On October 22, 2021, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) designated six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations.  According to the MoD, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Al-Haq, Addameer, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), and Bisan were included on Israel’s list of terrorist organizations because they are operated by and for the benefit of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.

International, Israeli, and Palestinian NGOs reacted with swift condemnations of the decision, using inflammatory rhetoric including “totalitarian” and “apartheid.” Tellingly, none of the NGOs addressed the extensive evidence of NGO-PFLP links. Instead, they tried to frame the designations as “an attack on human rights defenders,” without explaining how an NGO tied to a terror group could be considered to be defending “human rights.”

NGO Reactions

Israeli NGOs

  1. Joint statement by Adalah, Akevot,  Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace, Emek Shaveh, Gisha, Hamoked, Haqel, Ir Amim, Kerem Navot, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I), Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI), Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din
  • On October 25, the NGOs published a joint statement, “A draconian measure against human rights organizations.” The NGOs alleged that “The Minister of Defense’s designation of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, among them our colleagues in the Palestinian human rights community, as terrorist organizations, is a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work. Documentation, advocacy and legal aid are fundamental activities for the protection of human rights worldwide. Criminalizing such work is an act of cowardice, characteristic of repressive authoritarian regimes. Civil society and human rights defenders must be protected. 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.”
  1. Adalah
  • On October 22, Adalah published a press release stating that “These groups are among the most prominent human rights organizations in Palestine that daily challenge and expose severe violations of human rights before the international community. Their designation as terrorist organizations fits totalitarian and colonial regimes and constitutes political persecution under the pretext of anti-terrorism legislation as it puts thousands of Palestinians in direct and immediate danger. Adalah is determined to resist these decisions by all legal means available.”
  1. Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
  • Tweet: “This move fatally harms human rights defenders and Palestinian civil society organizations, and could silence those who work to protect the rights of their people and criticize human rights violations by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.(3/4)” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “We stand in solidarity with human rights orgs, and call on the Minister of Defense to withdraw his decision immediately – a decision that is seemingly a continuation of the Israeli authorities’ delegitimization campaign against these and other civil society orgs.(4/4)” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. B’Tselem
  • Tweet by Hagai El-Ad: “Proud to be in solidarity with @alhaq_org‘s director @SJabaren, and with other Palestinian human rights defenders. Al-Haq and @btselem proudly won international awards together, and together we will defeat this apartheid.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by B’Tselem: “1. Israel’s “change” government’s designation of Palestinian human rights organizations as “terror organizations” is an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by B’Tselem: “3. B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, is proud of our joint work over the years – and is steadfast to continue so.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • On October 22, Sarit Michael (B’Tselem International Advocacy Officer) participated in a Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) podcast on this.
  1. Bimkom
  • On October 24, Bimkom called on the Minister of Defense and the Israeli government to “immediately reverse their decision to declare Palestinian human organizations as terrorist organizations. As an Israeli human rights organization, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian organizations contending with this severe attack, and strongly reject their incrimination as terrorist organizations.”
  1. Breaking the Silence
  • Tweet: “We stand with the Palestinian human rights NGOs and we call upon the international community and the Israeli government to object to this cowardly and dangerous move taken by the Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz.”  (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Gisha
  • On October 22, Gisha published a statement claiming that “Minister of Defense Benny Gantz’s declaration of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, among them colleagues in the Palestinian human rights community, as terrorist organzations marks a grave and shameful attempt to delegitimize human rights work…We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues and call on members of the Israeli government and the international community to oppose Gantz’s decision.”
  1. HaMoked
  • Tweet: “HaMoked stands in full solidarity with Palestinian human rights organizations against this outrageous attempt to silence their important work. We are proud to be their partners in the struggle for Palestinians’ human rights.” (Twitter, October 23)
  1. Kerem Navot
  • Tweet by Kerem Navot founder Dror Etkes: “Criminalization of opponents of a violent apartheid regime is an immanent feature of any violent apartheid regime” (Twitter, October 23)
  1. Michael Sfard (attorney for numerous NGOs):
  • Tweet: “Israeli MOD’s decision to designate six Palestinian Human Rights NGO’s as terrorist orgs is a declaration of war on the entire HR community. In Palestine, In Israel and around the world. It is an act the Netanyahu governments did not dare to carry out, and it was executed” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “without presenting the public with any proof for the allegations made. It is difficult to escape the impression that this is a tyrannical move meant to annihilate the Palestinian civil society for its commitment to the struggle against Israeli occupation and apartheid.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
  • Tweet: “PHRI stands in solidarity with the Palestinian organizations declared “terrorist” organizations by Minister of Defence @gantzbe, and call on him to retract his draconian statement.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Yesh Din
  • Tweet by Yesh Din Executive Director Lior Amihai: “The designation of Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, of six Palestinians organizations and terrorist organizations is an extremely dangerous and populist measure, intended to deal a disastrous blow to Palestinian civil society.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Lior Amihai: “Over the years we have worked closely with several of the organizations included in this designation and are proud of our joint efforts.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Zochrot

