The organizations called the designation “a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work.”
Twenty-one Israel-based civil society groups on Sunday joined Palestine defenders around the world in condemning the Israeli government’s labeling of six Palestinian advocacy groups as terrorist organizations, calling the move “an act of cowardice.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s “designation of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, among them our colleagues in the Palestinian human rights community, as terrorist organizations is a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work,” the groups said in a statement.
“Documentation, advocacy, and legal aid are fundamental activities for the protection of human rights worldwide,” the statement continued. “Criminalizing such work is an act of cowardice, characteristic of repressive authoritarian regimes.”
“Civil society and human rights defenders must be protected,” the signers added. “We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, and call on members of the Israeli government and the international community to oppose this decision unequivocally.”
Proud to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues pic.twitter.com/aUTuIv8h7V
— B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) October 25, 2021
Signatories to the statement include Adalah, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace, Parents Against Child Detention, Peace Now, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Yesh Din.
They joined other Israelis and human rights defenders around the world—including United Nations experts, U.S. Jewish groups, and numerous U.S. congressional progressives—in denouncing the Israeli government’s move, which came two days before its announcement of 1,355 new homes exclusively for Jewish settler-colonists in the illegally occupied West Bank.
Israel claims all six organizations are secretly controlled by the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The groups—Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International Palestine, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees—deny the charge.
☎️ URGENT 📞 This is textbook authoritarianism from a violent apartheid regime. Congress and @SecBlinken need to condemn this immediately.
— Jewish Voice for Peace Action #SaveSheikhJarrah (@JvpAction) October 22, 2021
“Israel’s labeling of six Palestinian NGOs as ‘terrorists’ aims to suppress those exposing and challenging apartheid,” asserted the editors of the Israeli news and commentary site +972 Magazine on Sunday, adding that the publication “stands firmly in solidarity with… the targeted groups.”
“[They] are civil society leaders who are deeply committed to protecting the human rights of Palestinian communities suffering the brunt of Israel’s apartheid policies, including children, women, prisoners, farmers, and other vulnerable groups,” the editors continued.
They added that “Israel’s decision to officially label these organizations as ‘terrorists’—opening the door to more severe legal, financial, and violent retribution—is nothing less than an authoritarian move aimed at crushing Palestinians’ ability to resist their oppression.”
Israel has a long history of attacking Palestinian orgs as part of its aim to erase Palestinian presence from the land. Its latest attack on 6 leading human rights orgs is a bid to evade accountability. Instead of doing the crucial work, resources are now diverted and distracted pic.twitter.com/oj9OUwo3h1
— Adalah Justice Project (@AdalahJustice) October 25, 2021
The editors of the Israeli paper Haaretz decried the designation as “a stain upon Israel.”
“There is a straight line from defining the nonviolent struggle against the occupation as ‘diplomatic terror’ and designating human rights groups as terrorist organizations,” they wrote on Sunday. “The literal meaning is clear: All resistance to the occupation is terror. Israel is undermining the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate struggle.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the targeted Palestinian groups vowed to continue their work despite the pitfalls presented by the new designation.
“This designation would effectively ban the work of these human rights defenders, & allow the Israeli military to arrest their staff, shutter their offices, confiscate their assets & prohibit their activities & human rights work.” #StandWithThe6 #Palestinehttps://t.co/eB9xgHslDu pic.twitter.com/mUqWEWvRaq
— Al-Haq الحق (@alhaq_org) October 25, 2021
“We have been targeted for years, for one reason: We’re succeeding in changing the paradigm around the world by speaking of apartheid,” contended Sahar Francis, head of the prisoner support group Addameer, in an interview with +972 Magazine.
“Our message, along with the other organizations, is that we will not stop working,” she added. “We will not stop providing services to those who need us. We refuse to fall silent on the occupation’s apartheid rule.”