On October 19, the Israeli Ministry of Defense declared six prominent Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations to be "terrorist organizations." The six organizations are Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International - Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
These organizations advocate for Palestinian human rights at the local and international levels, provide services and support to women, children, farmers, and prisoners, and collectively support thousands of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
This decision by the Israeli Ministry of Defense puts these organizations and the populations they serve at grave risk, including opening the door to potential mass arrests of staff, freezing organizational assets and bank accounts, and forcing the closure of these important organizations. This repressive act is a serious escalation of Israel's attempts to criminalize and delegitimize lawful human rights and civil society work aimed at eliminating dissent and avoiding accountability.
Many in the international community were swift to condemn this decision and voice their support for these six Palestinian organizations, but more pressure is needed to urge the Israeli government to reverse this decision and cease attempts to criminalize Palestinian civil society organizations.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said this decision is "an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion and expression and on the right to public participation, and should be immediately revoked."
21 Israeli civil society organizations placed a joint statement in Ha'aretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, calling the decision "draconian." The statement also said, "Criminalizing such work is an act of cowardice, characteristic of repressive authoritarian regimes. Civil society and human rights defenders must be protected. We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, and call on members of the Israeli government and the international community to oppose this decision unequivocally."
On October 25, Tommy Sheppard MP tabled an Early Day Motion condemning the decision and calling upon the UK government to advocate for Palestinian civil society.
On October 28, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced a House resolution condemning the decision. The House resolution calls on President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken to condemn the authoritarian and antidemocratic act of repression by the Government of Israel against prominent Palestinian civil society organizations; publicly call on Israeli authorities to immediately end efforts aimed at persecuting, delegitimizing, and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations; and publicly state the ongoing United States commitment to recognize the valuable work of Palestinian civil society organizations, including the six designated organizations.