Palestinian NGOs

  • On October 22, PHROC and PNGO issued a joint statement regarding the “sinister, unprecedented, and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations.” According to the statement, “The designations represent an unprecedented and ominous attempt by the Israeli occupying authorities to silence and criminalize Palestinian CSOs that challenge Israel’s prolonged military occupation, entrenched settler-colonisation and apartheid of Palestine.”
  1. Al-Dameer
  • On October 23, Al-Dameer issued a press release calling on “the international community and the United Nations bodies concerned with the situation of human rights and civil work and associations to take immediate action to confront and cancel the decision of the Israeli Minister of Security.”
  1. Miftah
  1. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
  • On October 23, PCHR Director Raji Sourani published a statement alleging that “Israel is attempting to practice a Trump-era style of bullying, who issued an Administrative Order to prosecute any party that collaborates with the ICC in its investigations against the United States or Israel. This decision aims to uproot these organizations completely by drying their sources of funding by claiming linkage to terrorism. Unfortunately, we expect dangerous measures like confiscation of bank accounts, closures, travel ban. We also warn against the possibility of physical harm and liquidation.”
  1. Al Mezan
  • Tweet: “#Israel’s “terror” listing of 6 effective human rights orgs is the culmination of its campaign w/ associated actors to delegitimize + defund Palestinian CSOs—one that has centered around false claims of terrorism.” Al Mezan also published the joint PHROC/PNGO statement on its website. (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Samidoun
  • On October 22, Samidoun issued a statement saying, “Once again, the Israeli designations appear to essentially be copied-and-pasted from right-wing propaganda organizations like NGO Monitor that aim to shield Israel from international accountability by smearing and attacking Palestinian human rights defenders. Their shoddy reporting, baseless claims and factual inaccuracies are part and parcel of their attempt to defend Israeli colonialism, military occupation, apartheid, siege and mass arbitrary detention of Palestine and the Palestinian people.”

International NGOs

  1. Human Rights Watch
  • On October 22, HRW and Amnesty published a joint statement writing that“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. While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations. 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. How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders. We are proud to work with our Palestinian partners and have been doing so for decades. They represent the best of global civil society. We stand with them in challenging this outrageous decision.”
  • Tweet by Omar Shakir: “For those who distinguish btw “democratic” Israel in Green Line & the occupation, what do you make of an order issued by Israeli-elected govt, based on Israeli law, issued in Israel, that bans Palestinian orgs in OPT with no say over govt who controls their lives? It’s apartheid.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Ken Roth: “For the Israeli government, six top Palestinian rights groups have suddenly become “terrorists.” For @HRW, they are proudly our partners in documenting the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians. https://org/news/2021/10/22/israel/palestine-designation-palestinian-rights-groups-terrorists” (Twitter, October 23)
  • Tweet by Ken Roth: “In an appalling and brazen attack on Palestinian human rights groups, the Israeli military designates six leading ones to be “terrorist” organizations, allowing the government to close them, jail their staff, and outlaw any stated support for them.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Sari Bashi: “Section 24(a)(1) of Israel’s antiterrorism law imposes up to 3 years in prison for identifying with a “terrorist group” by publicly expressing support, praise or sympathy. I support @alhaq. I praise @DCIPalestine. I sympathize with @Addameer. Please join me in breaking the law.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Richard Weir (HRW Crisis and Conflict Researcher): “Preposterous attack by the Israeli government on Palestinian human rights organizations.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Eric Goldstein: “It took 30+ years of @al-Haq_org reporting on human rights, and a “moderate” Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, for Israel to declare al-Haq “a terrorist organization.” Heads should be rolling at the Shin Bet.” (Twitter, October 23)
  • Tweet by Eric Goldstein: “The “only democracy in the Middle East” has outdone its autocratic neighbors in trying to muzzle those who expose its human rights abuses.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Omar Shakir: “Tonight in Amman with @SJabaren. @hrw has worked with @alhaq_org for 30 years. Shawan sits on our MENA Advisory Board. Deport us, ban us from travel, outlaw us, but you won’t silence us. Proud to fight apartheid & defend human rights alongside the indefatigable Shawan.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Amnesty International
  1. Oxfam International
  • On October 22, Oxfam posted on Facebook that “Palestinian civil society organisations are under relentless attack as they are again targeted by delegitimization campaigns led by the Israeli government. This latest move is part of an alarming trend aimed at censoring those documenting human rights abuses. Civil society organisations should be able to work without retaliation and with protection. The international community must show solidarity, denounce this decision and call on the Government of Israel to reverse it immediately.”

