Last week, EPF PIN issued a statement condemning the decision taken by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, which libelously labeled six Palestinian human rights NGOs as “terrorist organizations.” You can read the statement on our website or view an expanded version with additional background information, published by the Episcopal New Service.
Three of the six organizations have significant international name recognition. For thirty years, Addameer has been at the fore in supporting the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. They publicize news of significant events, such as hunger strikes, and attempt to investigate and end practices of torture or other violations of prisoners’ rights.
Al-Haq was established more than 40 years ago to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT). Generally recognized as the preeminent organization promoting legal rights for Palestinians, the organisation has special consultative status with the United Nations and is affiliated with multiple national and international judicial organizations.
Perhaps the most well-known of the six NGOs, Defense for Children International-Palestine, or DCI-P, has continued for 30 years to defend and promote the rights of children living in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Through their No Way to Treat a Child campaign, and by working closely with Rep. Betty McCollum’s efforts to promote HR 2590, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, DCI-P has become a high profile advocate for Palestinian children.
Although lesser known than these three, for more than forty years the Bisan Center for Research and Development has been actively engaged with the poor and marginalized communities in the oPT, educating and building partnerships which help them achieve their socio-economic rights in impoverished areas which are highly dependent on foreign assistance.
Formed by a group of agronomists 35 years ago, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. or UAWC, is one of the largest agricultural development institutions in Palestine. Their agricultural committees work with national and international development agencies to establish priorities for local farmers and implement co-operative programs and community activities to strengthen agricultural communities.
Different in its target, but similar in methods, the UPWC, or Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees has worked through local community groups formore than forty years to build a civil, democratic, progressive society to improve the status of Palestinian women and empower them to pursue true equality and social justice between men and women, free from discrimination.
The Israeli Defense Ministry has argued that these six NGOs are “terrorist organizations” because of their supposed ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party banned in Israel (but not Palestine). Critics of the Israeli government however, say that the decision has less to do with their political affiliations as their effectiveness in revealing the Israeli occupation to the international community.
With such reputations and strong connections to human rights groups around the world, it is unsurprising that opposition to Minister Gantz’ announcement was quick to coalesce. Mondoweiss reported that ten Palestinian Christian organizations condemned and denounced the move “in the strongest possible terms” A statement issued by the Israeli human rights watchdog B’Tselem reported that twenty-five Israeli NGOs had signed a joint statement opposing the decision. According to the popular YNet News, the move “caused shockwaves” among European donor nations, NGOs, and from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Turkish-based Andalou Agency reported that at least three members of the Israeli Cabinet had publicly denounced the move, including the Health, Environmental Protection, and Regional Cooperation Ministers.
Here in the United States, the opposition took the form of joint letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to pressure the Israeli government to rescind the terrorist label. One letter, sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Rights, JVP-Action and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights collected endorsements from more than 290 organizations, including both EPF and EPF PIN. You can see and still sign the letter here. The Episcopal Church joined fourteen other Church bodies, and para-church organizations, in signing a similar letter to Secretary Blinken.
Representative McCollum also acted quickly to introduce H.Res.751, “Condemning the repressive designation by the Government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations.” The Resolution has been co-sponsored by ten of her colleagues already. A press release issued by her office stated (in part) that,
“When a government uses the label of terrorist as a weapon to silence the work of human rights organizations and advocates who courageously represent vulnerable people living under military occupation, it is a sign of incredible weakness more aligned with an authoritarian regime than a healthy democracy. Israel’s decision to brand these prominent Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations exposes the truth that Israel’s occupation is violent, immoral, and unjust, and that peaceful efforts to defend the rights of Palestinian children, women, farmers, or prisoners must be declared illegal.”
We encourage all PIN supporters to contact their Congressional Representatives to become co-sponsors of H.Res.751. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights has made it easy to do so here. While you are at it, be sure to sign the Episcopal Public Policy Network action alert in support of HR2590. You can call the White House Comment Line Tuesday thru Thursday form 11AM-3PM EST at (202) 456-1111. Or send a message to President Biden at the White House and/or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And don’t forget to use your preferred social media platforms to ask your friends, Rector, Bishop, etc. to join you in these support actions.