Six months have passed since Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime outlawed six of the leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations (CSOs), as “terror organizations” under its 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law. This was later extended into the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) declaring the organizations to be “unlawful associations” under military orders published on 3 November 2021.
Since then, the organizations, represented by Adalah Legal Center and the offices of Attorney Michael Sfard and Attorney Jawad Boulous, have undertaken formal procedures challenging the evidentiary basis of the military orders. On 16 November 2021, the organizations’ legal team sent a letter to the Israeli authorities demanding that they reveal the entirety of the “evidence” forming the basis of the designation. In response, Israel’s Military Attorney, stated in a letter dated 2 January 2021, that “the core of the declarations is based on classified…information that cannot be disclosed.” Thereafter, the organizations filed a procedural objection against the military orders, noting the illegality of the declarations, the absence of due process, and the lack of an evidentiary basis for the declaration.
The blanket criminalization and outlawing of our organizations by Israel’s settler-colonial apartheid regime can at any time manifest itself in raids on our offices, seizure of all assets, arbitrary arrests of staff, and prohibition of funding, and/or even public support for our activities. As stated in the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law, which is illegally applied in the oPt, directors and senior staff of the organizations are at risk of facing up to 25 years in prison, including other arbitrary measures against staff and supporters.
We understand the decades-long smear campaigns led by Israel and its government-affiliated bodies and proxy groups to be part of Israel’s systematic policy of silencing opposition to maintain its apartheid system over the Palestinian people as a whole. More specifically, the designation in itself amounts to acts of persecution and apartheid under Article 2(f) of the Apartheid Convention.
Even under a temporary and arbitrary designation, the six Palestinian CSOs have felt the serious repercussions of Israel’s designations including:
- The Dutch government’s decision on 5 January 2022 to end its funding for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC);
- The European Commission’s arbitrary funding suspension of one of Al-Haq’s projects funded by the European Union (EU);
- The sentencing by an Israeli military judge at Ofer military court in the occupied West Bank on 13 February 2022, of the President of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Khitam Sa’afin, to 16 months imprisonment after nearly 15 months of arbitrary detention, for her role as a director in a designated organisation; and
- The continuous harassment and persecution of human right defender and lawyer at Addammer Salah Hamouri, arbitrary arrested on 7 March 2022 and placed under administrative detention for three months from 10 March till 6 June, with potential indefinite renewal of his detention order.
The consequential negative impact of this designation has also been acutely felt by our organizations, including by hampering our critical work in advocating to bring to an end Israel’s apartheid regime against the Palestinian people, and the critical services we provide to those most marginalized and at-risk in Palestinian communities including women, children, agricultural workers, and political prisoners.
It is unacceptable that States and actors have failed to move beyond verbal denunciations of Israel’s criminalization of Palestinian civil society; it is intolerable that they instead take on decisions that compound the persecution of the six Palestinian organizations, without taking any concrete actions to dismantle the Israeli settler-colonial and apartheid regime and hold it accountable.
As we mark six months since the designation, it is crucial that States and allies take a serious stand. We are now urging you to act in your full capacity and take serious measures to revoke the draconian designation against our organizations.
As such, we call on the international community, especially the United States, EU Member States, and Intergovernmental Organizations to:
- Take concrete immediate action against Israel’s continued harassment and criminalization of Palestinian human rights defenders and CSOs; by calling on Israel’s Minister of “Defense” to fully rescind the designation;
- Publicly and categorically dismiss the designation and pledge continued support to the six Palestinian civil society organizations, including where necessary, financial support of the Palestinian civil society organizations;
- End complicity and silence in regard to the Israeli settler-colonial and apartheid regime;
Further, we call on individuals of consciousness from around the world to bring attention to this blanket attack on Palestinian civil society and human rights and to immediately and urgently contact their elected officials and insist they hold Israeli authorities accountable and protect human rights in Palestine.