American NGOs

  1. Adalah Justice Project
  • Tweet: “The Union of Agricultural Workers Committee @UAWC1986 provides vital resources to keep Palestinian farmers on their land to resist Israeli settler colonialism. An article earlier this year documents their struggle against an Israeli smear campaign.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “We stand in complete solidarity with our friends and colleagues at AlHaq, Addameer, Defense of Children International-Palestine, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “What is Israel trying to hide here? Amplify the work of these organizations and send a clear message to apartheid Israel that we won’t stop bringing to light their crimes and abuses.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
  • On October 22, AFSC published a press release stating “The Israeli government has targeted these organizations for decades because of their human rights activism. They have arrested and detained staff, raided organizations offices, and made similar accusations to these organizations’ donors…This is an outrageous and dangerous escalation of Israel’s attacks on civil society. The U.S. government must immediately condemn this move, demand its immediate reversal, and insist on protections for civil society and human rights defenders.”
  • Tweet: “We stand with these organizations and other #HumanRights defenders in #Palestine as they continue to work to end abuses, inequalities, and #occupation.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
  • On October 22, AMP published a statement alleging that “The Israeli government continues to attack Palestinian human rights and civil society groups who are exposing Israel’s apartheid regime to the rest of the world and particularly groups who are making an impact at the United Nations and US Congress…The Biden Administration and Congress can no longer enable the injustices committed by the state of Israel and must openly and firmly condemn this designation by the Israeli government.”
  • Tweeted: “URGENT NEWS: Today Israel has declared the work of 6 leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, including the work of @DCIPalestine to be “terrorism.”This is a cruel attempt to repress and criminalize supporters of the Palestinian people.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweeted: “Israel’s decision to designate six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist groups is a transparent effort to silence criticism of Israeli apartheid through repression and intimidation.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Center for Constitutional Rights
  • On October 22, CCR published a press release claiming that “Israel’s designation of leading Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist is a continuation of a long-standing project by the Israeli government and its supporters to isolate Palestinian civil society advocates and criminalize the promotion of Palestinian rights. These organizations are pillars of Palestinian civil society, and we are proud to have joined many of them in their crucial work to expose and seek accountability for Israeli human rights abuses.”
  • Tweet by Diala Shamas: “Translation of these orders: after years of unsuccessful efforts to persuade, or bully European and US donors and allies to defund and discredit Palestinian human rights defenders, the Israeli govt gives up and just criminalized them under Israeli law.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  • On October 22, DAWN published a press release stating that “The Israeli government’s October 19 designation of several Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist institutions” is a deliberate attack on peaceful, non-violent, human rights advocacy by Palestinians designed to undermine Palestinian civil society.” According to DAWN Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson, “Israel has overreached in this latest attempt to ‘shrink the conflict’ by labeling Palestinian civil society groups demanding human rights as ‘terrorists,’ instead exposing its abuse of counter-terrorism laws to crush dissent, just like the worst tyrants in the region…The Biden administration has emboldened the Israeli government to launch this callous assault on Palestinian civil society by coddling it with increased military assistance despite its advancing authoritarianism.”
  1. Eyewitness Palestine
  • Tweeted: “In November, we will be leading a virtual focused on Palestinian political prisoners with Addameer. Joining is one way to take action to support their important organizing against unjust Israeli policies of criminalization and incarceration.” (Twitter, October 23).
  1. Foundation for Middle East Peace
  • Tweet by Lara Friedman: “In charging Palestinian human rights defenders w/ “terrorism” Israel is in a growing club of nations exploiting “fighting terror” to silence those drawing attention to morally/politically/legally indefensible policies/actions. Let’s look at the company Israel finds itself in!” (Twitter, October 23)
  • Tweet by Lara Friedman: “Israel moves to weaponize an approach I’ve long dubbed “6 degrees of terrorist contamination” — Israel declares leading Palestinian NGOs to be PFLP-affiliates” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Grassroots International
