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Israel says no to NGO’s helping Palestinians

International NGOs working with Palestinians are supposed to provide vital help to the people, but Israel claims they are provoking trouble. As a result, the Israeli Interior Ministry has been withdrawing permits for aid workers.

Activists from around the world are keen to photograph and protest Palestinian suffering.

“Most of the NGO’S only bring more fuel to the conflict. They bring more hate to the conflict, they have kidnapped the terms human rights,” says founder of Im Tirtzu movement Ronen Shoval.

The Israeli Interior Ministry shares that view, and from the start of 2010, started withdrawing work permits from international NGO's. Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières have all been affected.

“Anyone who voices a pro Palestinian view, anybody who supports justice for Palestinians and Palestinian refugees is an enemy of Israel and sit pro quo a terrorist. I simply don’t buy it and I don’t think there is evidence of it,” says Martha Myers, Director for Occupied Palestinian Territories at care international.

Some volunteers say they have no choice but to do their work illegally. Emily, a British volunteer in the Palestinian Autonomy, is of Palestinian origin. However, she cannot live there because she cannot get a visa. For a while she managed to evade the Israeli authorities by leaving and returning every three months and lying to them that she lived in Jerusalem. But they eventually cottoned on – and have given her one month to leave Ramallah.

“The more visas you have on your passport the harder it gets and I think for me initially it was being overwhelmed and understanding you know which borders to use – how to talk to the soldiers – what to say and what not to say,” Emily says.

NGO Monitor is an Israeli organization that tracks non-governmental organizations working in the area. Their website accuses several charities working in the West Bank and Gaza of having links with terrorist organizations. It claims the medical coordinator of the Palestinian children’s welfare fund owns a hate-filled website, dedicated to the glorification of Jihad and the denunciation of Israel.

Adie Mordech has been in Gaza for six months and plans to stay six more. He is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement which Israel claims has terrorist links. Therefore they will not let him cross into the West Bank.

“There has been no evidence whatsoever and no cases of people in NGO’S committing any kind of violence whatsoever,” Mordech declares.

However Ronen Shoval disagrees: “We see Palestinians throwing stones and grenades on IDF soldiers and who’s helping them – you see a blonde girl from Switzerland.”

Mordech says, “These are human rights groups that are credible throughout the world and yet they are being stopped from entering. UN rapporteur Richard Falk was stopped from entering – this stretches up to the United Nations”.

For many NGO’s, the challenge is how to draw attention to the work they do without getting kicked out of the country. At the same time, many Israelis continue to question the work they are doing in the first place.