HIC Statement: Decriminalize Palestinian Human Rights CSOs!
In response to Israel’s recent attack on six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, fallaciously designating them as ‘terrorist organizations,’ HIC released a statement of support and solidarity. The organizations include HIC Members, partners, colleagues and friends. Since the baseless attack, new, disturbing elements have come to light. Reports revealed that human rights activists affiliated with these organizations were targeted by Israel’s military-grade spyware, ‘Pegasus’, which was installed on their phones to access data and communications, in a serious breach of privacy. More recently, Israeli speculation of connections between an employee of a different Palestinian CSO who was convicted of providing financial aid to the PFLP (previously banned by Israel as a militant group) and the six newly designated organizations was debunked. This non-existent link was some of the only ‘evidence’ Israel provided as basis for the terrorist designation.
On 10 November, HIC`s Board adopted a statement in solidarity with the six Palestinian human rights organizations, including HIC Members. The full public statement follows here:
HIC Statement: Decriminalize Palestinian Human Rights CSOs!
Habitat International Coalition (HIC) strongly condemns Israel’s Minister of Defense baseless and shocking designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) as “terrorist organizations” on 19 October 2021, under Israel’s domestic Anti-Terrorism Law (2016). The targeted organizations – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq: Law in the Service of Man, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) – include long-time Members, partners, colleagues, and friends of HIC and its Members worldwide.
These organizations are among the most-respected and most-effective working in occupied Palestine, internationally renowned for their human rights documentation and monitoring, analysis and advocacy, efforts to hold the Israeli authorities accountable for their crimes before the International Criminal Court, and social and legal assistance to political prisoners; farmers facing theft of Palestinian land and natural resources, tree and crop destruction; and Palestinian children and women disproportionately affected by violations and crimes committed with impunity by Israeli institutions, military and settlers. These Palestinian organizations’ valuable contributions to justice, human rights, and respect for international law in Palestine are precisely what has made them targets of the Israeli authorities.
On 3 November 2021, the Israeli military commander issued a military order that outlaws the organizations within the occupied West Bank, transposing the earlier unlawful designation of the six organizations as “terrorist organizations”. The military order announcing this heinous designation, effectively outlaws the CSOs, forbidding funding and public displays of support for the organizations’ activities. It also puts CSO staff, including human rights defenders, lawyers, researchers, and social workers, at imminent peril of invasive digital surveillance, arbitrary arrest and detention, where Israel’s practice of torture is routine, while the organizations’ assets are threatened with seizure and their offices of being raided and shut down. This action by the illegal occupying power has elicited a strong rebuke from numerous international human rights organizations, as well as the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and several UN Special Rapporteurs and human rights experts, as well as concerned states.
While the attacks against these six respected CSOs are a shocking escalation, they follow a decades-long pattern of suppression of Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders. In HIC’s experience, this treatment by Israeli authorities harkens back to similar abuse against Palestinian CSOs inside the Green Line since the late 1980s, when they raised their voices internationally about Israel’s system of institutionalized material discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people as a whole.
In recent years, Israeli authorities have designed and implemented an institutionalized smear disinformation campaign targeting Palestinian CSOs and human rights defenders, including defamation, attacks on funding, incitement to racial hatred, and hate speech. In addition, they have repeatedly raided these and other organizations’ offices and harassed staff, including through arbitrary arrests, travels bans, residency revocations, and death threats in attempts to delegitimize, silence and defund them. More crucially, such attacks follow the persistent unwillingness of governments and private sector actors to hold Israel accountable and implement consequences for violations of international human rights, humanitarian law and peremptory norms. In particular, this patterned attack violates the prohibition against “persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid” (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, Article II (f)).
HIC calls on Israel to rescind its defamation of these six CSOs and remedy any material consequences arising. HIC further calls on the international community, particularly US, EU, UK, Canadian and Australian governments, to clearly denounce this attack on the part of Israel with a view to bringing this repression of civil society to an end, to uphold their extraterritorial obligations and refrain from recognizing and cooperating with the illegal situation in Palestine until Israel ends its belligerent occupation and guarantees respect for human rights of the Palestinian people.