After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the Palestinian civil society took over the leading role in exposing and challenging the crimes of the Israeli regime. Thus, Palestinian civic organisations emerged at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle, which is what put them in Israel’s crosshairs.
More recently, in the last decade, there have been coordinated efforts led by various non-governmental groups working in tandem with the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs to target and defame Palestinian NGOs which work on Palestinian human rights.
The terror designation effectively criminalises the work of the six NGOs and allows the Israeli regime to close down offices, seize assets, arrest staff and even prohibit funding or public expressions of support for their activities. It could also make third parties and foreign partners apprehensive about engaging with these organisations and their work.
While this designation is an escalation, it is not the first time the Israeli regime has falsely applied the terrorism label to Palestinian organisations or individuals. The label is frequently bandied about by Israeli officials and Israel’s supporters to discredit and defame those who document Palestinian rights violations and those who resist such violations. The tactic is simple and can be quite effective.
For example, last year the European Union began implementing a funding clause requiring Palestinian beneficiaries of its financial support to vet all individuals working for them to ensure they are not involved with any Palestinian political party on its ‘terrorist list’. Considering that a considerable number of Palestinian political parties are on the list, the move amounts to political persecution.
This coordinated attack on Palestinian civil society has also included allegations of misuse of funds or corruption in a bid to try and pressure international funders to withdraw their financial support. It has also involved regular raids on NGO offices to intimidate their staff and partners and disrupt their work.
In July, for example, Israeli security forces broke into the office of Defense for Children International. The NGO, which works with Palestinian children detained by Israel, reported that Israeli soldiers took computers and files relating to some of the cases it is working on. Addameer has also faced countless raids on its offices over the years which have seen damage and theft of equipment and files. In the face of ever-escalating abuse and intimidation by the Israeli regime, these organisations and others have continued to work for the benefit of the Palestinian people.
Although various international bodies and figures have come out against the terror designation and in support of the work that these NGOs do, it is not enough.
Excerpted: ‘Why Israel is trying to criminalise Palestinian civil society’Yara Hawari, "Winds of war," The News. 2021-10-26.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political parties , Israeli forces , Corruption , Terrorism , Palestine , NGO