Friday

22nd Mar 2019

Opinion

How Israel silences Palestine in EU circles

  • Palestinian graffiti on Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank (Photo: Northern Lights 119)

Imagine the following: a toxic op-ed is published that defames your organisation. You contact the website on which it features and are invited to publish a rebuttal.

The next day, you submit your article. As the editors are about to put it online, they are targeted by a sophisticated disinformation campaign.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

More than a dozen people call the editors, seemingly on your behalf, and apply heavy pressure to publish the article. One of the callers even tries to bribe them to get it published.

This confuses and intimidates the editors, who have never experienced anything like it.

They fear that publishing under pressure may damage the independence and reputation of their website, which is a news magazine for the European Parliament.

The editors contact you and you clarify right away that none of these calls originated from your organisation. You urge them to publish your article, as they had promised. But despite your repeated requests, they don't do so. They don't even respond anymore to your phone calls and emails.

This is what recently happened to the Palestinian NGO network PNGO, which is an umbrella of 134 civil society organisations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The op-ed in question was mine, which I had submitted to a Brussels-based website called EP Today.

According to its own information, EP Today is "designed only" for policy opinions by members of the European Parliament. On 26 February, however, it published a slanderous op-ed by NGO Monitor that targeted PNGO.

NGO Monitor is an Israeli right-wing organisation that cooperates with the Israeli government in undermining NGOs that criticise Israel's violations of human rights and international law.

It constantly attacks Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and dozens of other human rights and civil society organisations, including Israeli NGOs. PNGO is high on its target list.

In its article, NGO Monitor provided false and misleading information about PNGO's mission and conduct.

While PNGO is a catalyst for a vibrant civil society in Palestine, NGO Monitor framed PNGO as a "ring leader" of a "gang" of NGOs that shrink Palestinian civil space.

Can't be ignored

For a long time, we ignored organisations like NGO Monitor that provide cover for the Israeli occupation. But this time, we decided to submit a rebuttal to this toxic propaganda.

As mentioned above, EP Today violated its promise and didn't publish our rebuttal. To make things worse, our article was apparently forwarded to NGO Monitor, which allegedly tried to prevent its publication.

An editor we spoke to implied this, with reference to one member of EP Today's board of directors, who seems to have ties to NGO Monitor. This would constitute grave professional misconduct, calling into question EP Today's independence and integrity.

In any case, we won't be silenced. Our rebuttal of NGO Monitor's propaganda, titled What Europe can do to defend civil space: a response by the Palestinian NGO Networks, is now available for everyone, after we published it on our website.

Meanwhile, our real concern is not the article.

What troubles and burdens us is the big picture: the all-out attack that the Israeli government and its affiliated organisations such as NGO Monitor have launched against Palestinian human rights defenders.

Shrinking space for civil society is a global phenomenon. However, the threat it poses in Palestine has an extra dimension: Israel's strangling military occupation, which began more than 51 years ago.

As a result of the occupation, Palestinians live without a sovereign government, without basic protection and in a fragile economy that heavily relies on international aid.

In this context, PNGO's member organisations play a crucial and indispensable role in providing services and in preserving social cohesion.

Israel's attack on us aims to neutralise NGOs that expose its violations of international law and to break the backbone of Palestinian society at large. The attack is meant to sustain and entrench the occupation.

Our reality

The reality in which we live is this: We face draconic digital surveillance and interference by Israel, which violates our fundamental privacy and obstructs our work.

I suspect this triggered the disinformation campaign described above (see AP's article for more: "Covertly, Israel prepares to fight boycott activists online").

Like NGO Monitor, the Israeli government engages in smear campaigns against Palestinian NGOs.

For example, on 1 July 2017, Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon branded our members Al-Haq and Al-Mezan as "supporters of terror", based on false allegations that they have ties to Hamas and the PFLP.

Al-Haq and Al-Mezan are internationally renowned human rights organisations.

Most recently, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a slanderous report that contains similar allegations and aggressively accuses the EU of funding Palestinian and European NGOs that sponsor terror and promote Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS - the Palestinian-led global campaign putting pressure on Israel to end its violations of international law).

Indeed, blocking EU funding to Palestinian NGOs is Israel's declared goal.

In 2015 and 2016, the director and a staff member of Al-Haq received ongoing death threats.

In response to the threats against the staff member, who is based in The Netherlands and Al-Haq's representative to the International Criminal Court, the Dutch authorities opened a criminal investigation.

While official results are pending, all indications point in Israel's direction.

PNGO and the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) have compiled their concerns about the escalating campaign to silence, delegitimise and defund Palestinian civil society organisations and human rights defenders in a joint position paper, including recommendations to the EU.

For decades, the EU has invested into civil society organisations in Israel and Palestine that promote its core values "on the ground". The support and protection of human rights defenders is a declared priority of the EU, as also displayed by the guidelines it adopted in 2008 to that end.

On 3 October 2017, in a comprehensive resolution, the European Parliament sounded alarm about the shrinking space for civil society and called "for continued and increased EU support and funding in creating a free and enabling environment for civil society."

This is the time to act on these commitments.

We rely on the EU to shield us from Israel's campaign to destroy Palestinian civil society, which has spread to Europe and is reinforced by organisations like NGO Monitor that are designed to shrink our space.

Issam Aruri is the chair of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisations Network (PNGO), an umbrella of 134 civil society organisations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that promote the rights and well-being of the Palestinian people

EU's moment of truth in Khan al-Ahmar

EU states have spoken out in strident terms against the Israeli demolition of another Palestinian community - but what are they prepared to do to stop the war crime?

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us