questions.
Comments from the two sources come after nine EU countries issued a joint statement last month on the designation, saying: “No substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy toward the six Palestinian NGOs.”
Also last month, 22 Democrats in the US Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, urging Washington to stand up to Israel over the report.
They said: “A reported lack of evidence to support this decision raises concerns that it may be a deeply repressive measure, designed to criminalize and silence prominent and essential Palestinian human rights organizations.”