Jerusalem24 – On 18 February 2022, Al-Haq sent a submission to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Mr. Clément N. Voule in response to a call for input to inform a thematic report on trends, developments, and challenges to the ability of civil society organizations to access resources, including foreign funding, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 50th Session.
The submission underlines how the Israeli government, through its Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and in coordination with para-governmental and affiliated entities have been leading a systematic, carefully orchestrated, and institutionalized smear and disinformation campaign against Palestinian human rights organizations for decades, in an attempt to shrink civil society space, delegitimize, oppress, and dominate them. The smear and disinformation campaigns attempt to affect access to funding and resources to Al-Haq, and Palestinian civil society organizations, to silence them and stop their efforts towards justice in Palestine. The submission addresses and documents these attacks on the Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations, including the most recent alarming attack carried out by Israel’s Ministry of Defence by unlawfully designating six prominent Palestinian organizations as ‘terrorist’ organizations.
The submission provides information on how such dangerous campaigns attempt to discredit the image, efforts, and initiatives and criminalize the work of the civil society in Palestine. It also addresses the repercussions the designations entail on the organizations and their staff, especially about access to resources and funding, on both regional and international stages. The submission expands on how these efforts carried out by Israel attempt to silence the critical voice of Palestinian civil society organizations, who work tirelessly to serve the Palestinian people, and are involved in issues spanning from the Israeli occupation, annexation, apartheid, and colonization of Palestinian lands, business and settlement activities, environmental and natural resources, political prisoners, refugees, to accountability before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Given Israel’s prolonged culture of impunity, the designations and all smearing campaigns against Palestinian civil society have been used as a tool to silence and further oppress the Palestinian people, and any effort to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity, its prolonged occupation, and its apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole.
Accordingly, the submission offers Special Rapporteur Voule the following recommendations:
1. Call on Israel, to urgently rescind the designations as acts which violate the freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association, and amount to acts of apartheid prosecutable under Article 7(2)(h) of the Rome Statute;
2. Publish a bulletin to banks and financial institutions, putting them on notice to dismiss as inapplicable, Israel’s terrorist designation of the six Palestinian organizations;
3. Communicate directly with, and recommend, that the European Union and the Third States remove “terrorism” clauses as internal conditions placed on donor funding of civil society organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory;
4. Call on UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, to examine the compatibility of the Anti-Terror Law, 2016 with International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law;
5. Denounce the application of the Anti-Terror Law, 2016 to civil society organizations in the OPT as an overreaching of Israel’s domestic law to the OPT;
6. Call on Israel to repeal the Anti-Terror Law, 2016 effectively used to institutionalize the persecution of human rights defenders and entrench its colonial domination over the Palestinian people and their lands;
7. Urge Israel to immediately cease its systematic and ongoing policies and practices aimed at intimidating, smearing, and silencing Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders, in breach of their right to freedom of expression, including through arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, institutionalized hate speech and incitement, residency revocation, deportations, and other forms of coercive or punitive measures, including recent designations;
8. Call on the third state to act in good faith and protect the important civil society and human rights work in Palestine, and to take concrete and immediate measures to end Israel’s prolonged occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory and bring to an end the apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole since 1948, ensuring effective remedy and redress for all Palestinians, including the right of self-determination, and the right of refugees and exiles in the diaspora to return to their homes in Palestine.