Sunday

3rd Mar 2024

Opinion

Israel's besmirching of Palestine NGOs must be reversed

  • With its latest defaming designation, Israel strives to shake and rattle this common foundation (Photo: Reham Alhelsi)
Listen to article

On 19 October, the Israeli defence ministry designated six organisations of the Palestinian civil society as "terrorist organisations," pursuant to its domestic Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016.

The six organisations count amongst the most influential and internationally-recognised actors of the Palestinian civil society, working on crucial issues spanning from human rights, children and women's rights, social and economic development: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Shawan Jabarin: 'It is essential that the EU and member states not only officially condemn Israel's designation, but also ensure it will not be rendered de facto applicable in their territories - notably through the bank system'

Against the background of prolonged occupation, accelerated settlement expansion and institutionalised oppression, Israel has been escalating its attacks on human rights defenders, placing Shatha Odeh, general director of the Palestinian Health Work Committee, under administrative detention, and revoking French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hammouri's Jerusalem residency.

The organisations' designations come as the latest effort of an Israeli-orchestrated smear campaign to discredit and delegitimise their essential human rights work, equating it to terrorist acts, with full awareness of the implications that such labelling carries within a European context.

The designation perfectly fits into Israel's long-conceived strategy to besmirch Palestinian civil society voices under false allegations of terrorism and antisemitism, while pressuring any international actor that grants them a hearing, and actively demanding their defunding.

The European Union space has been shrinking as well, and European organisations supporting or funding Palestinian civil society have become the collateral victims of Israel's smear campaigns against the Palestinian civil society. This has taken the shape of various lobbying efforts spearheaded by the Israeli government officials to meet with European counterparts and demand the ceasing of their funding to Palestinian organisations.

Such efforts culminated with an inflammatory and false report - The Money Trail - in May 2018, published by the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs to attack EU funding to Palestinian and international non-governmental organisations, based on the same defaming themes of terrorism, antisemitism, and attacks on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

'Chilling effect' in Europe

Overall, these political manoeuvres aim at creating a chilling effect on the European civil society, impacting European support and donations. Israel seeks to shatter the trust and confidence at the basis of the European-Palestinian relationship, and entrench its domination on the ground by taking effective control and assuming oversight over European funding to the Palestinian civil society. In doing so, Israel and its allied disinformation groups not only ensure the actual shrinking of the Palestinian civil space, but also that of the European civil society, its values and its human rights legacy.

The EU, represented by its member states, European governments, organisations and individuals of the European civil society, have been and continue to represent essential partners of the Palestinian people in their struggle for human rights and justice.

Our partnership is premised upon a common set of fundamental values and principles, that of the rule of law, democracy and human rights for all peoples.

In its landmark decision Baldassi and Others v. France in 2020, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that peaceful civil society actions of Palestinian solidarity activists against Israel are protected as part of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

With its latest defaming designation, Israel strives to shake and rattle this common foundation.

This follows on from the targeting of Palestinian human rights organisations submitting communications to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, including death threats against Al-Haq's staff such as myself and legal researcher Nada Kiswanson.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity, namely of reaffirming our shared values, and of strengthening the role played by EU member states, their governments, civil societies and individuals in the pursuance of the rule of law, human rights, justice and accountability in Palestine.

Europe must play its part to oppose the shrinking of our common set of values, and support the Palestinian people's quest for justice and accountability.

It is essential that the EU and its member states not only officially condemn Israel's designation as an internationally wrongful act, but also ensure that such designation will not be rendered de facto applicable in their territories - notably through the bank system – and finally, use their good offices to demand its immediate rescission, as well as that of its counter-terrorism law, which alarmingly breaches core human rights standards.

The European civil society cannot let Israel's unlawful designation affect its crucial relationship with the Palestinian human rights movement, nor can it let Israel dictate its own space for action on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. Now is the time to stand firm for our shared values, and for Europe to stand with the Palestinian people.

Author bio

Shawan Jabarin is general director of Al-Haq, the independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the organisation has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords

More than 55 agreements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain are currently underway. These lay the foundation for practical cooperation in almost all fields including: finance, communications, economy, culture, tourism, taxation, investment protection, freedom of movement, water, agriculture and energy.

Textbook hypocrisy: EU's new low point on Palestine

Brussels institutions are devoting time not to Israel's illegal settlements and the two-state solution, but to an entirely different, peripheral issue: an EU-funded study of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, published in June by the Georg-Eckert Institute in Germany.

Column

Israel/Palestine: how victims became aggressors

The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is actually an oversized Stanford Prison Experiment. That 1970s experiment showed that if you give people power, they start to abuse that power very quickly.

Israel risks derailing EU election mission to Palestine

Palestine is holding its first general legislative election in 15 years on 22 May. Its president has requested an EU mission to observe the elections but Israel has yet to respond - meaning the mission may not happen.

Palestine refugees: UNRWA's global responsibility

Regional politics, competing global priorities and, sadly, a deliberate misinformation campaign that seeks to dismantle the agency jeopardise the critical mission of one of the United Nations' true success stories.

EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid

While every European diplomat knows that a return to the "status quo" means maintaining the daily oppression, humiliation and anguish that comes with living under apartheid, the EU continues to acquiesce to a situation that gets worse by the day.

Latest News

  1. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  2. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  3. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  4. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  5. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  6. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  7. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  8. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us