Alert: Israel Takes Alarming Steps to Enforce its Persecution of Six Palestinian Organisations in the West Bank, International Community Must Intervene
Al-Haq strongly condemns the military order issued by Israel`s commander-in-chief of the Central Command to transpose its unlawful designation of Al-Haq as a “terrorist organization” within the occupied West Bank. Similar military orders were issued against four fellow organizations.
The military order constitutes a dangerous and alarming move to execute and implement its designation of Palestinian organizations, putting Al-Haq, its staff members and their property, at imminent risk of raid, arrests and reprisals.
On 19 October, in an attack of unprecedented violence against Palestinian human rights civil society organisations, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz issued a decision designating six leading Palestinian organizations as “terror organizations,” namely, 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. The decision had the effect of effectively criminalizing the organizations, their staff members and their work under Israeli domestic law.
On 1 November, it was reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the six Palestinian organizations have remained lawful within the occupied West Bank, in the absence of a military order declaring them as “disallowed associations.” According to the article, the six organizations could continue to function lawfully within the occupied West Bank, excluding Jerusalem where they are legally registered, and cited Israeli sources confirming that “the main objective of labeling them as terrorist organizations was to hamper their fundraising.” However, the law took direct and immediate effect over staff and property of the designated organisations in illegally annexed and occupied East Jerusalem.
However, on 3 November, the Israeli military commander signed a military order that outlaws the six Palestinian civil society organizations within the rest of West Bank as well. The military order declares that “every member of the institution ‘Al-Haq Institution’ or ‘Al-Haq’, whether he is incorporated/associated with it or not, whether he operates on the internet or in another way, and every group, cell and faction, institution, central branch or faction thereof, and whatever name is called, including any member or belonging person to this stream, known by various aliases, is an illegal organization in the meaning of the defense regulations.”
The military order is grounded in Article 84 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 that was issued under the British Mandate and repealed shortly before the end of the Mandate. As Britain has categorically stated, “Regulation 119 was already repealed under the Palestine (Revocations) Order-in-Council of 1948 and as such no longer applies”.
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli military commander issued Military Order No.101 to outlaw any form of peaceful assembly, including in support of organizations designated as “unlawful associations”, resurrecting the previously repealed Article 84 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. Under Article 84(1)(a)-(b), the military commander has granted itself sweeping powers to carry out property demolitions, censorship measures, suppression of protests, closures, curfews, administrative detentions, and deportations. Further, Article 251 of Military Order No.1651, promulgated in 2010, renders any individual supporting such organization liable to a ten-year prison sentence. That such acts are carried out in violation of the basic humanitarian guarantees provided for in the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights treaties has been reiterated repeatedly by authoritative UN treaty bodies.
By issuing these military orders, the Israeli military is encroaching deep into the heart and functioning of Palestinian civil society, in an egregious violation of Article 43 of the Hague Regulations (1907). As EU High Representative Joseph Borrell has stated, “civil society organisations are a force in promoting international law, human rights, and democratic values, across the world and in Palestine”. They are as such, integral to the proper functioning of a democratic State. In targeting the six leading and longest established Palestinian civil society organisations in the occupied West Bank, Israel is effectively attempting to re-order the institutions of the occupied territory, in violation of Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while further carrying out a direct attack on the rights of protected persons in violation of their human rights under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which they are entitled, “in all circumstances”.
In addition, the intimidation and smear attacks aim at isolating the Palestinian civil society organizations from their partners and human rights allies. Israel is shamelessly pursuing its strategy of shrinking Palestinian civil society space to silence their dissenting voices, and dismantle the pillars of democracy. Israel’s cumulative campaign of persecution aims at gradually normalizing its inhuman acts of persecution and apartheid toward Palestinian human rights defenders; from systematic harassment, defamation campaigns against Al-Haq and death threats against its staff members.
Israel is now worryingly enforcing its threats with total impunity and complete contempt for the strong statements of condemnation emanating from the international community over the past two weeks, including UN treaty bodies, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, EU officials, States, as well as individuals and groups of the human rights civil society.
In raising this alert, Al-Haq expresses its deepest concerns regarding the safety and security of its staff members operating within the West Bank, including Jerusalem. As Israel is establishing its legal arsenal and preparing to take concrete actions to repress Al-Haq’s works, words of condemnation are, more than ever, insufficient.
In view of the above, Al-Haq urges the international community to take concrete actions:
- Call on Israel, to urgently rescind the designations as acts which violate the freedoms of opinion and expression, and freedom of association, and amount to an acts of apartheid prosecutable under Article 7(2)(h) of the Rome Statute;
- Publish a bulletin to banks and financial institutions, putting them on notice to dismiss as inapplicable, Israel’s ‘terrorist’ and ‘illegal organisation’ designations of the six Palestinian organizations;
- Communicate directly with, and recommend, that the European Union and Third States remove “terrorism” clauses as internal conditions placed on donor funding of civil society organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory;
- To unilaterally or collectively implement comprehensive trade sanctions against Israel, to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law and prevent further erasure of Palestinian presence from the occupied territory. Particular emphasis should be given to the need to end the sale or supply of military products to Israel;
- To implement laws banning the import of goods produced in illegal settlements located in the occupied territory, having particular reference to the UN’s 2020 report on business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
- 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.
Read the Hebrew military order here, and its unofficial English translation here.
Image: Logos of the six persecuted human rights organizations. Source: Mondoweiss.