Nine EU countries reject Israel’s criminalisation of Palestinian civil society organisations
Nine EU countries, including Ireland, issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying they will continue working with six Palestinian NGOs that Israel branded “terrorist organisations” last year, because Israel has failed to provide evidence to prove its claims. The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign today welcomed the news.
The nine countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Spain and Sweden.
The six Palestinian NGOs in question are Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research & Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
The joint statement from the nine Foreign Ministries stated that “no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations,'”, and noted that “in the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support” for Palestinian civil society.
The statement follows a move by the EU late last month to restore funding to Al Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which had been frozen for over a year due to false allegations emanating from the Israeli state.
Aisling Micklethwaite, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the move, saying “we welcome the news that Israel’s baseless, cynical and dangerous smears have been rejected by multiple EU governments in a humiliating defeat for the apartheid state’s propaganda machine.”
She continued by noting that “this sham designation was calculated to incapacitate key human rights organisations, which provide crucial support to those suffering under Israel’s apartheid regime, to isolate the Palestinian people from the world and to leave them at the mercy of Israel’s policies of apartheid and persecution.”
She concluded by calling for action from the Irish government, saying that “recent reports from some of the world’s leading human rights organisations and officials have indicted Israel for overseeing an apartheid regime that oppresses Palestinians. Last year, the Dáil unanimously agreed that Israel’s illegal settlement project amounts to de facto annexation. Our foreign ministry has just rejected wholly fabricated Israeli claims about Palestinian NGOs. Words are one thing, but the reality is that our government must take concrete and meaningful action to end Israeli impunity, otherwise this behaviour will never stop.”
Designations are an attempt to delegitimise and demobilise Palestinian civil society
As well as attempting to disrupt the funding of the six human rights organisations, in what Amnesty International has characterised as “a brazen attack on human rights“, Israel has prevented a number of human rights personnel from travelling to conferences.
Last month, Israeli authorities prevented Ubai Al-Aboudi, Executive Director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development – a US citizen – from travelling to a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Jordan.
Prior to this, in April 2022, Mr Al-Aboudi was prevented from travelling to the World Social Forum in Mexico. Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association was also prevented from travelling to the same event despite holding an Israeli passport with a valid US visa.
The New York-based Just Security research centre summarised that: “It appears that Israel’s designation is primarily intended to trigger the global counterterrorism regime and lend itself to third-party (over)enforcement in pursuit of an agenda to demobilize and repress Palestinian rights advocacy.”
According the International law, the UN’s 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid identified “persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid” as an inhumane act characteristic of apartheid regimes. There is little surprise that Israel, “an apartheid State par excellence” – in the words of Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – is engaging in such actions to attempt to silence Palestinian civil society.