Ramallah, September 2, 2022—Six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations arbitrarily outlawed by Israeli government sent a letter to the Biden administration yesterday demanding action.
The letter, addressed to United States President Joe Biden, calls on him and his administration to condemn the latest Israeli government actions aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations as well as to reject the Israeli government’s unsubstantiated allegations against the six Palestinian civil society organizations and demand Israeli authorities rescind the designations under both Israeli civilian law and military law.
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. Israeli forces raided their offices on August 18, welding their doors shut and taped a military order to the door effectively closing the groups’ offices.
“The United States has had more than 10 months to respond to the Israeli government’s attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations,” said Khaled Quzmar, General Director of Defense for Children International - Palestine. “We are under imminent risk of arrest and prosecution for baseless allegations intended to eliminate our work documenting and exposing Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s rights. It’s time for the Biden administration to send a clear message that the outright and unabashed repression and criminalization of our work by Israeli authorities will not be tolerated.”
The letter also called on the Biden administration to work collectively with other states to demand Israel rescind the designations and take diplomatic action, in concert with European counterparts, that serves to protect targeted Palestinian organizations, staff, premises, and assets; end any U.S. efforts to undermine the right of Palestinians and Palestinian civil society organizations to pursue justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court; and end complicity and financial and diplomatic support to the Israeli apartheid regime.
On August 18, Israeli forces raided DCIP’s headquarters located in Al-Bireh’s Sateh Marhaba neighborhood, located just south of Ramallah. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers forced open the office’s locked front door and removed a computer, photocopier, printer, and client files related to Palestinian child detainees represented by DCIP’s lawyers in Israel’s military courts, CCTV footage showed. They exited the office after 45 minutes, welding shut the entry door and leaving a notice taped to the door ordering the office closed declaring DCIP an illegal organization. It is unclear exactly what items were confiscated.
In response, United Nations experts condemned Israel’s escalating attacks against Palestinian civil society in an August 24 statement declaring “these actions amount to severe suppression of human rights defenders and are illegal and unacceptable.”
This week, nearly 300 organizations around the world sent their own letter to President Biden demanding immediate action in response to the Israeli government’s latest assault against DCIP and the other Palestinian 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.
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.