In an effort to cut off the financial lifelines of six of the most prominent Palestinian human rights groups, the state of Israel has baselessly designated them as “terrorist” organizations.
On October 22, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that Israel will henceforth officially consider the six groups – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — as “terrorist organizations,” attempting to link them to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is a leftist Palestinian political party that has a military wing.
Israeli leaders are upset with the groups due to their support of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation of Israeli war crimes as well as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against the illegal Israeli occupation.
When Israeli officials endeavored to present secret evidence of the supposed “terrorist” affiliations of the six organizations, they were utterly unable to do so. Israel’s action provoked outrage from international human right observers, who have depicted the move as an attack on human rights defenders and the Palestinian human rights movement.
The Center for Constitutional Rights warned that the targeted organizations “now face possible mass arrest and being shut down by the Israeli government, and anyone identifying with the groups can also be subject to imprisonment, according to Israel’s draconian 2016 counterterrorism law.”
But a 74-page secret dossier prepared by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security force, failed to link the six groups directly or indirectly to the PFLP or any violent activity at all. The dossier, which was classified, was widely distributed to members of Congress and staff by Israel to European countries.
Israel Targets Six Leading Palestinian Human Rights Groups
“Israel is targeting us to silence us, and affect our important work in defending Palestinian human rights, and trying to seek accountability and justice,” wrote Sahar Francis, who is general director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, in an email to Truthout. “They are targeting us because we can prove they are committing grave violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Addameer provides legal support for Palestinian prisoners, documents arrests and administrative detentions, and works to end torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights.
Fatou Bensouda, the former chief prosecutor at the ICC, was appointed Chief Prosecutor on March 3, 2021. announced that the court had launched a formal investigation into war crimes committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge. Gantz was the head of the Israeli military at the time. killed 2,200 Palestinians, with at least 1,492 civilians and 437 of them children. Gantz later bragged that he had sent Gaza “back to the Stone Age.”
The ICC is also investigating Israel’s building of illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits Israel, as the occupying power from transferring its civilians onto occupied Palestinian territory.
Al-Haq, the largest Palestinian human rights group seeking to hold Israel accountable for its crimes at the ICC, is Al-Haq. Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, said his organization “crossed the red line” when it provided assistance to the ICC’s investigation of Israeli war crimes. Jabarin’s attorney, Michael Sfard, said, “It all starts and ends with the fact that these organizations are seen as promoting a boycott of Israel and the investigation of war crimes at the International Criminal Court. The attack on them is a political one under the guise of security.”
Al-Haq Director Jabarin also noted the irony of the “terrorist” designation. “Gantz says we are a terror organisation, when he himself is a war criminal,” he told Haaretz. Jonathan Cook, Journalist put it this way: “The reality is that Israeli leaders are conflating their own terror at being held to account for their crimes with an imagined ‘terrorism’ being waged by lawyers and researchers trying to show the reality of occupation.”
These terrorist groups were declared by Israel just days after it announced the construction more than 3,000 new Jewish-only settlementsIn the illegally occupied West Bank. This was an apparent attempt by the government to silence criticisms of its illegal transfer civilians into occupied Palestinian territory.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees has played a critical role in confronting illegal Israeli settlement expansion and theft of Palestinian farmers’ land. It supports sustainable farming and supports sovereignty over natural resources.
Defense for Children International – Palestine is the only Palestinian human rights organization dedicated to the rights of children. It provides legal services to children and investigates, documents, and exposes human rights violations in Israeli military detention.
The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committee helps empower Palestinian women to achieve economic independence and counter gender discrimination. It offers legal and psychological support to women.
The Bisan Center for Research and Development (also known as the Bisan Center for Research and Development) is a community resource that helps Palestinians to assert their socioeconomic rights.
European Union Will Continue Financial Support for Rights Groups
“The primary target of these designations is an attempt to ‘starve’ Palestinian rights groups by cutting off access to their funding,” said Charlotte Kates, who is the international coordinator of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, in an interview with Truthout. Israel designated Samidoun a “terrorist” organization in February 2021.
