288 US-based social justice, civil rights, and human rights leaders and organizations have sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, demanding that the Biden administration immediately and unequivocally condemns the “Israeli government’s recent decision to outlaw and criminalize six Palestinian human rights and community-based organizations.”
The Palestinian organizations currently targeted under the Israeli government’s draconian 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the 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, said the 288 groups and leaders in their letter.
They added that the Biden administration has “repeatedly expressed a commitment to center and promote human rights worldwide and protect the role of civil society.
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These actions by the Israeli government are a clear attack on human rights.
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Thus, they have urged the Biden administration “to issue a swift rejection of this unprecedented attack on Palestinian human rights organizations and the attempt by the Israeli government to shut down, delegitimize, isolate, and chill a growing human rights movement.”
They said they agree with 17 UN Special Rapporteurs that “the freedoms of association and expression must be fully respected in order to enable civil society to perform its indispensable work, and cannot be undermined by the manifestly egregious misuse of counterterrorism and security legislation.”
Smearing the promotion and defense of human rights as “terrorist” activity is a dangerous, well-worn tactic of authoritarian regimes and a shameful political maneuver to undermine the vital work of these organizations, the letter read.
Lately on October, the Israeli occupation government declared six leading Palestinian NGOs to be affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): Addameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, DCI-P, Samidoun and UAWC.
Under Israeli law, membership in terror organizations is punishable by five to seven years in jail, while aiding them is punishable by five years, and praising or promoting them can result in a three-year-long jail sentence.
The Israeli law also permits authorities to confiscate any “terror organization’s” assets and limit its use of space.
The occupation state has targeted civil society dissenters for decades. In the early 2000s however, a series of right-wing organizations, funders and politicians sought to support the Israeli government’s brutal repression of Palestinians by accelerating the attack on civil society dissenters as Israel’s abuses mounted.
In the mid to late aughts, several Israeli human rights organizations came under organized attack, including groups like B’tselem, Yesh Din.
In 2019, Israeli authorities expelled Human Rights Watch’s director in Palestine, Omar Shakir, who is an American citizen after revoking his work visa, accusing him of supporting the BDS movement.
Israel’s decision sparked a swift backlash around the globe, with the EU, US Jewish NGOs, progressive Democrats, and international human rights organizations expressing criticism.
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called the move “appalling and unjust” and “an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations” and linked Israel’s emboldened authoritarian actions to decades of inadequate responses by the international community to Israel’s ongoing grave human rights abuses.
The groups and leaders said as they committed to social justice, civil rights, and universal human rights, they have seen “first hand the ways that the charge of “terrorist” and the so-called “war on terror” threatens not only international human rights defenders, but also social movements and marginalized communities here in the US: Indigenous, Black, brown, Muslim, and Arab activists and communities have similarly faced silencing, intimidation, criminalization and surveillance under such baseless charges.”
They added, “The threat against the Palestinian human rights movement is a threat against movements for social justice everywhere, and in order to protect human rights and human rights defenders, all states must be held accountable for taking such manifestly unjust actions.”
“While our government has long offered unconditional support to the Israeli government, our movements and organizations will always stand first and foremost with the rights and safety of people,” they stressed.
The US-based groups and leaders concluded their letter by urging the Biden administration and Blinken as Secretary of State to “affirm that the Biden administration’s commitment to human rights has universal applicability, issue a public statement that rejects the Israeli government’s false accusations levied against Palestinian civil society organizations, publicly condemn and rebuke Israel for this authoritarian action, and call on Israeli authorities to immediately reverse their decision and end all efforts aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders, support Palestinians seeking the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights, justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court.”