- The NGO network are utilizing the proceedings at the United Nations as a platform for advancing arguments in favor of further legal attacks against Israel and for prejudging Israeli responses to violent demonstrations.
- Al Haq identifies legal attacks against Israel, not Palestinian statehood, as the “benefits” of the PA’s “September Initiatives at the United Nations,” including “further possibilities to adjudicate claims of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”
- In order to maximize political attacks against Israel, Al Haq proposes that Palestinians alone (unlike any other people) should be entitled to maintain two distinct and “parallel” representatives in international frameworks.
- ACRI offers an incomplete legal analysis on the ramifications of Palestinian statehood, proposing that an “innovative aspect” of “Palestine becoming party to the I[nternational] C[riminal] C[ourt] is that this court would now have jurisdiction over actions carried out in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
- B’Tselem asserts that Israeli security forces “denied the residents their right to protest the infringement of their rights, and completely prohibited them from demonstrating…even in the absence of any violent act by the demonstrators.”
- In the same report, B’Tselem states that violent acts did occur, but “the stone throwers were youths and children, who stood a good distance from the route of the main procession.”
- The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) has organized vigilante groups to patrol the West Bank and respond to “cases of settler attacks.”
Al Haq and ACRI: Abuse of Legal Institutions
Al Haq’s analysis of the legal implications of the Palestinian bid for statehood and UN recognition focuses on opportunities to attack Israel in international legal forums:
- “The upgrade of the Palestinian representation in the UN system is an important adjustment that would provide Palestine with further political leverage and legal avenues.”
- “The State has the benefit of accessing more effective legal mechanisms, including the international criminal justice system, and engaging with other States – including Israel, on an equal footing to claim its sovereign rights.”
- “The benefits of enhancing Palestine’s international legal personality can be classified in a two-fold manner: (1) further possibilities to adjudicate claims of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law; and (2) the possibility to gain further influence over the international community’s willingness to put an end to Israel’s violations.”
Yet, in line with its central concern for anti-Israel activism, Al Haq recognizes a fundamental limitation in Palestinian statehood – the “loss” of potential complainants against Israel. Moreover, Al Haq is well aware that the creation of a Palestinian state would immediately negate any claims by Palestinian refugees to “return” to areas outside of that state. According to the NGO, Palestinians living outside Palestine would not benefit from “enhancing Palestine’s international legal personality”:
- “The overarching concern has been that the UN initiatives could jeopardise the effective and collective representation of all the Palestinian people – the Diaspora, refugees, Palestinians citizens of Israel and the Palestinians in the OPT – both inside and outside of the UN system.”
- “However, the State of Palestine might face limitations vis-à-vis other States in bringing individual claims through different international mechanisms on behalf of those who are not its nationals or dependents, namely, Palestinian refugees whose homes are in Israel and Palestinians citizens of Israel.”
Therefore, in order to maximize political attacks against Israel and maintain the conflict, Al Haq proposes that Palestinians alone (unlike any other people) should be entitled to maintain two distinct and “parallel” representatives in international frameworks:
- “As such, it is of prime importance to safeguard the unique internationally recognised representational role and capacities of the PLO in parallel to those of the State of Palestine.”
- “The PLO should also continue to function outside of the UN system in parallel to the State, maintaining its current role and capacities because it is not subject to the limitations placed by international law and practice on relations between States.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) also identified “the major risk  to the legal and political status of the Palestine Liberation Organization” as the “umbrella of the representation of Palestinians and their inalienable rights,” including a so-called “right of return.” In contrast to Al Haq, however, PCHR does not suggest that the PLO function “in parallel to the State,” labeling such proposals “illogical.”
The Al Haq brief continues its exploitation of legal frameworks, including a strategy of “flooding the [Israeli Supreme] Court with petitions in the hope of obstructing its functioning and resources,” and the preparation of “ready-made case files” to prosecute Israeli officials. In addition, Al Haq has previously submitted a brief in support of the Palestinian Authority’s bid to accept ICC jurisdiction.
