On December 7, 2021, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) held an event titled “Supporting Human Rights Defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Reality, Challenges, and Obligations” to discuss the October 2021 decision by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. According to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), 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.
The event, which featured speakers from one of the designated NGOs, Al-Haq, as well as from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, included calls for BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions). NGOs also advanced their long-standing campaign to pressure the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation of against Israelis.
As shown in the quotes below, speakers defended the six NGOs, without addressing the extensive evidence of NGO-PFLP links. Instead, they framed 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.”
Quotes by Panelists Condemning the Decision and Supporting BDS and Lawfare
Wesam Ahmad (Al-Haq)
- “Israel’s latest attempt to silence Palestinian civil society is just another tactical move in its colonial strategy.”
- “The international community must respond with a systemic counter response that addresses Israel’s actions in various levels. For example, the EU Horizon agreement and its cooperation with Israel with regards to research and development. This is one of the things that needs to be addressed and challenged and suspended.”
- “We have to show that everything is connected. Supporting the process at the ICC, taking measures to ban settlement products, supports of the UN database on business enterprises involved in the settlement enterprise. These are all actions we have been calling for. The response to attempts to silence us should be met with the implementation of these calls.”
- “Israel’s membership in the ECOSOC committee is something that needs to be challenged…Israel cannot be allowed to conduct business as usual in other parts of the UN while it completely disregards the work of UN human rights defenders on the floor of the General Assembly.”
Saleh Hijazi (Amnesty International)
- “Earlier this year, Israel designated the Health Workers Committee, one of the major organizations providing vital health services in the oPt as a terrorist organization and then moved to close down its headquarters in Ramallah and arrested members of the staff, including the director of the organization and human rights defender Shatha Odeh, who is currently in prison. These designations and the actions that follow are based on secret information that not the groups nor the legal representatives are able to see or challenge.”
- “Israel enjoys being able to carry out such policies without question, let alone accountability.”
- “Expose Israel’s violations and advocate for accountability whether by pushing Third States to uphold their responsibility or through the International Criminal Court.”
Omar Shakir (Human Rights Watch)
- “It [the designations] is an escalation in a prolonged campaign by the Israeli government to muzzle human rights advocacy.”
- “If the Israeli government fails to immediately rescind these designations, they [the global community] should impose countermeasures.”
- “Governments must link these attacks on human rights defenders to the larger context against which this takes place, and that context includes at its heart the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Apartheid is the reality for millions of Palestinians and it’s time the international community recognized that reality for what it is.”
- “These six organizations not only represent the best of Palestinian civil society, they represent the best of global civil society. They have long been models to countries across the globe. They include people that serve on our boards, our closest partners, our closest allies…an attack against them is an attack against each of us that is concerned about international law and human rights. Let’s be fully clear about what’s happening here. This is an existential threat to Palestinian civil society. This is an existential threat to human rights reporting in Israel and Palestine.”
- “The concern that the Israeli government had about these organizations was always their legal advocacy and their public advocacy in international institutions, and mainly the facilitation they provide to the work of the International Criminal Court.
- “Under Israeli law and under the military law that prevails in the West Bank, the designation of an entity as a terrorist organization is the NGO equivalent of the death penalty. It’s the legal execution. Such a designation…involves a set of administrative powers, radical draconian administrative powers, and prohibitions the violations of which are criminal, that are aimed at forcing the seclusion of the designated entity and eventually its annihilation…Israel is using these powers selectively and sometimes arbitrarily when it fits its goals, interests, and the timing is right.”
- “These organizations, that have an immense record of working for hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries securing their rights and their freedoms, are terrorist organizations because of guilt by association of people who are working for them or have in the past have been under administrative detention and things of that sort. This is absolutely infuriating.”
- “It is a watershed moment. Not because the Israeli occupation has not done worst things. It has. It killed people. It maimed people. It forcibly removed whole communities and transferred them. Deported them. However, there is something about the designations of these 6 Palestinian civil society groups who are the backbone of Palestinian civil society that has some boldness in it.”