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On October 19, Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz announced that he was designating six respected and credible civil society Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist organisations,” effectively criminalizing them. This was followed two weeks later by a military order which officially allows Israeli occupation forces to shut down the NGO offices in the West Bank, to confiscate their property, and to arrest and prosecute their staff. This puts the work and safety of the NGOs’ employees and volunteers in serious danger.
Under the Israeli counter-terrorism law, it is now a crime for both Israelis and Palestinians to provide any form of funding or services to these NGOs, and one can be imprisoned for up to three years for simply expressing support for their activities.
International observers were highly skeptical that Israel’s accusations against the six held any credence. And late last week, a secret Israeli document leaked to the press confirmed that the Israeli government actually has no credible evidence to back up their accusations against the NGOs. As such, it seems abundantly clear the move was politically motivated, intended to shut down human rights work and avoid accountability for Israel’s deepening apartheid-like regime.
The NGOs targeted by Israel include:
- Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), which promotes and protects the rights of Palestinian children under occupation;
- Al-Haq, a human rights and international law organization that participates actively at the United Nations;
- Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which provides legal aid to Palestinian political prisoners and collects data on abuses in Israeli prisons;
- Bisan Centre for Research and Development, which provides programming for community development, youth, and ending violence against women;
- The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which promotes food security and the rights of Palestinian farmers;
- The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UAWC), which provides programs to empower women and fight against gender discrimination.
This attack on Palestinian civil society is not entirely new, but is consistent with a long pattern of repression by Israel. For example, DCIP recently had its offices raided by Israeli forces, and employees from three of the targeted NGOs have just discovered Israeli Pegasus spyware on their phones.
In addition to CJPME’s condemnation, Israel’s crackdown on the six NGOs has been universally condemned by global civil society, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as more than twenty Israeli human rights groups who called it a “draconian” measure “characteristic of repressive authoritarian regimes.” CJPME also has joined 234 organizations around the world in warning that Israel’s attack poses an “existential threat” to human rights work, and urging international action to challenge it.
Israel’s move has also been criticized by the United States, the European Union, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many other officials. In the US, Representative Betty McCollum has introduced a resolution to condemn the criminalization of Palestinian NGOs. In Canada, however, the response has been muted and disappointing.
Please join us in urging the Canadian government to take a strong stand for human rights defenders in Palestine. Canada can play a leading role on the international stage by:
- Condemning Israel’s criminalization of Palestinian NGOs, and firmly rejecting the fraudulent “terrorist” designation;
- Holding Israeli officials accountable for its attacks on civil society by imposing sanctions; and
- Doing everything in its power to support and protect the work of human rights defenders in Palestine, including by making its diplomatic resources in Tel Aviv and Ramallah available to the targeted NGOs.