22 House members demand Biden administration reject Israel’s criminalization of Palestinian civil society

Jul 18, 2022
Khaled Quzmar, (left), General Director of DCIP, stands nearby as Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, speaks at the Al-Haq office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on October 27, 2021. (Photo credit: Abbas Momani / AFP)

Ramallah, July 18, 2022—U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and 21 other members of Congress sent a letter to Biden administration officials today demanding action on behalf of six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations designated as “terrorist” groups by Israeli authorities. 

The six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations targeted by the designations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. The groups work directly with Palestinian women and girls, children, peasant families, prisoners, and civil society activists, providing direct services and monitoring and exposing human rights abuses.

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, calls on the Biden administration to publicly reject the Israeli designation, urge the Israeli government to reverse its decision, and confirm a date for an inter-agency briefing and provide a report to Congress within 30 days.

“Our human rights documentation and evidence-based advocacy exposing Israeli forces’ grave violations against Palestinian children have made us a target of the Israeli government for years,” said Khaled Quzmar, General Director at DCIP. “But we will not back down. We are grateful for Congresswoman Pressley’s leadership in rejecting the Israeli designation and urging the Biden administration to do the same and take action for Palestinian human rights.”

The letter notes the Israeli government has failed to produce sufficient evidence linking the human rights organizations to terror activity, indicating this decision is intended to repress Palestinian civil society and lawful human rights work in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, designated the six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as “terrorist organizations” on October 19, 2021, pursuant to a 2016 Israeli law, a designation that effectively criminalizes the activities of these organizations and authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their staff members.

Representative Pressley sent the letter on July 18 along with 21 members of Congress: Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Cori Bush (MO-01), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Marie Newman (IL-03), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), André Carson (IN-07), Jesús "Chuy" García (IL-04), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Danny K. Davis (IL-07).

More than 130 organizations supported the letter, including ActionAid USA, Adalah Justice Project, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, American Federation of Ramallah Palestine, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslim Bar Association, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, Americans for Peace Now, Amnesty International USA, Arab American Civic Council, Arab American Institute, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Batrice and Associates, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Bishop's Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land (Episcopal Diocese of Olympia), Black Christians for Palestine, Cafe Palestina, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Jewish Nonviolence, Central Pacific Conference of the UCC Palestine Israel Network, Charity & Security Network, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Christian-Jewish Allies for Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine, Churches for Middle East Peace, Civil Liberties Defense Center, CODEPINK, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Corporate Accountability Lab, Coulee Region Coalition for Palestinian Rights (CRCPR), Dallas Palestine Coalition, Defense for Children International - Palestine, Delawareans for Palestinian Human Rights (DelPHR), Demand Progress Education Fund, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Environmentalists Against War, Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Palestine Israel Network, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Eyewitness Palestine, Fight for the Future, For All, Freedom Forward, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), Global Justice Center, Green Mountain Solidarity with Palestine, Hindus for Human Rights, Human Rights Awareness: Palestine Israel/CD3, Human Rights Watch, ICAHD-USA, IfNotNow, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Israel/Palestinian TaskForce California/Nevada, Conference of the United Methodist Church, J Street, Jahalin Solidarity, Jewish Liberation Theology Institute, Jewish Voice For Peace - Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Jewish Voice for Peace Boston, Jewish Voice for Peace-Indiana, Jewish Voice for Peace-New Haven, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland, Oregon, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque, NM, Jews Say No!, Just Foreign Policy, Justice for All, JVP Central Ohio, JVP Las Vegas Chapter, JVP Los Angeles, Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, MADRE, Merrimack Valley People for Peace (MVPP), Migrant Roots Media, Minnesota Peace Project, MoveOn, MPower Change Action Fund, Muslim Justice League, National Family Farm Coalition, National Lawyers Guild-Palestine Subcommittee, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), New Hampshire Veterans for Peace, NorCal Sabeel, Northfielders (MN) for Justice in Palestine/Israel, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam America, Palestinian American Center, Phoenix, Arizona, Palestinian American Organizations Network, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace Action New York State, Presbyterian Church (USA), Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Jews of St. Louis (ProJoSTL), Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Project South, Quaker Palestine Israel Network-Multnomah Meeting, OR, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, ReThinking Foreign Policy, RootsAction.org, Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, Shomeret Shalom, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Texas Arab American Democrats, The Episcopal Church, The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Tree of Life Educational Fund, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, Unitarian Universalist social action committee, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network, United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR), US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), US Palestine Council, USA Palestine Mental Health Network, Veterans For Peace, Veterans For, Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132, Veterans For Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, WESPAC Foundation, Inc., Western Methodist Justice Movement (WMJM), Win Without War, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom US, and World BEYOND War.

Last week, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden released a joint statement on the Israeli designations stating 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.” The nine countries declared, “in the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the oPT.” 

In February, DCIP joined other leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations to file a procedural objection to the decision by Israeli military authorities declaring DCIP and other groups “unlawful associations.”

The objection demands the immediate cancelation of an Israeli military order declaring DCIP and other leading Palestinian human rights and civil society groups “unlawful associations” pursuant to the 1945 Emergency (Defense) Regulations. It emphasizes that the Israeli authorities’ declaration amounts to a blatant and serious violation of international law, including denial of due process and fair trial guarantees by relying on alleged “secret evidence” in Israeli military courts that are neither independent nor impartial.

Government and United Nations officials, including human rights experts, have condemned the designation and called upon Israeli authorities to reverse the designation immediately and cease efforts to criminalize human rights work. Many solidarity statements have been issued by trade unions, academics, editorial boards, human rights and development organizations, celebrities and artists, and individuals.

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