JJP warns of apparent escalation in Israel’s suppression of Palestinians

In September 2022, JJP warned that Israel now seems willing to attack Palestinian institutions and start offensives against Gaza without even obtaining tacit approval from Europe or the US. We lobbied the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office ,The West Bank Protection Group of certain EU member states and the UK, the Labour Shadow Minister for the Middle East, and the Liberal Democrat Foreign Policy Spokesperson.

Our letter to the FCDO is below:

9 September 2022

Charles King

Head of Levant and North Africa Dept.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Dear Mr. King,.

We are writing to you about what appears to be a new aggressiveness in Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians. Two issues have raised our concern. We would like to have a zoom meeting to discuss the issues.

Firstly is the Israeli Defence Minister’s designation of six respected Palestinian human rights NGOs as terrorist organisations in October 2021. In accordance with Israeli law, that authorises Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and jail their staff, and it prohibits Israelis from funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.

Israel demanded that the EU and western governments also so-designate them and accordingly stop funding them. Neither the EU, nor the funding countries, nor the American Administration believed the “proof” provided by Israel, and they all rejected Israel’s repeated demands.

After 10 months without further action, the Israeli army suddenly raided the West Bank offices of all six organisations, plus a seventh, confiscated their files and equipment, welded the doors shut and ordered them to stop operating. Clearly, the Israeli government is intent on shutting down Palestinian NGOs that provide credible evidence of Israeli human rights abuses, even though they are funded by the international community.

Secondly is the three-days of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad in early August, in which more than 40 Palestinians were killed and more than 300 injured. For the first time in the many rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, there was no aggression at all by forces in Gaza prior to Israel’s initial assault. Israeli forces had arrested a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank, but there was no response from Islamic Jihad. However, a week later Israel launched its air strikes as a pre-emptive measure, claiming an Islamic Jihad attack was “imminent”. Then Islamic Jihad did respond with rocketing,

In the many previous rounds of fighting, whether large or small, the Israeli assault was always preceded by an aggressive Israeli action followed by Hamas or Islamic Jihad rocket salvos in response.*

Before taking the Israeli government’s word about an “imminent” attack at face value, people should remember the issue of the six Palestinian NGOs. Therefore, we have to ask if the Israeli government has escalated its suppressive strategy against the Palestinians and now feels no need to obtain even tacit approval from other countries.

The immediate motivation may be found in the forthcoming Israeli election, the fifth in less than four years. Prime Minister Lapid and Defence Minister Gantz may feel they have burnished their security credentials with the Israeli public, not caring about the heavy price paid by Palestinians.

A long-term motivation may well be found in the growing influence of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, central to the new local militias in the Jenin and Nablus refugee camps. Comprising young men from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah, they have already fought gun battles with Israeli security forces. Israel’s response is to double down on suppression.

Whatever the motive, there appears to be a new Israeli willingness to attack without even creating a pretext of self-defence. If these acts are allowed to pass unchecked it would be extremely worrying for the future safety of Palestinians and for whatever restraining effect other countries will be able to have on Israeli behaviour. We therefore urge the government to make it clear to Israel that there will be severe consequences if it does not withdraw its allegations against the NGOs and allow them to resume operations, and that the government will be supporting the current and any future reference to the ICC.

We hope to hear from you shortly to arrange a zoom meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Officer,

*Prior to Operation Cast Lead in 2008. Israel attacked a Hamas tunnel, killing eight Hamas fighters, during a six-month ceasefire. Prior to Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Operation Black Belt in 2019, Israel assassinated a paramilitary leader. Prior to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israeli forces arrested some 350 Hamas members in the West Bank in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, despite there being no evidence of the kidnapping being a Hamas operation. Before the May 2021 assault last year, there was repeated aggressive Israeli police behaviour in and around the Al Aksa Mosque. In each case, the Israeli action led to a Hams/Islamic Jihad rocket salvo, to which Israel responded with air strikes which commenced the fighting.

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