More than 140 organizations have supported a letter by 22 members of the US House of Representatives demanding action by the Biden administration on behalf of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations designated as “terrorist” groups by the Israeli authorities, according to a press release by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), one of the six targeted organizations.
The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, calls on the Biden administration to publicly reject the Israeli designation, urge the Israeli government to reverse its decision, and confirm a date for an inter-agency briefing and provide a report to Congress within 30 days.
“We write to you out of serious concern for the six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations that were declared ‘terrorist organizations’ by Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz over six months ago. A reported lack of evidence to support this decision raises concerns that it may be a deeply repressive measure, designed to criminalize and silence prominent and essential Palestinian human rights organizations,” said the letter signed by Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Eleanor Holmes Norton, James P. McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Pramila Jayapal, Nydia M. Velázquez, Maxine Waters, Betty McCollum, Rashida Tlaib, Donald Payne Jr., Hank Johnson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Raúl Grijalva, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Marie Newman, Ilhan Omar, André Carson, Jesús “Chuy” García, Bobby Rush, Mark Pocan, and Danny K. Davis.
The six Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
“The U.S. must always and consistently speak out against efforts by all countries attempting to undermine civil society and the necessary work of humanitarian organizations,” said the US lawmakers. “Counter-terrorism legislation must not be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian activities. Furthermore, repressive tactics such as criminalizing organizations must not be used to suppress or deny the right to freedom of association, or to quash political dissent, or limit the peaceful activities of civil society.”
The letter added, “Evidence justifying this designation has not been provided publicly or to all Members of Congress, despite multiple requests. We urge you to publicly reject this decision, call on the Israeli government to reverse course, confirm a date for an inter-agency briefing with the below signatories, and provide a report to Congress on your efforts within 30 days.”
“Our human rights documentation and evidence-based advocacy exposing Israeli forces’ grave violations against Palestinian children have made us a target of the Israeli government for years,” said Khaled Quzmar, General Director at DCIP. “But we will not back down. We are grateful for Congresswoman Pressley’s leadership in rejecting the Israeli designation and urging the Biden administration to do the same and take action for Palestinian human rights.”
More than 140 organizations supported the letter, said DCIP, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, J Street, AJP Action, and Americans for Peace Now, among many others.
Last week, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden released a joint statement on the Israeli designations stating that “no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing our policy towards the six Palestinian NGOs on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations’.” The nine countries declared, “in the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
In February, DCIP joined other leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations to file a procedural objection to the decision by Israeli military authorities declaring DCIP and other groups “unlawful associations.”
The objection demands the immediate cancelation of an Israeli military order declaring DCIP and other leading Palestinian human rights and civil society groups “unlawful associations” pursuant to the 1945 Emergency (Defense) Regulations. It emphasizes that the Israeli authorities’ declaration amounts to a blatant and serious violation of international law, including denial of due process and fair trial guarantees by relying on alleged “secret evidence” in Israeli military courts that are neither independent nor impartial.
Government and United Nations officials, including human rights experts, have condemned the designation and called upon Israeli authorities to reverse the designation immediately and cease efforts to criminalize human rights work. Many solidarity statements have been issued by trade unions, academics, editorial boards, human rights and development organizations, celebrities and artists, and individuals.