Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Tunis 25 October 2021 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) express their unwavering support for Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) in the face of the latest attack by the Israeli government, after the Israeli Minister of Defense announced the designation of the six organisations as “terrorist organisations”. Such a move represents an existential threat to independent human rights organizations who work on violations of human rights in Palestine.
The announcement, which was made on Friday, 22 October 2021, is the latest in Israel’s institutionalised and ongoing smear campaign and attacks against the human rights community of Palestine, in order to deny Palestinians their right to freedom of assembly and association by criminalizing civil society organizations that provide vital human rights work and social services.
«These baseless claims by the Israeli government need to be recognized for what they are: a smoke screen aimed at the public and the international community to cover up the essential work carried out by these human rights groups which denounce Israel’s violations of fundamental rights and of international law», declared Alice Mogwe, FIDH President.
Continuous attempts by the Israeli authorities to delegitimise human rights organisations have been well documented over the years, including in a recent report published by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT partnership).
“This designation is a sinister first, which puts the future of child protection, rights of prisoners and the ability to document violations of standards accepted by Israel at imminent risk. Equating the defence of rights with terrorism is also a slap in the face of global efforts to counter real terrorist violence. It is all the more tragic as human rights should be a uniting framework for the future of Israel and Palestine alike", said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
The smear campaigns, attempts to defund NGOs, and judicial harassment are only some of the tactics used by Israel to divert attention from what is at stake, i.e., Israel's violations, and to drain the organisations’ resources. All the while, Israel continues to be held to a different standard than the rest of the world.
“This is a test case for the international community which will determine whether this tactic will be used in an increasingly widespread manner by Israel against Palestinian civil society to maintain Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole”, said Elizabeth Rghebi, Levant Researcher at CIHRS.
FIDH, OMCT and CIHRS recall that this extremely serious move gives yet additional leverage to the Israeli government to hamper the vital work of these NGOs as it enables the closing of bank accounts and seizing of assets. This essentially gives Israel the potential to freeze all human rights activities, including the monitoring, documentation and ongoing advocacy before national and international bodies carried out by these organisations. This could also result in the arrest and detention of Palestinian human rights defenders, such as in the notable case of Shatha Odeh Abu Fannouneh, and Juana Ruiz Sánchez, the Director and Project Coordinator of the Health Work Committees (HWC) respectively. They are currently being arbitrarily detained by the Israeli authorities since July 2021 for their work at the HWC.
FIDH, OMCT and CIHRS call on the international community to publicly express its support for the Palestinian human rights and civil society sector in general and for these six organisations in particular by calling out the Israeli government for its despicable and baseless act. The international community should reaffirm their commitment to the organisations under attack, publicly denounce Israel’s action and call on Israel to rescind its claims that are untrue and politically motivated. The international community, especially the EU and Member States who represent key supporters of Palestinian civil society, should further ensure that banks and financial institutions falling within their jurisdiction are notified that Israel’s terrorist designations are unfounded and inapplicable.