In a shocking display of blatant disregard for Palestinian civil liberties, Israel has resorted to tyrannical tactics reminiscent of South Africa’s outlandish banning orders during the heydays of apartheid. This is not surprising, since the settler colonial regime has during the last few decades not only replicated apartheid but also expanded it beyond the Verwoerdian model.
Its latest assault on Palestinian civil and human rights organisations is another manifestation of Israeli right-wing Jewish extremists’ pursuit of the repressive ideology of apartheid. The Tel Aviv regime is now in the grip of the most violent extremists who have made no secret of their plans to ethnically cleanse Palestine of all Indigenous people.
Reports from Amnesty International as well as Palestinian activists confirm that Israeli Defense Ministry on October 22, 2021 issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.”
The groups are:
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association;
Defense for Children International - Palestine;
Union of Agricultural Work Committees;
Bisan Center for Research & Development; Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
These groups have done remarkable work in documenting Israel’s gross human rights abuses against innocent Palestinians. These organizations have also documented abuses by the Palestinian Authority (PA), that works as a sub-contractor for the Zionist entity. In many instances, they have also defended prisoners—all of them political—in court against an inherently unjust system. It is the occupier’s law, occupier’s court and occupier’s justice (injustice).
The Zionists cannot tolerate even legal activities. In fact, they see such activities as even more dangerous since the court cases expose Zionism’s real face: one of oppression and injustice rooted in theft and barbarism.
As Yara Hawari, the Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, pointed out in her article on October 24:
“These particular organisations are renowned internationally for their critical human rights and social work. Addameer, for example, provides crucial legal and social support to Palestinian political prisoners and their families. Another organisation, Al-Haq, has spent decades documenting human rights abuses by the Israeli regime, collecting invaluable data and winning many international awards. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees supports Palestinian farmers in the face of ongoing oppression and land theft by the Israeli regime.
“This attack on Palestinian organisations is not happening out of the blue. It is the latest escalation of Israel’s systematic campaign to stifle Palestinian civil society that has been ongoing for over seven decades.
“After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the Palestinian civil society took over the leading role in exposing and challenging the crimes of the Israeli regime. Thus, Palestinian civic organisations emerged at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle, which is what put them in Israel’s crosshairs.”
Declaring these organizations as “terrorist” and, therefore, outlawing them is a fall back to Apartheid South Africa’s era of “kragdadigheid” and is rooted in a racist 2016 Israeli statute designed to criminalize their legitimate activities. In addition, the draconian whip empowers Israeli occupiers to close their offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their members.
It prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who work closely with many of these groups, said in a joint statement:
“This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians.
“While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression.
“This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.”
It goes on to declare that the decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.
This is certainly true if we consider the duplicitous stance adopted by most western countries led by the United States. Not only have they turned a blind eye to injustices perpetrated against Palestinians, by funding and militarily equipping Israel in addition to shielding it from accountability, share culpability of gross human-rights violations.
A crucial question which arises is, how will the international community respond? Given the past record, apart from a few meaningless statements, if at all, there will be no repercussions for the Zionist entity. After all, most Western regimes have a long history of such oppression against people in Asia, Africa and South Africa where genocide was perpetrated on a large scale. Western silence is, therefore, complicity in Zionist crimes.
Others, like the ANC-led Ramaphosa government remain wedded to cliches and rhetoric about futile dead-end prospects such as “two-states living side-by-side...”. This leads to a false sense of expectation repeatedly voiced by the discredited Palestinian Authority.
The recent visit by Muna El Kurd of #SaveSheikhJarrah fame to South Africa, highlighted an unprecedented escalation of repression by the Zionist colonial entity. Detention without trial, torture, home demolitions, forced expulsions, targeted killings by heavily armed Jewish settlers in cahoots with the regime’s occupation forces... the list is endless.
Against this background of intensely brutal oppression, Palestinians face further arbitrary criminalization resulting from the outrageous decision to outlaw civil society groups.
Just as the instrument of counter-terrorism legislation was ruthlessly used to suppress South Africa’s liberation movements including the groundswell of dissenting voices from media to rights organisations opposed to apartheid, so too is it deployed in Israel today.
As Muna El Kurd poignantly observed: “Your past is our present!”
Iqbal Jassat is Executive Member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa