Ramallah, October 28, 2021—U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and nine other members of Congress introduced a resolution today in Congress condemning the Israeli government’s designation last week of six prominent human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations.
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 resolution calls on the Biden administration to condemn the decision to designate the six organizations as “terrorist organizations” and to call on Israeli authorities to immediately end efforts aimed at persecuting, delegitimizing, and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations.
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.
“When a government uses the label of terrorist as a weapon to silence the work of human rights organizations and advocates who courageously represent vulnerable people living in under military occupation, it is a sign of incredible weakness more aligned with an authoritarian regime than a healthy democracy,” McCollum said. “Israel’s decision to brand these prominent Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations exposes the truth that Israel’s occupation is violent, immoral, and unjust, and that peaceful efforts to defend the rights of Palestinian children, women, farmers, or prisoners must be declared illegal.”
Representative McCollum introduced the resolution around midday on October 28 along with nine cosponsors: Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), André Carson (D-IN), Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Marie Newman (D-IL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
"After years of delegitimization and disinformation campaigns have failed to silence our work, Israeli authorities now choose to escalate repressive tactics by labeling civil society organizations as terrorists,” said Khaled Quzmar, General Director at DCIP. “We are grateful once again for Congresswoman McCollum's bold leadership condemning this decision, and we resolve to continue defending Palestinian children and exposing human rights violations inherent in Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians. We are not going anywhere."
Over 80 organizations supported the bill at the time of its introduction, including Human Rights Watch, American Friends Service Committee, Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, the Arab American Institute, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), CODEPINK, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Justice Democrats, National Lawyers Guild, Palestine Legal, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, among others.
Rep. McCollum has previously introduced several pieces of legislation addressing Palestinian human rights, most recently H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act, which seeks to prohibit Israeli authorities from using U.S. taxpayer funds to commit human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank. The bill is currently cosponsored by 30 members of Congress, thus far garnering the most support of the Palestinian human rights bills Rep. McCollum has introduced.
“It is incumbent upon Democrats in the U.S. House and the Biden administration to condemn this Israeli decision and draw a clear line that anti-democratic repression of Palestinian civil society is not tolerated,” McCollum said.