Last week, the Israeli Defense Ministry declared six Palestinian civil society organisations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to be “terrorist organisations”. One of the organisations affected by the decision is SOMO’s long-standing partner Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights organisation based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
SOMO is outraged by this unfounded and repressive move by Israel.
“We have enormous respect for Al-Haq and the valuable work the organisation does in the OPT, helping to hold multinational companies accountable. We stand in solidarity with our Al-Haq colleagues and are determined to continuing working with them in the face of this blatant effort to silence legitimate criticism and human rights activism,” Lydia de Leeuw of SOMO stated.
SOMO and Al-Haq have an established partnership since 2015, jointly addressing corporate human rights abuses through field investigations combined with legal research, advocacy, and case support to victims. Al-Haq and SOMO are part of the Mind the Gap consortium, a project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Through this project we and other partners have established an innovative framework analysing the strategies companies use to avoid responsibility for harmful effects on people and communities around the world. Joint research carried out by SOMO and Al-Haq under the Mind the Gap project shows how German multinational HeidelbergCement is complicit in the pillaging of natural resources from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), violating the human rights of Palestinians.
The move to delegitimise and criminalise Al-Haq and the five other Palestinian civil society organisations is part of a wider and systematic attack by [the Israeli authorities] on civil society and a pattern of shrinking civic space in OPT and Israel. In 2017 Al-Haq was the subject of a sophisticated smear campaign, targeting both its staff and the organisation as a whole. Since 2018, Israeli authorities have imposed an arbitrary travel ban on SOMO researchers, making it impossible for them to access the OPT, severely impacting the partnership activities with Al-Haq. The new decision represents an escalation in the attack on civic space within the OPT. It authorises Israeli authorities to close the offices of the targeted organizations, seize their assets and prohibit funding, and moreover allows authorities to arrest and jail their staff members.
In addition to al-Haq, the decision by the Israeli Ministry of Defense targets Addameer, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. Human rights organisations around the world, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have spoken out against this attack on defenders of Palestinian human rights.
SOMO calls upon the Dutch government, the European Union, and the larger international community to take a clear and public stand condemning Israel’s repressive decision, and to exercise their diplomatic influence for the protection of human rights defenders in the OPT and Israel.
In particular, we call on the Dutch government and other third States to:
- Publicly condemn this decision by Israel and to recognize it as an unjust and repressive action aimed at silencing critics;
- Call on Israel to revoke the decision with immediate effect;Continue to support Palestinian NGOs and to engage robustly with Israeli authorities to ensure funding can continue;
- Openly express support for the human rights work carried out by the six affected NGOs;
- Prioritize the protection of civic space in its policy towards Israel/Palestine.
SOMO also shared its concerns in a letter to the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, which can be downloaded below. Furthermore, a coalition of Dutch NGOs including SOMO sent a letter to the ministry and the Dutch Parliament (see second download, in Dutch).