Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

‘An assault’ Reactions to Israel declaring six Palestinian rights groups ‘terrorist’ groups

Published on: 24 October, 2021


Benny Ganz [AP]

Benny Ganz [AP]

In a decree signed by Israeli defence minister Benny Ganz, Israel has accused six prominent Palestinian human rights groups of being terrorist organisations. The defence ministry said the 6 organisations acted as ‘a front’ for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The decision has triggered an outcry within and outside Israel and Palestine.

The six groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, Addameer, Defence for Children International – Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

Most of the groups monitor human rights violations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli defence ministry attempted to justify the decision by stating that the groups were linked to the PFLP, a secular political movement with an armed wing that in the past carried out attacks against Israel.

Commenting on the decision, Yael Vias Gvirsman, director of the International Criminal Law and Humanitarian Law clinic at Reichman University in Israel said to Al Jazeera: ‘Its a tough balance to strike. Designating an organisation as a terrorist organisation is meant to save lives. But seeing the far-reaching consequences for individual human rights, designations such as this must be subject to a review mechanism, allowing the designated to challenge the designation itself.’


‘Appalling and unjust’

The decision has been widely condemned in human rights circles.

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch said to Al Jazeera: ‘This decision grows out of a years-long assault on human rights advocacy. Indeed the Israeli government for years now has maligned  human rights groups and have sought to smear them with a variety of different charges or allegations. Of course Palestinians have borne the brunt, facing restrictions on travel and even criminal charges.’

In a joint statement released on Friday Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International  said: ‘This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement.’ It further states that the decision is an ‘alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organisations.’

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) told Al Jazeera: ‘The Israeli government is launching an assault on civil society, on free speech and on human rights using ‘counter-terrorism’ fictions no different than those deployed by Russia, China and Iran. The primary targets may appear to be Palestinians but they will increasingly include critical Jews inside and outside of Israel.’

Chantal Meloni, professor of law at the University of Milan and legal representative of victims in the situation of Palestine before the ICC agrees that the decision is an attack on free speech: ‘The Israeli government’s decision to declare six Palestinian human rights organisations as ‘terrorists’ is shocking but not surprising. It is consistent with decades of intimidation, repression and attacks on any significant form of dissent. ‘

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, told the Times of Israel: ‘They may be able to close us down. They can seize our funding. They can arrest us. But they cannot stop our firm and unshakeable belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes’.