We, the undersigned, stand in firm internationalist solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society and demand the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reverse their recent decrees against six of the most important rights-based organisations in occupied Palestine.
On October 19th, 2021, the Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organisations “terrorist organisations.” The six organisations are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. On November 7th, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) classified these same organisations as “unauthorised,” paving the way for further prosecution. This represents the latest in an ongoing string of unsubstantiated allegations against Palestinian human rights organisations by the Israeli government.
The Israeli government’s recent steps to criminalise and attempt to silence these six organisations is a dangerous escalation of a trend that we see taking place worldwide, targeting human rights organisations and particularly those organisations defending land, water, territories, and the earth.
For decades, the Israeli occupation has denied Palestinians access and control over their own lands, waters, territories and commons. The occupation is a source of profound human and environmental rights violations against the Palestinian people, including pollution, destruction of livelihoods, land and water grabbing, discriminatory planning laws, forced evictions and displacements, military violence, torture, and destruction of human lives.
The six organisations that the Israeli government has criminalised form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades. They work across a full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farmworkers, justice and accountability for international crimes. This issuing is an appalling next step in the criminalisation and efforts to silence Palestinian civil society that opposes the inhumane occupation by the Israeli government. The published designation decisions give the Israeli government the possibility to close offices, arrest staff and members of the organisations that are being criminalised and seize organisational assets. Penalties can extend to those who assist or are in contact with the criminalised organisations.
Frontline Defenders exposed findings that indicated that six Palestinian human rights defenders, including those from the NGOs designated as terrorist organisations, were hacked with Pegasus, spyware developed by the cyber-surveillance company NSO Group. The spyware was active in 2020 and 2021, prior to the designation status, and indicates another failure of NSO’s company policies on human rights and the ability or will of the Israeli government to impose human rights regulations on companies, which deeply impact the violation of rights of Palestinians organising and advocating for human rights.
Altogether, these Israeli government actions create a threat to the safety and security of the people who make up these organisations, to the organisations themselves and to the very important work that these organisations do in promoting and protecting human rights.
This unfair and unfounded measure has been widely criticised by Civil Society Organisations the world over [SEE BELOW]. Advocates of peace, justice and human rights across the globe are demanding Israel reverse its illegal and draconian decision.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said in a recent statement:
“The banning of organisations must not be used to suppress or deny the right to freedom of association, or to quash political dissent, silence unpopular views or limit the peaceful activities of civil society. The national authorities responsible for proscribing organisations must comply fully with the State’s international human rights obligations, including by respecting the principles of legal certainty, proportionality, equality and non-discrimination.”
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) is the largest agricultural institution in Palestine and was established in 1986 to improve the situation of Palestinian farmers and fisherfolk. UAWC received the prestigious Equator Prize in 2014 by the United Nations Development Agency for its outstanding work on sustainable agriculture and preservation of local seeds through its seed bank. In the West Bank, UAWC’s work focuses mainly in ‘Area C,’ rural areas which Israel has explicit goals to annex and where Israel has been accelerating its process of expanding illegal settlements. It is worth noting that a week after Gantz’s declaration, Israel announced plans to build 3,144 new illegal settlement homes in the West Bank.
The work of UAWC, as well as the other five organisations being accused is key in the construction of a just, fair, sustainable world, free of all systems of oppression, including patriarchy, colonialism, racism and classism.
We, as social movements and civil society organisations, join in with hundreds of other organisations across the globe who have stood up to denounce this injustice. We call on the international community, especially the UN Human Rights Council, US government, Members of the European Parliament, and European Governments to:
We would like to invite you all to mobilise together on November 29th, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to denounce this alarming criminalisation of Palestinian CSOs that resist an inhumane occupation policy and to support the Palestinian population to survive in these dramatic circumstances.
You can act by:
We stand firmly in internationalist solidarity with the six Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian peoples and call for a permanent end to the occupation of Palestinian lands and an end to this outrageous violence and criminalisation.
Friends of the Earth International, Via Campesina, Word March of Women, Fian International, GrassRoots International, Bizilur, CETIM