The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) joins the growing global outrage over the decision of the Israeli Defense Ministry to designate vital Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist”. Israel must reverse this decision and all States should immediately voice rejection of these designations.
On October 19, 2021, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations “terrorist organizations.” The groups named are: Al Haq; Addameer; Defense For Children International-Palestine; Bisan; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
This follows on the same designation made of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in February 2021, followed by the listing of three other Palestinian community and legal organizations, mostly active in Europe, in August 2021. In all cases, the activities being targeted are research, advocacy, documentation and community support work for Palestinians living under occupation or as refugees.
The designation effectively outlaws the activities of these civil society groups. It authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities. The Israel law relied on violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Israel has ratified and prohibits discrimination based on political opinion.
All of these organizations have long histories of defending and promoting human rights and are recognized throughout the world as leaders in their fields. The designations are a blatant attempt to criminalize Palestinian civil society overall. Organizations like Addameer and DCI Palestine provide direct legal support and assistance to Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation forces, including children, and document human rights violations. These organizations are also involved in important legal work in the United Nations, International Criminal Court, and other international institutions.
Al-Haq also has produced decades of human rights legal advocacy and scholarship that have played a critical role in defending and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable Palestinians. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, winner of the UN’s Equator Prize, supports Palestinian farmers whose land is targeted for confiscation, while the Bisan Centre produces research based on human rights principles. The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees organizes Palestinian women to advocate for equality, justice and an end to occupation.
All of these organizations are a vital part of Palestinian civil society, conducting their work publicly as they have for many years, in some cases decades. Israel’s sudden designation of them as “terrorist” is a blatant and transparent attempt to undermine Palestinian human rights advocacy and documentation.
For decades Israeli authorities have not wanted the world to be aware of the repressive rule they have over the Palestinians. These authorities have sought to silence the voices of those organizations which have monitored and challenged human rights abuses.
IADL agrees with Amnesty International which has stated: “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.”
IADL calls on all Countries of the world to publicly reject the Israeli government’s false accusations levied against Palestinian civil society organizations and call on Israeli authorities to immediately reverse their decision and end all efforts aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders;
IADL supports Palestinians seeking the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights, justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court.