  • Tweet: “Solidarity with Palestinian civil society! We can’t stay silent about this blanket repression.” (Twitter, October 23)
  1. IfNotNow
  • Tweet: “The Israeli government just shamefully designated six leading Palestinian human rights groups as ‘terrorist organizations.’ Let’s support these Palestinian human rights leaders with action. Tell @SecBlinken to publicly oppose Israel’s decision.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “We condemn this authoritarian decision by the Israeli government. It is an escalation in the long history of silencing human rights advocates to hide the realities of apartheid. @SecBlinken must publicly oppose this designation and ensure the freedom of Palestinian activists…. The Israeli government has been attacking Israeli and international human rights advocates for years. But, as always, Palestinians face the highest level of threat. It is long past time for leaders of conscience to take action against Israeli apartheid.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Jewish Voice for Peace
  • Tweet: “This is outrageous. Palestinian human rights groups have – for decades – stood strong in the face of continued attacks by the Israeli government and military. This latest accusation by the Israeli government on key human rights orgs is an attack on all Palestinian rights.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “It’s also an obvious move by the Israeli government to evade accountability. This attack is an attempt to silence groups like @alhaq_org, @DCIPalestine, and @Addameer, which are tirelessly and meticulously documenting the crimes of Israeli apartheid.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Beth Miller (Governments Affairs Manager): “Israel’s shutting down the leading Palestinian human rights groups, so you’re not going to have people to tell you about all these plans that you’re so ‘concerned’ about @SecBlinken @POTUS . Israel IS TAKING unilateral actions and it is silencing anyone who stands in the way.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet by Beth Miller: “The Israeli Defense Ministry is trying to shut down some of the leading Palestinian human rights organizations by designating them as ‘terrorist organization.’ Including the group I proudly worked for for several years, @DCIPalestine.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. Palestine Legal
  • Tweet: “1/ Israel’s expansion of the so-called “terrorist” designation is racist propaganda based on unfounded accusations. It’s another escalation of Israeli efforts to isolate Palestinians organizations doing critical work to expose Israel’s constant violations of Palestinian rights.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “4/ We stand in full solidarity with the organizations that Israel is targeting, and call on civil society internationally to do the same. It is Israel that needs to be isolated & held accountable in order to put an end to this hostile apartheid regime that our tax dollars enable.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • On October 22, 2021, T’ruah CEO Rabbi Jill Jacobs published a statement claiming that “This decision is an alarming attempt by the Israeli government to silence Palestinian human rights defenders…and those that offer legal support and defend Palestinians subject to human rights abuses…By falsely labeling Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups, the Israeli government reduces transparency and violates the basic rights of Palestinians in ways that can have life-threatening consequences…”
  • On October 22, 2021, T’ruah tweeted, “This is outrageous. These are some of the most important groups working for Palestinian human rights (including under PA & Hamas). Gantz must immediately reverse this decision.”
  1. US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
  • Tweet by USPCR Executive Director Ahmad Abuznaid: “When a state labels everything from agricultural work to human rights, protection of children, and boycotts as terrorism, it makes clear what this state seeks to extinguish. Palestinian life is what Israel wants to destroy & deny.” (Twitter, October 23)
  • Tweet by Ahmad Abuznaid : “Israel today put a hit out on 6 human rights organizations.” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “The U.S.-funded Israeli apartheid regime labeled 6 Palestinian rights orgs as ‘terrorists,’ threatening them w/indefinite detention for reporting on lived realities under Israeli occupation. Which elected officials will rise to the moment & speak out against this?” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “URGENT: Speak out against the Israeli apartheid regime’s criminalization of 6 leading Palestinian human rights orgs. Use this Action Guide to call your member of Congress, email congressional staffers, & speak up on social media. TAKE ACTION” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “More on the vital work of DCIP to defend Palestinian children’s rights and support their families, from @JehadAbusalim” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “ALERT: Today Israel declared this work “terrorism”: documenting the murder of Palestinian children @DCIPalestine , supporting Palestinian political prisoners @Addameer , reporting on human rights @alhaq_org , & helping farmers remain on their ancestral land @UAWC1986.” (Twitter, October 22)