Al Haq’s funders include NGO Development Center (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands), Norway, Diakonia (Sweden), ICCO and Kerk in Actie (funds originated with Dutch government), Ireland, Spain, and Open Society Institute; PCHR is funded by the EU, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, and Oxfam NOVIB.
Attorneys from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) published an analysis of legal issues connected to the September initiatives (September 11, 2011). Their report ignores critical legal norms and promotes a politicized response to the Palestinian statehood bid. ACRI writes:
- “If Palestine is recognized as a state, this would open the way for it to become party to international conventions and international courts.”
- “Becoming a state party to these could provide Palestine with new tools to enforce Israel’s obligations to uphold Palestinian human rights.” (emphasis in original)
- “The innovative aspect entailed by Palestine becoming party to the ICC is that this court would now have jurisdiction over actions carried out in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (emphasis in original)
- “In this context, special attention should be given to the article in the Statute of the Court stating that the transfer, whether direct or indirect, of the population of the occupying power into occupied territory constitutes a war crime. This means that the issue of settlements would become an issue of an international criminal tribunal, which would open the door to the prosecution of Israelis responsible for establishing or expanding settlements.”
ACRI’s emphasis on the enforcement of Israel’s international “obligations” is an allusion to on-going “lawfare” campaigns, in which international legal mechanisms are exploited to seek politicized criminal arrest warrants against Israeli security personnel and political officials. NGOs have already sought criminal liability of Israeli officials in foreign tribunals (though none have been successful) and have submitted referrals to the International Criminal Court seeking to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.
More importantly, ACRI alleges that Palestinian statehood would open the door to prosecutions of “Israelis responsible for establishing or expanding settlements” and the construction of the security barrier, in the International Criminal Court (ICC) (The legal reasoning regarding the security barrier relies on the non-binding and highly discredited ICJ’s advisory opinion). Conspicuously, ACRI’s analysis of ICC jurisdiction fails to include the gravity threshold demanded by the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC – a stark omission, particularly as the Office of the Prosecutor begins investigations into the ongoing situations in Syria and Libya.
Since the ICC can only act if domestic courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute, a point repeated in the analysis, ACRI’s focus on “new tools” can be seen as a both a delegitimization of the Israeli Supreme Court’s handling of human rights issues domestically and a warning to the Israeli government and courts.
Between 2006 and 2009, NIF authorized grants worth $3,274,693 to ACRI (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). ACRI receives funding from the European Union (€231,759 – 2010-2012); the governments of Sweden (via Diakonia), the UK (£73,000 in 2008-09), Norway, Netherlands, Spain, and Belgium; Ford Foundation; and Christian Aid.
Prejudging Israeli Responses to Planned Demonstrations
One of the major ramifications of the initiatives at the United Nations is the possibility of massive protests in the West Bank. As the “Nakba” and “Naksa” demonstrations earlier this year have illustrated, as well as weekly protests at the security barrier, there is potential for violence, and Israeli security forces are legally obligated to protect public order.
A campaign by the NIF Network of NGOs has attempted to prejudge and pre-delegitimize Israel’s responses. The NGO statements falsely portray violent demonstrations as “non-violent.” In contrast to promoting human rights and the rule of law, these groups ignore or erase very real threats to public safety and human life.
B’Tselem Report: Show of Force: Israeli Military Conduct in Weekly Demonstrations in a-Nabi Saleh
B’Tselem released a politically-charged report the week of September 12; the timing of the report shows a clear connection to Palestinian initiatives at the UN:
- “In advance of the expected vote on including a Palestinian state in the United Nations on 20 September 2011, the Israeli security establishment is preparing to cope with wide-scale demonstrations in the Occupied Territories. This report describes how the forces currently respond to demonstrations in the Occupied Territories, even when these are limited in scope, by describing the army’s and Border Police’s handling of the demonstrations in a-Nabi Saleh.”
B’Tselem alleges that “security forces denied the residents their right to protest the infringement of their rights, and completely prohibited them from demonstrating…even in the absence of any violent act by the demonstrators.” To match its political aims, this NGO also claims that “forces made excessive use of crowd control measures.”
