At the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 27 – March 24), a common theme was “growing challenges” and “shrinking space” for human rights defenders (HRDs). Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967” Michael Lynk repeatedly demonized Israel as non-democratic for supposedly attacking HRDs and interfering in their human rights work.

As defined by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, an HRD is “a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights.” At a minimum, an HRD must accept the universality of human rights and partake only in peaceful action.

So, who are the HRDs being championed by NGOs and Lynk?

It turns out that the NGOs and Lynk celebrate individuals whose actions epitomize the opposite of universal human rights and peace. They falsely label as “HRDs” virulent antisemites, individuals convicted of terrorism, and someone who has allegedly funneled millions of dollars away from humanitarian causes and towards violent extremism.

In his report, Lynk further relies on the claims made by politicized NGOs that receive funding from European governments. Information provided in a November 2016 joint letter to Lynk by Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), BADIL, Al-Mezan, and more is echoed in the UN Rapporteur’s report, and both documents name many of the same controversial individuals as HRDs. Addameer, Al Haq, and DCI-P are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization.

Lynk, furthermore, is himself directly linked to various groups that advocate for BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel. He was listed as a member of Friends of Sabeel North America’s (an organization that promotes BDS, Palestinian liberation theology, and supersessionism) “Patrons and Advisory Board” and signed a statement accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. Lynk was also scheduled to speak at an event hosted by BADIL on March 20, 2017.

Photo of flyer from BADIL event, listing Michael Lynk as a speaker

The following are seven examples of what constitutes a human rights defender at the UN:

  1. Manal Tamimi: described in Lynk’s report as a “leader of the protest movement in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh.”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. On August 1, 2015, Tamimi called for a “third intifada” and for people to rise up and kill “all these Zionist settlers everywhere.” On December 8, 2016 she similarly tweeted that “we will keep resisting until the last Zionist either got killed or leave Palestine.”



  1. Anti-universal human rights:
    1. On September 22, 2015 on Yom Kippur (a fast day and holiest day in the Jewish calendar), Tamimi tweeted, “Vampire Zionist celebrating their Kebore (sic) day by drinking Palestinian bloods (sic), yes our blood is pure & delicious but it will kill you at the end.”


