On the 19th of October, the Israeli Defense Ministry declared six Palestinian civil society organisations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to be “terrorist organisations”. One of the organisations affected by the decision is Mind the Gap consortium partner Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights organisation based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
The Mind the Gap consortium is outraged by this unfounded and repressive move by Israel.
“We have enormous respect for Al-Haq and the valuable work the organisation does in the OPT, helping to hold multinational companies accountable. We stand in solidarity with our Al-Haq colleagues and are determined to continuing working with them in the face of this blatant effort to silence legitimate criticism and human rights activism,” Lydia de Leeuw of SOMO stated.
Joint research carried out by SOMO and Al-Haq under the Mind the Gap project shows how German multinational HeidelbergCement is complicit in the pillaging of natural resources from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), violating the human rights of Palestinians. The research shows how HeidelbergCement implements strategies to avoid responsibility for harmful effects on people and communities as identified in the Mind the Gap framework. Utilising state power and undermining defenders and communities are two such strategies used to delegitimise the work of NGOs and communities trying to address harmful corporate impacts. The research has documented how HeidelbergCement is aligning with suppressive state institutions and relies on the occupying State’s policies and measures of land confiscations and other forms of control over Palestinian land and natural resources.
Al-Haq, SOMO and several other consortium partners also play an active role in contributing to the development of a binding UN instrument on business and human rights.
The move to delegitimise and criminalise Al-Haq and the five other Palestinian civil society organisations is part of a wider and systematic attack by [the Israeli authorities] on civil society and a pattern of shrinking civic space in OPT and Israel. In 2017, Al-Haq was the subject of a sophisticated smear campaign, targeting both its staff and the organisation as a whole. Since 2018, Israeli authorities have imposed an arbitrary travel ban on SOMO researchers, making it impossible for them to access the OPT, severely impacting the partnership activities with Al-Haq in the Mind the Gap consortium.
The new designation represents an escalation in the attack on civic space within the OPT. It authorises Israeli authorities to close the offices of the targeted organisations and seize their assets within Israel and East Jerusalem. It also authorises authorities to arrest and jail staff members with Israeli citizenship or Jerusalem IDs, or any staff member seeking to travel in and out the OPT, as they would inevitable have to pass through Israeli border control Furthermore, money transfers to the six organisations can be prevented from passing through financial institutions regulated by Israel, starving the organisations from funds critical for their survival. Should the decision to designate the NGOs terrorist organisations be transposed into a military order, then it would be applied to the OPT as a whole.
In addition to al-Haq, the decision by the Israeli Ministry of Defense targets Addameer, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. Human rights organisations around the world, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have spoken out against this attack on defenders of Palestinian human rights.
The Mind the Gap consortium calls upon governments, the European Union, and the larger international community to take a clear and public stand condemning Israel’s repressive decision, and to exercise their diplomatic influence for the protection of human rights defenders in the OPT and Israel.
In particular, we call on the governments and the international community to:
- Publicly condemn this decision by Israel and to recognise it as an unjust and repressive action aimed at silencing critics;
- Call on Israel to revoke the decision with immediate effect;
- Continue to support Palestinian NGOs and to engage robustly with Israeli authorities to ensure funding can continue;
- Openly express support for the human rights work carried out by the six affected NGOs;
- Publish a bulletin to banks and financial institutions, putting them on notice to dismiss as inapplicable, Israel’s terrorist designation of the six Palestinian organisations;
- Prioritise the protection of civic space in its policy towards Israel/Palestine.