MPPM condemns silencing by Israel of Palestinian civil society organizations

MPPM - Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and Peace in the Middle East condemns the raid and closure by the Israeli occupation forces of the offices of several Palestinian civil society organizations and criticizes the inertia of the international community — including the Portuguese government — in demanding Israel to reverse the designation of six of the organizations as "terrorist organizations".

In the early hours of Thursday, August 18, the Israeli army invaded and closed the offices of seven Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. The organizations' offices were ransacked and their equipment confiscated. The doors were sealed and a military order was posted declaring the organization "closed by force in the name of security in the region and to combat the infrastructure of terrorism".

The six organizations designated "illegal" by Israel are: Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq – Defending Human Rights, DCI-P – Defense for Children International - Palestine, Bisan Center for Research and Development, UAWC – Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and UPWC – Union of Palestinian Women's Committees. In addition to these, the UHWC – Union of Health Work Committees was also targeted by the Israeli assault.

An unjustified and unsubstantiated designation

The six organizations had been designated by Israel as "terrorist" organizations in October 2021 and accused of links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a decision that earned widespread condemnation from the international community and human rights groups right from the start as unjustified and unfounded. On October 29, MPPM issued a statement repudiating the Israeli government's act and demanding that the Portuguese government firmly condemn the decision and demand its revocation.

Among other demonstrations of support, on April 25 this year, UN human rights experts called on the international community to take immediate and effective measures to protect and support the six Palestinian civil society groups designated as "terrorist organizations" by the Israeli government.

On July 12, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of nine European countries — but not Portugal — in a joint statement reiterated their decision to continue supporting those Palestinian organizations, since Israel had not been able to present any evidence to support its accusation that they were terrorist organizations. A few days later, Norway's MFA also considered that the information received from Israel was not sufficient to justify listing the six organizations as terrorists.

A work essential but uncomfortable for Israel

These organizations carry out essential human rights work and support for the people in the occupied West Bank — including, inter alia, providing legal assistance to detainees, documenting human rights violations by Israel, conducting advocacy locally and internationally — and some work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations.

In a joint statement of October 22, 2021 Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) considered the "appalling and unjust decision" to outlaw the six organizations to be "an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement" and warned that the decision was "an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations".

What is at stake here for the State of Israel is not the defense of its security, as it would have you believe, but the silencing of prestigious organizations that, through their continued work, have earned international recognition that gives them an audience for the denunciation of Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Condemnation of Israel's action

Israel's latest attack on Palestinian NGOs has been widely condemned. We refer, among others, to the following statements:
The United Nations agencies and the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) have urged the Government of Israel to allow Palestinian humanitarian and human rights organizations to continue their work claiming that the Israeli authorities have not provided any convincing evidence to support their accusations.

The foreign ministers of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden have expressed their concern over the assault on Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), stressing that this action is not acceptable.

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “These organizations have contributed enormously to human rights in the OPT and across the globe, yet Israeli army boots trample all over their work. Amnesty International stands proudly in solidarity with our Palestinian partners and calls on all governments to condemn the Israeli army’s attack on Palestinian civil society”.

Our responsibility

The recent events are a corollary of Israel's continuing colonial domination of occupation and apartheid over the Palestinian people, denying them their essential rights, only made possible by the passivity -if not the active complicity- of the international community, also denounced in the cited joint communiqué of AI and HRW: “The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner”.

In this regard, the muteness of the Portuguese government and the consequent passivity of its diplomatic representation is particularly objectionable.

MPPM therefore calls on peace-loving individuals and organizations that defend human and peoples' rights to

– Express their active solidarity with the Palestinian people in defense of their rights to self-determination and independence;

– Urge the Portuguese government to, like its European counterparts, put pressure on Israel to immediately reverse the designation of the six organizations as illegal associations as well as the military order that demnds the closure of their facilities;

– Demand that the Portuguese government adopt concrete measures to stop funding Israel's colonial occupation and apartheid policy, namely by prohibiting the sale of products from the illegal settlements and refraining from establishing business relations with companies that benefit from that policy by having economic interests in the illegal settlements;

– Demand from the Portuguese government the recognition of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a fair solution for the refugees, respecting international law, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions.

August 21st 2022

The National Directorate of the MPPM

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