  2. Mohammed El-Halabi: Lynk lists El-Halabi as an HRD while at the same time acknowledging that “In June 2016, the Israeli military arrested Mohammed el-Halabi, the director of World Vision’s Gaza operations, on charges that he had diverted large amounts of aid money to the military wing of Hamas.”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. On August 4, 2016, El-Halabi was revealed by the Shabak, the Israeli security agency, to be a Hamas terrorist. He is accused of diverting approximately 60% of the World Vision’s Gaza budget to the terrorist organization to build tunnels and fund other terrorist activity. The siphoned funds amount to approximately $50 million. The trial is ongoing.
  1. Shawan Jabarin: In the opening of the HRD section of Lynk’s document, it states that there have been messages and threats made “to the lives or well-being of various Al-Haq employees, including its General Director, Shawan Jabarin.”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. Jabarin has alleged ties to PFLP terrorist organization and, as such, has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan. The PFLP is a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.
      2. According to a 1995 Israeli submission to the UN, Jabarin was convicted in 1985 for recruiting members for the PFLP. Jabarin was also found guilty of arranging PFLP training outside Israel and was sentenced by Israeli courts to 24-months imprisonment, of which he served nine. In 1994, Jabarin was again arrested for alleged links and placed in administrative detention for six months. An Israeli statement to the UN notes that he “had not discontinued his terrorist involvement and maintains his position in the leadership of the PFLP.”
    2. Anti-universal human rights:
      1. Jabarin ignores Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.
      2. One of the many examples is Al-Haq’s 2015 publication “Divide and Conquer: A Legal Analysis of Israel’s 2014 Military Offensive Against the Gaza Strip,” which claims that “On 12 June 2014, three Israeli teenage settlers disappeared near the West Bank city of Hebron. The three individuals were later found dead.” This passive statement completely erases the blatant violation of Israeli rights – the kidnapping and murder of the three by Palestinians.
  • Another example is Al-Haq’s reference to Hamas terrorists as “Palestinians linked to the resistance.”
  1. Salah Khawaja: Described as “A member of the secretariat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee was arrested during a night raid by the Israeli military on 26 October 2016 at his home in Ramallah (within Area A).”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. Was an “active member” of PFLP terrorist organization. He was arrested by Israeli security forces seven times for his ties to the PFLP terror group between 1983 and 1992 and served five years in prison between 1992 and 1997. Khawaja was again arrested on October 25, 2016.
  1. Omar Barghouti: The UNHRC report acknowledges Barghouti as an HRD, and states that, “The impact is also being felt by Palestinian human rights defenders living in Israel on residency permits, such as Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement.”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. Uses Nazi rhetoric, for example stating that, “Many of the methods of collective and individual ‘punishment’ meted out to Palestinian civilians at the hands of young, racist, often sadistic and ever impervious Israeli soldiers at the hundreds of checkpoints littering the occupied Palestinian territories are reminiscent of common Nazi practices.”
      2. Is co-founder of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and a leader in BDS campaigns against Israel. BDS campaigns are counterproductive to a peaceful resolution between Israelis and Palestinians, as they present a one-sided narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict that fails to address both sides concerns and the history of both peoples. BDS further causes polarization and fails to bring both sides together in peaceful coexistence in anyway. The BDS Movement and PACBI further do not advocate for a two-state framework.
    2. Anti-universal human rights:
      1. Does not support the two-state framework, and instead advocates for a one-state solution, stating that “definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” He further denies Jewish self-determination by stating that, “Manipulating the Holocaust, Israel has premised its rejection of Palestinian refugee rights on the theory that Jews are unsafe among Gentiles and must therefore live in a state with a dominant Jewish character that is to be sacredly maintained…”
      2. Uses racially-charged rhetoric. For example, he stated that “Palestinian communities… have been recently subjected to some of the worst, ongoing Israeli campaigns of gradual ethnic cleansing intended to Judaize their space.”
  1. On March 19, 2017 was arrested in Israel on charges of tax evasion. Barghouti is suspected of hiding $700,000 in unreported income, some from his company “National Computing Resources” and some from honorarium payments for lectures and proceeds from a book. The money was allegedly hidden in a Ramallah-based bank account.
  1. Hasan Safadi: Described as “A member of the secretariat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee was arrested during a night raid by the Israeli military on 26 October 2016 at his home in Ramallah (within Area A).”
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. Addameer, of which Safadi is a media coordinator, is an official PFLP “affiliate” organization. Numerous employees, including Addameer’s founder Abdul-latif Ghaith, have been convicted for ties to the terrorist group.
    2. Anti-universal human rights:
      1. Addameer is a leader of campaigns in support of Palestinians prisoners convicted of security offenses, referring to them as “political prisoners” and altogether omitting the context of violence and terror.
  1. Omar Shakir: Shakir is the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). In his report, Lynk states that, “HRW, which has worked in Israel for almost three decades, has assiduously advocated for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Over the years, it has issued a number of reports critical of Israel, but has also cited the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for human rights violations.” The report also discusses Israel’s denial of a work permit for Shakir in February 2017.
    1. Anti-peace:
      1. Shakir has opposed peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, stating that negotiations “will do nothing but institutionalize injustice.”
    2. Anti-universal human rights:
      1. Shakir is a consistent supporter of a one-state framework and advocate for BDS campaigns against Israel. At a May 2010 presentation at UC Irvine he stated that, “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses and we face a South African style struggle for equal voting rights, then as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.

Many NGOs also submitted written and presented oral statements that arbitrarily accused Israel of violating the human rights of HRDs (see NGO Joint Submission, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ oral statement, and Al Mezan written statement).

In an especially egregious stunt by, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies brought to the session the father of a terrorist who murdered three Israelis in a terror attack in Jerusalem in 2015. In his statement, Mohammed Alyyan described terrorists as “martyrs,” and claimed that he was a defender of human rights that represents the Palestinians from the targeting and collective punishment of Israel. Neither Alyyan nor the Cairo Institute mentioned the severity of the crime committed by his son.