Over 80 international human rights scholars, centers, institutes and clinical programs have called on the Biden administration to demand that the Israeli occupation government reverse its decision of labeling six prominent Palestinian human rights NGOs as “terror” groups and closing of their offices.
In a joint statement, the signatories said Israel’s labeling of six Palestinian NGOs as terror groups is an “affront to human rights, freedom of expression and association, and a thinly-veiled move to shut down legitimate criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.”
“Human rights organizations around the world have learned from and aspire to attain the skill, experience, knowledge, and dedication that the staff and leadership of these human rights organizations have displayed in the face of the extreme oppression of the Israeli occupation,” the statement read.
They noted that members of the U.S. Congress are deliberating a bill, spearheaded by Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn), Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, on which they, and Congresswoman McCollum, worked closely with DCI-P.
“Congresswoman McCollum has just issued a statement condemning the shut-down of the Palestinian NGO’s, and we echo her call to the Biden administration to urge the Israeli government to reverse the decision and restore these organizations’ ability to continue their important work,” they said.
They also said that the six organizations have collaborated with a “vast number of human rights institutions around the world, including on cases and projects, workshops and conferences, and human rights reports.”
“They are our colleagues in the global human rights struggle. Some of us have worked with them directly, while others have benefitted from their human rights reporting and expertise in the region. Others know them by reputation,” they added.
They pointed out that even before Israel labeled them as terror groups, “they faced constant harassment and efforts by the Israeli government and government-supported parastatal organizations to cut off their funding and discredit their work.”
“Until now, they have persevered, in part because they have the support of international partners and funders, who recognize the critical importance of their advocacy on behalf of ordinary Palestinians suffering under Israel’s occupation.”
“They have documented human rights violations committed by both the Palestinian Authority and Israeli security forces, litigated on behalf of Palestinians detained indefinitely without trial, and sought to protect the rights of women and children.”
“Without their presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ordinary Palestinians will be left without skilled, experienced legal advocates to defend them—and the world will be deprived of critical information about the human rights situation throughout the region.”
These organizations would not have the international recognition and global network of partners and collaborators in their human rights work if the pretext Israel has given for declaring them to be ‘terrorist organizations’ were credible, they added.
They urged the Biden Administration to immediately demand that Israel rescind its order, and restore the rights of the six NGOs to carry out their work.
They also called upon the “donor community to maintain their support for these organizations so they can continue their vital work.”
The Israeli War Ministry on 19 October 2021 issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.”
The groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
The designation, made pursuant to a 2016 Israeli statute, effectively outlaws the activities of these civil society groups.
It authorizes Israeli occupation authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.
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.
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.