Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 15: Israel harasses Palestinian human rights defenders

examples

South Africa, 45th Session

“We are gravely concerned at intimidation, harassment and threats at human rights defenders and civil society actors in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Russia, 44th Session

“We are concerned by…persecutions of civil society.”

Libya, 45th Session

“Human rights defenders including Palestinians are harassed by the Israeli forces.”

Our Response

UN Watch

Human rights defenders and media workers everywhere have a right to be protected, and in Israel, as a rule, they are protected. Israel is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its legal system guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are vigorously safeguarded by an independent judiciary. Israel is home to a rich and vibrant media and civil society which regularly criticize government policies with regard to human rights issues including the treatment of Palestinians.

Israel recognizes the right to protest as a fundamental right. Anti-government protests in front of the prime minister’s residence and at other locations in Israel have continued during the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns, even when public prayer was severely curtailed.[1] Israel permits NGOs to operate freely, including many NGOs that sharply oppose the government. For example, the New Israel Fund, largely funded by American Jews, has provided more than $300 million to 900 registered nonprofits in Israel since it was founded.[2] Many of these organizations are known for their vocal pro-Palestinian advocacy, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Gisha, Machsom Watch and Yesh Din.[3] Israel permits human rights defenders to file petitions to the Supreme Court challenging Israeli government action. In the last year alone, the Israeli Supreme Court heard cases brought by pro-Palestinian organizations such as Adallah, Peace Now, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din and others.

In areas of the West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction, human rights defenders are generally free to carry out their work. Restrictions arise in connection with the ongoing military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) routinely plan and carry out deadly terror attacks against Israelis, including thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza which target Israeli civilians. Operatives of these terrorist groups have been known to associate with Palestinian civil society organizations, even as they continue their terror activities. For example, the head of Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, is a convicted PFLP terrorist.[4] Likewise, the Palestinian NGO Addameer is known to be a PFLP affiliate and several of its current and former employees are linked to the PFLP.[5] Yet when Israel confiscated materials from Addameer’s offices in September 2019, Amnesty International rushed to attack Israel for violating civil society rights and ignored the group’s ties to the PFLP.[6] A number of Addameer activists were later arrested by Israel in connection with the August 2019 terrorist bombing that killed Israeli teen Rina Schnerb. Among these was West Bank PFLP leader Khalida Jarrar, former Vice-Chair and Executive Director of Addameer.[7] Amnesty criticized Israel over the arrest, instead of condemning Jarrar for her PFLP activities.[8]

At that time, the Israeli Security Agency arrested some 50 PFLP members in connection with the deadly August 2019 bombing. Members of other Palestinian NGOs, including the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), Health Workers Committees (HWC) and Sabin were among those arrested for their PFLP activities.[9] This caused a scandal in the Netherlands, whose funding to UAWC had paid part of the terrorists’ salaries. The Netherlands immediately suspended its donations to UAWC.[10] In January 2019, recognizing that many Palestinian NGOs have ties to terrorism, the EU itself canceled a grant to BADIL after the Palestinian NGO refused to sign the anti-terror clause committing that funds would not go to listed terror organizations.[11]

[1] Hundreds of anti-Netanyahu protesters march in Tel Aviv despite virus lockdown, Times of Israel (October 9, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-of-anti-netanyahu-protesters-march-in-tel-aviv-despite-virus-lockdown/.

[2] Grantmaking, New Israel Fund (last visited December 24, 2020), https://www.nif.org/about/grantmaking/.

[3] Id.

[4] See, e.g., Shawan Rateb Abdallah Jabarin v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank, Case No. 1520/09 (Israeli Supreme Court, March 10, 2009), https://supremedecisions.court.gov.il/Home/Download?path=HebrewVerdicts\09\200\015\p02&fileName=09015200_p02.txt&type=4 (“We found that the material indicating the appellant’s involvement in the activities of terrorist groups is genuine and authoritative.”)

[5] Addameer’s Ties to the PFLP Terrorist Group, NGO Monitor (January 27, 2020), https://www.ngo-monitor.org/reports/addameers-ties-to-the-pflp-terrorist-group-2/.

[6] Israel ramps up assault on civil society with chilling raid on Palestinian NGO Addameer, Amnesty International (September 19, 2019), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/israel-ramps-up-assault-on-civil-society-with-chilling-raid-on-palestinian-ngo-addameer/.

[7] Khaled Abu Toameh, IDF rearrests senior PFL official Khalida Jarrar, Jerusalem Post (October 31, 2019), https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/idf-rearrests-senior-pflp-official-khailda-jarrar-606464.

[8] Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2019, Amnesty International (last visited December 24, 2020), https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/.

[9] Dima Abumaria, Israel, Palestinian Authority violate rights of journalists – report, Jerusalem Post (January 8, 2020), https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/report-pa-israel-violate-rights-of-journalists-613534; Current and Former NGO Employees Arrested as Part of PFLP-Terror Cell, NGO Monitor (December 19, 2019), https://www.ngo-monitor.org/reports/current-and-former-ngo-employees-arrested-as-part-of-pflp-terror-cell/.

[10] Lahav Harkov, Netherlands admits to paying terrorists who killed 17-year-old Israeli, Jerusalem Post (July 23, 2020), https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/netherlands-admits-to-paying-terrorists-who-killed-17-year-old-israeli-635792.

[11] Raphael Ahren, In first, EU nixes grant to Palestinian NGO refusing to sign anti-terror clause, Times of Israel (June 17, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-first-eu-nixes-grant-to-palestinian-ngo-refusing-to-sign-anti-terror-clause/.

UN Watch

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