Five European countries expressed "serious concern" at Israel's designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups after a Security Council meeting late on Monday and said they will be seeking more information from Israeli authorities on the reasons for their listing.
The 15-member council took no action after the closed consultations. But a statement from Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and Albania, which will join the council in January, said the listings "have far-reaching consequences for the organizations in political, legal and financial terms."
They said they "will study carefully" information provided by Israel on the basis for the designations.
"A thriving civil society and respect for fundamental freedoms are cornerstones of open democracies," said the statement read by Estonia's UN Ambassador Sven Jurgenson after the council discussion. "Civil society is an essential contributor to good governance, human rights, international law, democratic values and sustainable development across the world, including in Israel and Palestine."
"It also contributes to peace efforts and confidence-building between Israelis and Palestinians," the statement said.
Last month, Israel said the six Palestinian human rights organizations were tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular, leftist political movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel and Western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organization.
But a confidential Israeli dossier detailing alleged links between the Palestinian human rights groups and the PFLP contains little concrete evidence, and it has failed to convince European countries to stop funding the groups.
The six groups, some of which have close ties to rights groups in Israel and abroad, deny the allegations. They say the terror designation is aimed at muzzling critics of Israel's half-century military occupation of territories the Palestinians want for their future state.