European NGOs

  1. Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
  • On October 22, AFPS published a press release entitled “Unprecedented Israeli offensive against Palestinian NGOs. France must recall its ambassador to Israel“ condemning “this order of the Israeli government and assures its friends and partners of the Palestinian civil society of all its solidarity and support. Taking action on the ground as well as through their advocacy work, these Palestinian organizations are doing extraordinary work in an environment made particularly difficult by the exactions of the Israeli occupation forces: arrests of their leaders, ransacking, searches and closures of their premises…”
  1. Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP)
  • On October 23, ABP published the statement “Israel’s declaration of war on Palestinian NGOs calls for immediate response, ” in which ABP president, Pierre Galand, stated that “By its unprecedented scale, this group fire against organizations whose quality of work is recognized and which play an essential social and societal role aims to intimidate and silence the entire Palestinian people in the face of the process of dispossession of which it is making the object.”
  1. Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu)
  • Tweet: “Caabu condemns the Israeli onslaught against Palestinian civil society, an outrageous attempt to silence criticism of its systematic violations of international law. The international community must send a firm response that such behaviour cannot be tolerated….” (Twitter, October 22)
  • Tweet: “and extend its full support to those organisations under attack. Caabu is proud to have worked with many of these organisations including them briefing MPs. The work of @alhaq_org @Addameer @DCIPalestine and the others has been outstanding and vital.” (Twitter, October 22)
  1. EuroMed Rights
  • On October 24, EuroMed Rights published a press release calling for the EU to “condemn this move unequivocally!” According to the press release, “EuroMed Rights members in Palestine, Israel and Europe unequivocally condemn this dramatic step that has no other purpose than silencing the very voices that daily document, denounce and work against the Israeli policies of occupation, oppression and discrimination against Palestinians.”
  1. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)
  1. Plateforme des ONG Françaises pour la Palestine (PFP)
  • On October 22, 2021, PFP published the statementSix Palestinian NGOs placed on Israeli list of terrorist organizations,” stating that PFP “which works regularly with several of these organizations, denounces the gravity of this unprecedented decision, worthy of an authoritarian regime” “‘By attacking these benchmark Palestinian NGOs, known for the quality of their work, the Israeli government is taking a new step in its strategy of attacking human rights defenders ,’ declared François Leroux, president of the French NGO Platform for Human Rights. Palestine. This is a very serious threat to our partners in Palestine. France and the European Union must clearly oppose this decision of the Israeli government.”
  1. Rights Forum
  • On October 25, Rights Forum announced that “The Rights Forum joins the broad international protest against the measure, and calls on The Hague to take concrete action,” claiming that “the repressive measure is part of Israeli policy to crush any opposition to the oppression of the Palestinian population in occupied territory.”
  1. War on Want
  • On October 22, War On Want published a press release condemning “Israel’s move to outlaw Palestinian human rights organisations. This is the latest escalation in Israel’s systematic, targeted repression of Palestinian human rights defenders and Palestinian civil society organisations; which has been extensively documented by international human rights organisations and the UN…Now more than ever, the international community must stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society to protect human rights defenders and demand accountability for Israel’s human rights abuses.”
  1. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
  • Tweet: “#Palestine: we express our solidarity with our member @alhaq_org and the other 5 Palestinian human rights groups who help thousands of victims of violence and oppression. We stand by them and urge the international community to show their clear support now.” (Twitter, October 22)