The decision last Friday, October 22, by the Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, to label six Palestinian human rights (HR) and civil society (CS) groups as “terror organizations” has elicited a swift and fierce backlash slamming the move from Palestinians, Hadash, international organizations and US politicians.
Union of Agricultural Work Committees activists during the olive harvest in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, Tuesday, October 19, 2021. The white banner reads: “The volunteer campaign for harvesting olives – We will defend our land… We will support our farmers.” (Photo: UAWC)
The six Palestinian civil organizations targeted by the Israeli security establishment in its announcement are: (1) Addameer – Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; (2) Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Man; (3) The Bisan Center for Research and Development; (4) Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P); (5) The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); and (6) The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).
By Friday evening, October 22, Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel had slammed Israel’s decision to label the six groups terrorist organizations. Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the Joint List bloc in the Knesset, condemned the decision saying, “Day is not night, and Palestinian rights organizations are not terrorist organizations. What is terrorism is the occupation.”
Major Israeli human rights organizations including B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel also attacked the decision: “Israel’s ‘change’ government’s designation of Palestinian human rights organizations as ‘terror organizations’ is not merely declarative. It is an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting these organizations down,” said B’Tselem.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has also unequivocally condemned Israel’s latest rights attrocity. “The Israeli decision amounts to a serious violation of international law,” said Shtayyeh in a statement. “The targeted institutions operate in accordance with Palestinian law, and work in partnerships with international institutions. He concluded, “This [Israeli move] requires the intervention of these institutions to condemn the Israeli action and work to prevent the decision’s implementation.”
Responding to Benny Gantz’s announcement on the outlawing of six leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations operating in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) denounced the decision, describing it as an attempt to silence and control Palestinians. “In a sinister, unprecedented, and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations, Israel announced… the designation of six leading Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) as ‘terror organizations,’ effectively outlawing the organizations and placing them at risk of imminent reprisals,” said PNGO and PHROC in a joint statement. “The arbitrary designations target six of the most eminent Palestinian CSOs and human rights defenders engaged in critical human rights work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the documentation and monitoring of human rights violations, accountability work to prosecute Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, and legal and advocacy efforts to bring Israel’s occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid regime to an end,” they said.
“Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” the United Nations Human Rights Office in Ramallah said, accusing Israel of predicating the decision on “extremely vague or irrelevant reasons, including entirely peaceful and legitimate activities.”
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the move as “appalling and unjust.” “This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations. The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner,” the two organizations said. In Washington, several progressive Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Mark Pocan, also condemned the decision. “There must be immediate consequences from the US and the international community for this brazen act,” Omar wrote on Twitter.