1 September 2022
Dear Secretary Blinken,
We are writing to urge you to demand Israel stops its attacks and ongoing campaign to criminalize Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) that protect and support Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
Early on August 18th, Israeli forces raided seven leading Palestinian CSOs in the occupied West Bank, confiscating files and equipment, sealing office doors and posting military orders prohibiting the offices from reopening. The raids came nearly 10 months after the Israeli Ministry of Defense and military designated six of the organizations—Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al Haq Law in the Service of Man, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees—as ‘terror’ organizations. An Israeli military order outlawed the seventh organization, the Health Work Committees in January 2020. To date, Israeli authorities have not presented any evidence to support their allegations.
In July, Israeli authorities threatened three attorneys representing some of the outlawed groups with prosecution under Israel’s anti-terror laws. Under pressure, the lawyers subsequently suspended their representation.
Labeling human rights organizations as ‘terrorists’ without any substantiated evidence, raiding and shuttering their offices and criminalizing their work are tactics used by oppressive and authoritarian regimes around the world. They must be condemned no matter where they occur.
The August 18th raids are not unprecedented. Sadly, for more than a decade, we have witnessed the erosion of civic space as Israeli authorities target and repress individuals and organizations that support Palestinian civil society.
These actions run counter to the democratic values the Israeli government purports to support. We are fearful that this shrinking civic space will make it increasingly difficult for humanitarian organizations to provide the necessary aid and relief that millions of Palestinians rely on in order to meet their basic needs.
Therefore, we urge the U.S. government to leverage its special relationship and call on Israeli Authorities to cease their attacks on civil society in the occupied Palestinian territory and rescind the ‘terror’ designations against Palestinian civil society groups. We also call on the U.S. to publicly reject these unsubstantiated designations and to not restrict the ability of these CSOs to continue their operations.
Sean Carroll, Chief Executive Officer and President, American Near East Refugee Aid
Sharif Aly, Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief USA
Ann Graber Hershberger, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S
Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council
Abby Maxman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam America