On Friday October 22, 2021, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz criminalised six major Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations. These organisations are Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
There have been numerous public reactions to this alarming decision, including statements by European Union officials, several member states and the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
As noted by Peter Stano, European Commission spokesperson, “past allegations and past suspicions of EU funds in relation to certain Palestinian organisations have not been substantiated”.
Such false accusations have been made before, resulting in the withdrawal of funds to Palestinian civil society. The persecution of critical voices constitutes an element of the crime of apartheid, as defined in the UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
The designated organisations provide vital services to civilians, including legal representation of children in Israeli military courts and documentation of Israel’s violations of international law, including the submission of evidence to the ICC.
The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), a network of 43 European organisations, stands in solidarity with these six Palestinian partners, which are doing excellent work to promote and defend human rights in the context of Israel’s brutal settler-colonial and apartheid regime.
We reject Israel’s attempts to criminalise Palestinian human rights defenders. We call on the European Union and European countries to:
- condemn publicly Israel’s decision to outlaw Palestinian human rights defenders;
- demand the revocation of Israel’s statement;
- ensure continuity of the financial support provided to Palestinian civil society;
- guarantee the safety of human rights defenders and the staff of civil society organisations.
In this context of Israel’s multiple attacks against Palestinian civil society, the European Union and its Member States must immediately suspend the process for signing the Horizon Europe research agreement with Israel.