Your Excellency Mr. Antonio Gurterres
Secretary General of the United Nations
Re: Israel’s latest attempt to defame, defund and criminalize Palestinian civil society by designating Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations”
As Secretary General of the UN, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) requests that you publicly condemn and call for the full rescinding of Israel’s designation of Palestinian CSOs as “terrorist organizations”.
Israel’s “Defense” Minister Benny Gantz announced, on 19 October 2021, the designation of six leading Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) as “terror organizations”, effectively outlawing the organizations and placing them at risk of imminent reprisals. The six targeted organizations are: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).
On November 7, 2021, the “Chief of the Israeli army’s Central Command”, signed an order declaring the same organizations terror groups, extending “Defense” Minister Benny Gantz’s declaration to the West Bank and seriously hindering the organizations ability to operate. This could permit the Israeli occupying forces to arrest employees, raid the offices and confiscate equipment, thus hindering the work of humanitarian, development and human rights work in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
On November 8, 2021 Front Line Defenders, Citizen Lab & Amnesty International’s Security lab revealed that there has been a systematic underground campaign of spyware surveillance aimed at infiltrating Palestinian; human rights defenders (HRD) & lawyers’ devises .The timelines of these investigations & Israeli “Defense Minister designations of the 6 Palestinian CSOs only days after initiating the investigation are concerning and by no means a coincidence. This may amount to an attempt to preemptively withhold evidence of surveillance & undercover up surreptitious spyware actions .
For decades, the Israeli occupying authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize their oppressive rule of Palestinians. As you are aware, Palestinian CSOs play an essential role in the oPt. They monitor and document human-rights and IHL violations, including individual Israel’s full impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity; provide essential humanitarian support to vulnerable Palestinian communities including women and children; monitor and scrutinize abuses of power, corruption and bad governance.
•We call on you to impose concrete consequences on Israel for its continued violations of international law. Only by punishing countries who commit grave breaches of international law and protecting human rights can we attain justice and freedom and fully alleviate the suffering of the oppressed Palestinians.
•Use your good offices to demand the Israeli Minister of “Defense” and “Chief of the Israeli army’s Central Command” rescind the “terrorist” designation of the six Palestinian human rights and CSOs.
How you respond to this request will be a real test of the United Nation’s determination to protect human rights defenders in the oPt and internationally.