Israeli human rights violations likely to worsen
The only time any government declares a human rights organization to be a terrorist group is when that organization is shining a bright light on its human rights violations.
Last week, Israel’s apartheid government didn’t just declare one human rights organization to be a terrorist group, it identified six of them as being allegedly affiliated with terrorist organizations. This tells you that Israel must be very concerned about how its policies are being presented to the world.
The six organizations have a history of defending the human rights of Palestinians not only in the Occupied Territories, but inside Israel too.
Israel’s vicious political attack, which was announced by Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday, strikes at the essence of human rights — a clear deflection from Israel’s policies, which violate the human rights of non-Jews.
Among the organizations targeted is Al-Haq, an independent human rights organization that was founded in 1979. Its mandate is to defend the rule of law in the Occupied Territories governed militarily by Israel.
Another target is Addameer (Arabic for “conscience”), which focuses mainly on the rights of civilians who are arrested, detained and imprisoned for political reasons. Israel currently holds 4,650 Palestinians in its prisons, many of whom have been imprisoned without trial or formal charges. Israel still uses the old British Mandate system of administrative detention, which skirts the rule of law.
Both Al-Haq and Addameer have not only documented Israeli government abuses, but also abuses by the Palestinian Authority, which often coordinates on “security” raids and detentions by Israel’s Shin Bet secret police.
The Gantz directive allows Israel to close the offices of all six organizations, seize their assets and arrest their staff, imprisoning them without trial or formal public proceedings.
Leading global human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the declaration. Israel has also attacked both of those organizations in the past. In fact, Israel has attacked every organization that has condemned its human rights violations.
The elevation to the charge of terrorism takes the battle between Israel’s government and those who condemn its human rights abuses to a new level.
Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters the US State Department was unaware of Israel’s decision until it was announced. He also declined to directly criticize the move, instead saying: “We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”
What Price and the State Department did not do was condemn Israel's declaration. President Joe Biden also made no comment about the policy, which equates human rights with terrorism.
The issue at hand is not human rights, of course, because Israel has never addressed its human rights abuses and has used PR spin to deflect the public’s attention, instead accusing its critics of anti-Semitism. The elevation to the charge of terrorism takes the battle between Israel’s government and those who condemn its human rights abuses to a new level.
Clearly, Israel believes it is in a strong position to snuff out the Palestinian cause and has stepped up its activism to silence the critics who showcase its apartheid policies.
The declaration by Gantz is more alarming because it suggests a new strategy to silence Palestinians who are demanding that they be treated equally, not just inside Israel but also in the West Bank, where Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian-owned land and build illegal Jewish-only settlements.
The strategy may be to do so much at the same time that the world, already hesitant to confront Israel, will be overwhelmed by the number of controversies. The mainstream news media barely covers Israel’s everyday abuses of Palestinians and stepping up the violations might actually make it easier to minimize the criticism.
Ultimately, the declaration means that worse things are yet to come from Israel, especially as it sees there are no real consequences for its actions.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania