A human rights attorney argued that the Biden administration’s refusal to condemn Israel’s smear of leading Palestinian organizations as terrorists “has led to this day.”
Human rights advocates around the world responded with alarm after one of the Palestinian groups targeted by Israeli officials announced Israel’s security agency detained its leader for a couple of hours Sunday.
Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) said in a series of tweets that director general Khaled Quzmar was in the custody of the agency, known as Shin Bet or Shabak, “as Israeli authorities again escalate attacks” against it and other civil society groups.
“Quzmar received a phone call at 2:25 pm local time from a Shin Bet agent summoning him for interrogation. He went to Israel’s Ofer military base soon after,” DCI-P said. “An eyewitness at Ofer military base saw Quzmar escorted into Shin Bet premises around 3:20 pm. Quzmar was not allowed to have legal counsel accompany him.”
The group later added that Quzmar was released “after approximately two hours in Shin Bet custody.”
— IPSC (@ipsc48) August 21, 2022
The incident came after Israeli soldiers on Thursday stormed the West Bank offices of DCI-P as well as Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Agricultural Works Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Health Workers Committees.
Addameer called Quzmar’s detention a “frightening escalation in the attack on Palestinian civil society.”
Katherine Gallagher, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, said that U.S. President Joe Biden and others in his administration “must put action behind all the talk of human rights and #StandWiththe6,” referencing the groups that Israel hit with terrorist designations last October.
“U.S. failure to condemn Israel’s designation—smear—of six leading Palestinian [organizations] as ‘terrorists’ has led to this day,” she added.
Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington, D.C., called Sunday’s incident “the inevitable result” of the Biden administration “agreeing to wait for more ‘evidence’ (after admitting ‘evidence’ Israel gave them til now was BS).”
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, declined to explicitly condemn the West Bank office raids during a Thursday press briefing but said that the administration is “concerned” and had “reached out to the Israeli government… for more information.”
“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.”
Friedman highlighted what members of the groups could face based on the past behavior of Israeli authorities.
Faced with “secret evidence”, indefinite detention, and the clear impossibility of any kind of justice, it is impossible to blame Palestinians who give in and confess to whatever they have to in order to end the process.
— Lara Friedman (@LaraFriedmanDC) August 21, 2022
“The Kafka-esque example of World Vision’s Mohamed Halabi exemplifies this reality,” Friedman said of an aid worker‘s recent and widely criticized trial. “Secret evidence, detention for SIX YEARS with Israel trying to force him to plead to ANYTHING they could use, and then convicting him anyway.”
The U.S.-based Adalah Justice Project also called out the Biden administration—specifically taking aim at Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“There has been no U.S. condemnation of Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian institutions,” the group said Sunday in response to DCI-P’s tweets. “[Blinken], this is on you.”
Yumna Patel, Palestine news director at Mondoweiss, noted that “I interviewed Khaled days ago after the Israeli army raided and shut down [DCI-P].”
“He warned that this would happen, and called for action from the [international] community,” Patel said. “This is the result of months of silence and failure of the U.S. [government] to condemn the attacks on [Palestinian] civil society.”
We stand w/ @DCIPalestine & Khaled Quzmar.
The int’l community—particularly the EU, its member states & the US—must take immediate action to end Israel’s attack on Palestinian civil society with concrete + tangible steps. Condemnation statements are not enough!#StandWithThe6 https://t.co/8nIf8mOf6V
— Al Mezan – الميزان (@AlMezanCenter) August 21, 2022
The DCI-P chief was not the only civil society leader sought out by Israeli security on Sunday, according to Al-Haq.
Al-Haq general director Shawan Jabarin “received a threatening call this morning from a person claiming to be from the [Shabak], requesting Shawan for interrogation and making threats of imprisonment and other measures if Al-Haq continues its work,” the group said. “We urge for immediate protection.”