Earlier this month the Israeli military raided the offices of seven Palestinian civil society oganisations. They seized computers and other materials, and on the way out welded the doors shut and issued a military order demanding they cease operations.
Last year, it was six of these organisations that Israel alleged were connected to a Palestinian political party with a militant armed wing and were therefore ‘terror organisations’.
Israel presented documentation to European countries who fund the organisations who found the evidence provided did not justify the label. Similarly, some of Israel’s leading champions in the US Congress – as well as the CIA – didn’t find any evidence to support Israel’s decision to label them terror organisations.
Terrorism poses a constant threat to Israel’s citizens, and it is never justified. As an organiastion committed to Israel’s future, we regard such terrorism as a matter of the utmost seriousness. But it should never be used as a cover to shut down criticism.
If the US and friendly European countries have all said the evidence is thin, why is Israel continuing to push on?
As NIF’s global CEO Daniel Sokatch wrote in the Forward this week, the Israeli government’s motive is clear:
“It seems that Israel wants these pesky human rights organizations, their reportage and criticisms to disappear. Instead of genuinely addressing the human rights violations these groups uncover (and there are many after 55 years of Israeli military occupation), the Israeli government is trying to shut them up by shutting them down… Invoking counter-terrorism legislation to thwart non-violent political dissent is the undemocratic act of a state afraid of the criticism leveled against it.”
Just because NIF doesn’t fund these organisations it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak up. We know that spurious charges against human rights organisations and their defenders are deeply damaging to a free and open democratic society.
Human rights organisations may not always offer a flattering picture, but their presence and voice in a society is one key feature that defines a democratic society.
NIF has long believed in the power of Israeli democracy. Values of human rights, tolerance and equality showcase the best of Israel and provide it with important legitimacy on the global stage. Actions like this one radically undermine Israel’s standing as a democracy.
Here are some more resources if you’d like to keep reading:
- “Israel’s new secret document still fails to tie Palestinian NGOs to ‘terrorism’” – Coverage of the report into the six Palestinian organisations
- “Pro-Israel Organizations Urge Secretary Blinken to Address Israel’s Persecution of Palestinian Civil Society Organizations” – Statement from the Progressive Israel Network (US)
- A joint statement issued by 45 civil society organisations in Israel, including NIF, and printed in Haaretz
The New Israel Fund and our grantees and partners know that human rights defenders protect us all. That’s why we’re speaking out to support these Palestinian organisations today. We know this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’ll keep fighting for the better, more democratic future we know is not only possible, but necessary.
Thank you for being our partner as we realise equality, justice and democracy for all Israelis and Palestinians.