In November 2017, the EU approved a 2018-2020 €269,975 grant to an Israeli political NGO, Yesh Din, for a project ostensibly designed to increase “Israeli security forces personnel (ISFP) accountability for forcible home entries in line with democratic standards and international humanitarian and human rights law.” Yesh Din is implementing this grant in partnership with Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I).
A 2018 funding appeal submitted by Yesh Din to the UN demonstrates the NGO’s assumptions and methodology. In that request, Yesh Din alleges, “…the military justice system grants nearly complete impunity for Israeli security forces personnel and their conduct” regarding “Forcible Home Entries (FHEs)” (emphasis added). The NGO goes on to explain how, together with Breaking the Silence and PHR-I, it intends to address these supposed deficiencies by “Appealing decisions to close investigations on a case-by-case basis” and “Filing petitions to High Court of Justice on specific cases and principled matters” (emphases added).
A review of the activities of these three Israeli NGOs since 2018 reveals what they have done with the EU funds, including promoting the canard that Israel is practicing “apartheid.”
The use of “apartheid” and “accountability” language indicate that this project is part of a broader campaign to lobby the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into Israel.
The roles of each NGO
In November 2020, the trio of NGOs published a report purporting to analyze home entries by Israeli forces in the West Bank. The report features the EU flag on the copyright page.
According to the NGOs, entries into Palestinian homes are “arbitrary, unjustified and unnecessary” and constitute “a significant and effective tool by the State of Israel to oppress Palestinians and increase control over them.” In the publication, Palestinians do not commit acts that would necessitating searches, but rather are the ones who experience the “terror and violence.”
The publication describes each NGO’s contribution to the EU-funded project:
- Yesh Din interviewed Palestinian whose homes were allegedly searched by Israeli forces and prepared legal complaints based on their accounts of the alleged behavior of Israeli personnel.
- PHR-I interviewed Palestinian families in order to gauge the mental health effects of home searches.
- Breaking the Silence solicited “testimonies” from Israeli soldiers who claim to have participated in such operations.
Appeal to Israeli High Court of Justice
On March 22, as part of this project, Yesh Din, PHR-I and individual Palestinians petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ), “demanding the Order Regarding Security Provisions be revised so that security forces be required to obtain a judicial warrant before entering and searching Palestinians’ residences.” According to Yesh Din, “the petition also asks that the army cease from searching the petitioners’ homes until the requested change is made to the Order Regarding Security Provisions except in exceptional, necessary and urgent cases.”
According to the NGOs, this would supposedly “bring military law in line with the requirements of international human rights law and the standards set by every legal system that respects the rights of the individual.” In sharp contrast to this claim, international law does not require that militaries obtain warrants to carry out operations or arrests. Such a demand only makes sense if Israel were to annex territory in the West Bank – a move strongly opposed by these NGOs – and Israeli police were making such arrests.
Labeling Israeli policy as “apartheid”
In their November 2020 joint publication, the three organizations assert that “The existence of two legal systems that apply to two separate national groups, as illustrated in this report in the context of the rules governing entry into the private domain, supports the claim that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid in the West Bank.”
This follows a July 2020 Yesh Din publication that alleges “that the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank” by Israel.
Under the international legal frameworks applied by these NGOs, Israel is obligated to apply military law in the West Bank. In other words, once again, Yesh Din and its allies are advocating a logically inconsistent position, which is also entirely unsupported by international law. In addition, these claims ignore the Oslo Accords, the framework of mutual agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which regulate how the territory is to be governed, including on security issues and procedures.
The NGOs also engaged in public advocacy in Israel. On November 13, 2020, Yesh Din and Breaking the Silence (as well as a marginal NGO know as Parents Against Child Detention) took out a full page ad in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. The ad announced a joint November 20 event on the issue of child detention, featuring “testimonies” from Palestinians whose homes had been entered by Israeli forces and by Israeli soldiers who had participated in such operations.
Notably, this demonstrates how the specific EU-funded project, under the façade of human rights and international law, is linked to other campaigns to demonize Israel, in particular efforts to generate sanctions with false claims relating to children’s rights.