In an effort to convince European countries to stop financing the organizations, Israel sent the security force Shin Bet’s dossier to representatives of at least seven countries and the European Union in May 2021. At least five of those countries have senior citizens. officials said the dossier contained no “concrete evidence,” and that they would thus continue to fund the organizations in question. The Dutch foreign minister and Belgian economic development minister publicly stated the dossier did not contain “even a single concrete piece of evidence.”
Local Call? +972And The Intercept obtainedThe classified Shin Bet dossier was accompanied by hundreds of pages of Hebrew summaries and Israeli police interrogations of Palestinian accountants Amro Hmuda and Said Abdat who had previously worked for another Palestinian human rights group.
Abdat was subject to 32 interrogations, some lasting 22 hours. He was subjected to the “shabah” position, where his legs were tied and his hands were bound behind his back, causing severe pain. Labib Habib, Abdat’s attorney, saidHis client fell several more times. Shin Bet interrogators then poured water over him and refused to give medical treatment. They threatened to arrest his spouse and their family.
Tal Steiner (executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel) noted that these interrogation techniques were not acceptable. may constitute torture. Israel’s Supreme Court has banned the use of family members to apply psychological pressure, which could amount to psychological torture.
The European Union rejected Israel’s attempt to use the dossier to cause it to end its support to the targeted groups. An EU spokesperson said that, “Past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to certain of our Palestinian [civil society organization] partners have not been substantiated…. The EU will continue to stand by international law and support civil society organizations that have a role to play in promoting international law, human rights, and democratic values.”
International Backlash Against “Terrorist” Designations
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned Israel’s decision, calling it “an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion and expression and on the right to public participation,” and said it “should be immediately revoked.” Bachelet stated that the targeted groups were “some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory and for decades have worked closely with the UN.”
Several UN special rapporteurs likewise “strongly and unequivocally condemned” Israel’s designation of Palestinian human rights defenders as terrorist organizations. “This designation is a frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement, and on human rights everywhere,” the experts said. “Silencing their voices is not what a democracy adhering to well-accepted human rights and humanitarian standards would do. We call upon the international community to defend the defenders.”
Twenty-five Israeli human right organizations signed a statement of support for the targeted Palestinian groups, saying, “Documentation, advocacy, and legal aid are fundamental activities for the protection of human rights worldwide. Such work is considered cowardice by repressive authoritarian governments. It is essential to protect civil society and human right defenders. We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, and call on members of the Israeli government and the international community to oppose this decision unequivocally.”
Ten Palestinian Christian organizations that are globally recognized “condemn and denounce in the strongest possible terms” Israel’s terrorist designation of the six groups. They urged churches, governments and human rights organizations throughout the world “to reject and condemn this decision” and “to pressure Israel to revoke the decision, and to continue to support the right of Palestinians to justice, freedom and dignity.”
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Watch work with some of these groups. issued a joint statement that said, “This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians…. The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.”
Kates, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network International Coordinator noted that the designations also reflect settler colonialism. “Fundamentally, it’s important to remember that the entire instrument of Israel’s ‘terrorist list’ is a project of a colonial environment that aims to criminalize all forms of Palestinian resistance, rebellion or refusal, from taking up arms to fight for freedom, to filing a lawsuit or organizing farmers and women.”
According to international law, the Palestinians have a legal right to resist Israel’s illegal occupation, including by the use of armed struggle. 1982 resolution UN General Assembly “reaffirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”
Without the $3.8 billion annually provided by the United States in military assistance, Israel could not illegally take over Palestinian lands and commit war crime against the Palestinians. The U.S. government “therefore holds a unique obligation to speak out against and condemn actions by the Israeli Government that intentionally undermine democratic values and internationally recognized human rights,” states a resolution introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Michigan), urging the House of Representatives to condemn Israel’s terror designation of the six groups.
A broad coalition of more that 300 U.S.-based social injustice, human rights and civil right organizations wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken “to demand that [he] immediately and unequivocally condemn” the Israeli government’s terrorist designations.
“The work of these groups does not have to be hampered, and the designations can be rolled back,” Samidoun’s Kates says. “The best way to confront these designations is to support Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian children, Palestinian women and Palestinian farmers in their quest to liberate Palestine and bring colonization and apartheid to an end.”