Politics

Palestinian civil society organizations refuse to be silenced by Israeli government

The Israeli government is attempting to silence six Palestinian civil society organizations by declaring them “terrorist organizations”. But they refuse to be suppressed and will continue to call out human rights violations.
The declaration is merely the next step in a decade long campaign to discredit and silence Palestinian civil society. Shahd Qaddoura of Al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian human rights organization, writes that “until Palestine is free and we can finally enjoy our right to self-determination, our voice of justice will remain loud”.
The declaration is merely the next step in a decade long campaign to discredit and silence Palestinian civil society. Shahd Qaddoura of Al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian human rights organization, writes that “until Palestine is free and we can finally enjoy our right to self-determination, our voice of justice will remain loud”.

I work for one of the leading Palestinian human rights organizations, Al-Haq, which was recently declared a “terrorist organization” by the Israeli regime along with five prominent civil society organizations in Palestine. Friends and acquaintances keep asking me how it feels to be a member of a “terrorist organization”. I always respond by saying: it seems like we’re doing something right.

On November 7 2021, the Israeli military commander in the West Bank issued a military order adding six leading Palestinian civil society organizations Al-Haq, Addameer for Prisoner Support and Human Rights, Defense for Children International- Palestine (DCI-P), the Bisan Center, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and Union of Agricultural Work Committees, to the list of proscribed organizations under the former British Mandate’s Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. This decision was preceded by Israel’s designation of the same six organizations as “terrorist organizations” two weeks prior, referring to its domestic “Combating Terrorism Law of 2016”, one of the regime’s deliberately vague, discriminatory, and repressive laws. With the issuance of this blatant and arbitrary military order, the organizations’ offices are, effectively and imminently, under threat of being invaded and closed by the Israeli occupying forces, staff members are in danger of detention, and financial assets are in jeopardy, paralyzing the critical work of the six organizations.

Why is this allowed to happen? Because the international community is doing a lot of things wrong.

Dangerous, yet unsurprising

While both this designation and the military order entail dangerous repercussions, this attack is not surprising. In fact, it is what you would expect from a settler-colonial apartheid regime.

This latest escalation should not be understood in a vacuum. It represents a continuation of decades of smears and delegitimization campaigns targeting Palestinian civil society organizations and human rights defenders, orchestrated by the Israeli occupying authorities, and actively supported by their notorious affiliated organizations, including NGO Monitor. Inherent in its settler colonial and apartheid regime, Israel has, since its founding, aimed to dominate and control the indigenous Palestinian people. Its widespread and systematic policies and practices of extrajudicial killings, collective punishment, military raids, arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, and 24/7 surveillance, among many others, stand still as proof.

If anything, this shows that any kind of resistance by Palestinians to their oppression is prohibited by Israel. Even when using international law, which too is inherently linked to colonial legacies, Palestinians are labelled as ‘terrorists’. Palestinians know that the colonizer will always find a way to oppress and circumvent protests against its hideous actions. What Zionists should understand is that the colonized, steadfast and resilient, will not rest until liberation and justice are achieved.

Expressing ‘concerns’ and doing nothing

A lot has been said since the designation was announced, yet, little has been done. We are used to the international community expressing its concerns, but also frustratedly used to them failing to contextualize the root causes of the Palestinian struggle and taking concrete actions; undermining possibilities of justice.

My hope and trust fall on the peoples of the world, rather than their governments. Call things by their name. Address the lived reality of Palestinians under Israeli apartheid. Acknowledge that Israel’s apartheid is a tool to maintain its settler-colonial domination over the Palestinian people. Demand an end to the status quo.

Business as usual

With its unlawfully-enjoyed culture of impunity, Israel continues its ‘business as usual’.

Since the announcement of the designation and the issuance of the military order, Israel’s occupying forces shot and killed fifteen-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Da’das, and continued to provide protection and support to Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians. The occupying power further approved the construction of more than 3,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank, continues to detain six Palestinian hunger strikers protesting their administrative detention, under which around 500 Palestinian are currently held without charge or trial, and persists in its unlawful plan to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in order to forcibly transfer and replace them with illegal Israeli settlers.

We’re doing something right

I didn’t join Al-Haq because I believed that as a civil society organization it “gives voice to the voiceless.” I think this statement is absurd. Palestinians, and all those who are oppressed, have a voice. It’s just the oppressor that attempts to silence these voices and the international community who refuses to listen. Rather, I joined Al-Haq because I recognize the importance of having human rights violations documented, and Israel’s impunity challenged.

Israel wants human rights organizations closed. And so do I, but not just yet. The only difference is that Israel wants them closed to have no one over its tails when it carries out international crimes and human rights violations. I hope that one day, Al-Haq and all other human rights organizations in Palestine are no longer needed, because perpetrators are held to account, because human rights violations are no longer committed with impunity, because Palestine is free and we can finally enjoy our right to self-determination. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Until then, our voice of justice will remain loud.

Shahd Qaddoura is a Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer at Al-Haq. She’s currently on sabbatical leave pursuing an LLM in International Human Rights Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Photo: Blatniczky, Wikimedia

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Author
Shahd Qaddoura
Date
14.12.2021

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