FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. - September 1, 2022
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Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Condemns Israeli Raid on Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) condemns the August 18th raid on seven Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah, West Bank. Israel designated six of these CSOs as terrorist organizations in October 2021: Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International- Palestine, Bisan, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. In addition to these six, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) also raided Health Work Committees (HWC)’s office, a Palestinian non-governmental health and developmental organization providing health services advocating for democratic culture. Israel designated HWC as a terrorist organization in 2020. IDF raided these organizations’ offices in the middle of the night, sealing some doors shut and threatening to arrest employees who return to work on-premise.
The IDF also raided St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Ramallah, entering the church with force and occupying spaces throughout the church property, firing gunshots, using stun grenades, and smashing doors. Israeli forces claimed the attack on the church was a means of raiding Al-Haq, which rents space from the church. CMEP joins the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Most Reverend Hosam E. Naoum in condemning this attack on “one of its sacred places of worship, as well as the devastation of church property.”
In addition to weakening Palestinian civil society, the GOI is violating international law and the Oslo accords by applying Israeli law in the occupied Palestinian territories. The attack on Al-Haq and St. Andrews also violates religious freedom.
The Government of Israel has failed to publicize any evidence to substantiate its accusations of these organizations’ ties to terrorism. In October 2021, CMEP joined 14 churches and church-based organizations in warning that if these designations stayed in effect, the Israeli government may “Close these organizations’ offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their staff.” Less than a year later, with the latest raids, these threats are being executed and reiterated. These attacks and closures are part of a larger trend many call the “shrinking space” of civil society and human rights defense, as increasing government restrictions attempt to stifle these and other organizations’ work.
It is inadequate for the US, as the State Department Spokesperson Ned Price indicated, to “not change our approach to and position on these particular organizations.” CMEP urges the United States State Department to join the nine European states which have formally rejected the designation of these organizations as terrorist. We also call on members of Congress to support HRes 751, introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (MN) in October 2021, which condemned the designation of the 6 organizations and calls for an immediate reversal.