Amnesty, HRW slam Israel for outlawing six Palestinian NGOs
Tel Aviv's defence ministry made the decision on Tuesday, following a long pattern of Israel trying to silence critics.
The military measure applies to Addameer, a detainees' rights organisation, Defense for Children Palestine, legal NGO Al-Haq, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.
The move essentially makes the groups' work illegal and permits the Jewish state to shut workplaces, take property and detain employees, all while banning financial or other open backing for their operations, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Adalah, a Palestinian rights group operating inside Israel, reacted with dismay.
"The Israeli decision to designate six human right[s] and civil society organisations as terrorist organsations is [an] unprecedented attack on human rights defenders who are exposing and resisting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies in the West Bank."
The group added that this "is not only an attack on human rights but also an attack on Palestinian existence itself and Palestinians' right to self-determination."
"Israel is now attempting to deny Palestinians their right to assembly and association by criminalising civil society organisations that provide vital human rights and social services."
Adalah also said the move creates a "direct and immediate danger" for "thousands of Palestinians" and said it would fight against the designations through every lawful route.
Mohammed El-Kurd, a prominent activist, poet and reporter from occupied East Jerusalem's threatened Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, condemned the move as a "clear declaration of war against Palestinian civil society".
"This doesn’t mean that one should shy away from supporting these organizations [and] we should all stay posted to see what future communal efforts are needed from us to fight [against] this vicious campaign," he tweeted.
Amnesty and HRW, who collaborate extensively with many of the impacted organisations, called the move an "appalling and unjust decision" and "an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement".
"For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians," they noted.
You’d think the circus act of declaring Defense for Children “a terrorist organization” plotting for “the destruction of Israel” would be the final straw. You’d think. Same way bombing the hell out of the tower housing int’l media outlets would be. Impunity breeds rabid regimes.— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) October 22, 2021
The international NGOs acknowledged travel bans and deportation have menaced their workers, though "Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression."
Hitting out at the international community for its "decades-long failure… to challenge grave Israeli rights abuses", encouraging their "brazen" behaviour, Amnesty and HRW turned to the global response.
"How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders.
"We are proud to work with our Palestinian partners and have been doing so for decades. They represent the best of global civil society. We stand with them in challenging this outrageous decision."