On July 8, 2008, the Bil’in Village Council, with the assistance of the Palestinian NGO “Al Haq”, filed suit in Quebec against three Canadian corporations involved in construction projects in the town of Kiryat Sefer (Modi’in Ilit) in Israel. The village council and Al Haq claim that these corporations “are aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with Israel, the Occupying Power in the West Bank, in carrying out an illegal act” and acting in violation of the Geneva Conventions. A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for the end of June 2009. This case is one of a series initiated by Al Haq as part of its strategy to exploit Western courts for political goals (“lawfare”). Al Haq has also filed two suits (2006 and 2009) against British government officials to stop weapons sales to Israel. The 2006 suit was dismissed, and the 2009 suit is pending, but will likely be dismissed as well.
The Bil’in Village Council is also represented by Israeli attorney and political activist Michael Sfard. He is the legal advisor for the NGO known as Yesh Din, is on the legal team for Al-Haq’s Shawan Jabarin (see below), as well as for Peace Now and other groups.
Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP – no formal relationship with Medical Aid for Palestinians) is using its tax-exempt status to solicit donations to “finance[e] a legal fund to fight the court case.” MAP receives funding from CIDA (click “donations”) and from the Quebec Secretariat for International Aid (click “donations”). The organization also signed the original Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in 2005 (#65). Additionally, Orna Ben-Naftali, an executive board member of B’Tselem, contributed an “Expert Report and Opinion” in support of the lawsuit.
Background on Al Haq
- Al Haq is a leader in the NGO “lawfare” and BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel. The NGO’s funders include many European governments, NGOs, and international foundations, (Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Christian Aid, Diakonia, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute).
- Al Haq is also part of the coalition responsible for the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference. The paper calls on NGOs to “continue their legal efforts for the punishment of perpetrators of international crimes against the Palestinian people” and to “explore new legal strategies whereby Zionist organizations, foreign companies and governments that collaborate with Israel’s regime can be held accountable in court, including the European Human Rights Court” (emphasis added).
- Al Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin has been denied travel visas by both Israel and Jordan because of his alleged ties to the PFLP terror organization.
- Al Haq’s co-founder Charles Shamas is a senior partner of the Ramallah-based Mattin Group and a member of the Middle East–North Africa advisory board of Human Rights Watch. He has “advised the PLO/PNA on IHL-related diplomacy”; and led the lobbying effort of the EU “into reversing their de facto acceptance of Israel’s administrative annexation of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories”. Shamas compares Israeli policy to “apartheid” and “genocide,” and distorts IHL to erase Palestinian terror (what he labels “resistance”). He also erases the immorality of terrorism, by describing Palestinian mass violence as: “an uprising of large elements of a civilian population against an Occupying Power’s unlawful and predatory abuses of its control over that population and their habitat.”
- Reflecting the role of Shamas, Human Rights Watch regularly promotes Al Haq in its publications. HRW regularly cites Al Haq reports, and has been the leader in the campaign to end the travel restrictions on Jabarin. In many of HRW’s Jabarin appeals, the organization omits any reference to the connection between Jabarin and the PFLP, and to the Israeli Supreme Court decisions regarding his case (excerpted below):
Israeli Supreme Court decisions on Al Haq’s director, Shawan Jabarin
Following two hearings, on March 10, 2009, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that:
We found that the material pointing to the petitioner’s involvement in the activity of terrorist entities is concrete and reliable material. We also found that additional negative material concerning the petitioner has been added even after his previous petition was rejected. This negative basis strengthens the security authorities’ position, according to which the prohibition placed on the petitioner leaving the country is not intended for “punishment” for his forbidden activity, but due to relevant security considerations.
On July 7, 2008, in its decision regarding an appeal by Jabarin, the court noted:
We are dealing with reliable information according to which the petitioner is among the senior activists of the terrorist organization, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
And in June 2007, after another appeal, the court again found that:
This petitioner is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organization, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organization which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.