The report’s focus on the allegedly “non-violent”1 nature of protests in the West Bank is belied by B’Tselem’s own admission that stone throwing accompanies the gatherings.
- “Some of the participants in the demonstrations threw stones at the security forces. But the stone throwers were youths and children, who stood a good distance from the route of the main procession.”
- “For example, in the demonstration on 1 July, youths threw stones at security forces shortly after the forces had declared the demonstration illegal. In the other demonstrations, the stone throwing took place only in the afternoon, when the army and Border Police forces were inside the village, and also in the evening, as the forces withdrew from the village.”
Photographic and video evidence also depict the violent nature of the demonstrations.
In 2006-2009, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $897,007 to B’Tselem (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). Main funders include the EU; the governments of Holland, Norway, and the UK (£135,000 in 2010-11); church groups Christian Aid (UK), DanChurchAid, Diakonia (Sweden) and others; and Ford Foundation. In 2007, B’Tselem’s budget was 7.8 million shekels (approx. $2 million; information received from the Israeli Registry of Non-Profits).
Breaking the Silence Testimony: The Independent, “Military whistleblower tells of ‘indiscriminate’ Israeli attacks,” September 16, 2011
In order to bolster B’Tselem’s report and the wider campaign, Breaking the Silence released a testimony specifically related to protests and the use of tear gas in Nabi Saleh. The anonymous soldier’s testimony alleged that “Israeli troops fired tear gas indiscriminately and sometimes dangerously to enforce a daytime curfew inside a West Bank village to stop Palestinians holding a peaceful demonstration on their own land.” The soldier claimed that “I saw that the job I was doing did not have any connection with defending Israel.”
Breaking the Silence funders in 2008 and 2009 included the European Union, the governments of the UK (£157,590 in 2008-2011) and Spain, New Israel Fund, Oxfam, DanChurchAid, Christian Aid, and Open Society Institute.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Breaking the Silence, Rabbis for Human Rights, “Israeli NGO statement pre-statehood declaration,” September 21, 2011
Claiming that the protests will be “unarmed demonstrations [and] legitimate civil actions,” these NIF-funded groups accuse Israel of using “the declaration of the State of Palestine…as an excuse to drag the region into violence.” Their one-sided and prejudicial statement opens with, “Faced with oppression and political stalemate, Palestinians are demanding their liberty. Do not meet them with guns.”
ACRI Open Letter to Ehud Barak: August 8, 2011 Letter (Hebrew)
ACRI sent an open letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in August, alleging that “military legislation governing protests and demonstrations in the West Bank denies Palestinian residents the right to demonstrate.”
ACRI and Adalah Open Letter: “Police Preparation for the Expected September Demonstrations,” August 28, 2011 (Hebrew)
In August, NIF-funded NGOs ACRI and Adalah, sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, invoking the “right to protest” within Israel without recognizing legitimate security concerns and limitations that may be legitimately imposed both within Israel and in the West Bank.
Mossawa Article: “Mossawa Center calls [on Israel] not to send security forces to train in Daraa [Syria] and Tripoli,” June 2011 (Hebrew)
Mossawa has authored a satirically-titled statement which condemns Israel for preparing for possible violence in advance of the September initiatives. The group compares Israeli preparedness in the face of potential violence to Syrian and Libyan regimes. The group asks: “[Does the Israeli public] want a democracy or a repressive regime?”
Yesh Din, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PCHRI), Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Workshop: Lawyers workshop for representing arrested demonstrators
A coalition of NGOs has organized a workshop for attorneys in order to respond to an alleged “intensification of police repression against demonstrators.”
Vigilantes Provoking Confrontation
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) Patrol Campaign
The PSCC initiated a “volunteer-based campaign, in which several cars will patrol the West Bank to quickly respond to cases of settler attacks.” The group describes the project as “on-the-ground teams, composed of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists.” Self-proclaimed anarchist and Committee spokesperson Jonathan Pollak said that there is “no choice but for the Palestinians to protect themselves. The purpose of the project is to quickly respond to incidents of settler attacks, to document them and to try and prevent them.” Pollak does not address threats of increased violence against Israeli civilians in the West Bank and elsewhere.