Amnesty International’s new research report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity shows that Israeli authorities impose a system of domination and oppression against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and against Palestinian refugees. Laws, policies, and institutional practices all work to expel, fragment, and dispossess Palestinians of their land and property, and deprive Palestinians of their human rights. We conclude this treatment amounts to an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination defined as apartheid under international law.
Amnesty’s research, campaigns, advocacy, and statements pertaining to Israel are focused on the actions of the Israeli government — they are not, and never will be, a condemnation of Judaism or the Jewish people. Antisemitism is antithetical to everything Amnesty represents as a human rights organization….
I was one of the founders of the human rights organisation Al-Haq in 1979 and remain proud of its work over the past four decades in defending human rights in the Israeli occupied territories. I was horrified when it was declared to be a terrorist organisation by the Israeli defence minister on 19 October, along with five other Palestinian NGOs.
During the many years of direct Israeli occupation, from 1967 to 1995, there was a long and expanding list of proscribed groups issued by the Israeli military commander under “emergency” regulations first put in place by the British in 1945. Al-Haq was never on this list.
In 1980, an Israeli army patrol passing by Al-Haq’s small office in Ramallah late at night became suspicious of the cars parked nearby and stormed the meeting, roughing up some of the staff. At the time a representative of Amnesty International was attending the meeting. When we lodged a complaint the army began an interminable investigation of the incident, which after many years was still not concluded. Yet the storming of the organisation’s office was never repeated – not even during the reinvasion of the West Bank in 2002, when offices of a large number of organisations in Ramallah were trashed.
Israel’s charge against the six NGOs, which include groups that offer legal support to prisoners and a women’s rights organisation, is based on a supposed connection to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Over the years, this claim has been used by Israeli officials to justify their refusal to permit travel for Al-Haq staff. The claim was that Al-Haq was not a genuine human rights organisation, but a PFLP front. Yet this unfounded and patently untrue accusation was never followed by issuing such a devastating order as happened last Tuesday.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that Al-Haq often collaborates with, has described the Israeli government’s declaration as “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organisations”. The policy change is evidence of how far Israel has gained confidence in feeling immune from the consequences of its actions, in this case interfering with civil society organisations that do tremendous work in the West Bank.
The declaration was made by the Israeli minister of defence and was issued under Israeli law. Where the West Bank has not been annexed, Israeli law does not apply, so it will probably be followed by an order from the military commander of the West Bank, adding Al-Haq to the list of proscribed organisations. Even if this action is not taken, Al-Haq could be paralysed by the order of the defence minister. Under counter-terrorism law, Israel can use its extensive powers over organisations and residents of the occupied territories. These include preventing funds from reaching Al-Haq. Israel can also detain anyone working for the organisation, providing professional services or expressing support for it.
Condemnations of the Israeli action has been extensive, including from the US state department, which sought clarification from its strategic partner. Yet statements alone will not suffice. Stronger measures will need to be taken if Israel is to reverse this declaration.
Al-Haq’s standing over the past 40 years proves its significance as a major defender of human rights. Its most important work during the past year has been the assistance it has given to the international criminal court in The Hague in its investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes. That the ICC might end up charging any Israelis with such crimes greatly worries Israel. For us Palestinians, it would herald an end to Israeli immunity from prosecution for its grave breaches of international law.
The defence minister’s statement will not convince anyone who has worked with Al-Haq and benefited from its extensive coverage of the human rights violations committed by Israel over the years. It is time for those concerned around the world to take a strong stance and work at convincing their governments to stop obstructing the ICC in its efforts at bringing to justice any Israeli official who has committed war crimes.
Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian writer and lawyer. His most recent book, Going Home: A Walk Through Fifty Years of Occupation, won the 2020 Moore prize
Jewish, Palestinian, and Quaker voices come together to explore the question “Why do Quakers care about Israel Palestine?” A QuakerSpeak video with a Quaker call to action on Israel-Palestine: Jennifer Bing, AFSC Middle East Program Director; Rabbi Brant Rosen, former AFSC Midwest Education Director; Ayah Bashir in Gaza; and Tamara Tamimi, Jerusalem
Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Quaker from Ramallah Friends Meeting. In 2019, she sent this video message to Annual Sessions.
Chris Jorgenson traveled twice to the region, most recently in early 2020 to volunteer at the Ramallah Friends School
Carole Rein explored the region in 2018 and has spoken about her experiences to numerous Quaker meetings in New England.
Issa Amro is committed to peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation in his native West Bank city of Hebron, despite frequent arrests, attacks by settlers and other unrelenting efforts to sabotage his work.
“Nonviolence is the best tool because it strengthens civil society and it gives a role to each person: the kids, the women, the elders and the youth. With nonviolent activities you get more international support and you neutralize the violence of the oppressor,” he explained….
The strategy of The Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza demanding their right of return to their villages and towns, curiously parallels the nonviolent resistance methods taught by Mubarak Awad before Israel exiled him in 1988. (Posted two days before Memorial Day in the United States, a day dedicated to participants in violence, honorable people no doubt but perhaps misguided.)
Here’s part of an interview conducted in 2000:
An old man came to me whose land the Israelis had taken. He wanted it back. So I told him to get 300 or 400 people from his village—children, young people, old people—anybody who wanted to come.
The settlers had put a fence around the land. We could take the fence down and just sit there and if the Israeli military wanted to kill us, let them kill us. I told him, on one condition: Not a single person should throw a stone.
If we are all going to be massacred, let it be. And we did that; we took the land back from the settlers. That created an echo with a lot of Palestinians, who started coming to me at the Center instead of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Taking fear away from people and replacing it with courage is the essence of nonviolence.
Mubarak Awad is the founder of Nonviolence International. Meir Amor, an Israeli peace activist living in Canada, interviewed him.
In May 1988, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered Awad arrested and expelled. Officials charged that Awad broke Israeli law by inciting “civil uprising” and helping to write leaflets that advocated civil disobedience that were distributed by the leadership of the First Intifada. No evidence was provided to support the charge and Awad appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that he had forfeited his right to residence status in Israel when he became a U.S. citizen and he was deported in June 1988. (Wikipedia)
Friday’s protests [March 30, 2018], which Israel estimated drew 40,000 people, were the first of six weeks of planned anti-Israel actions meant to dramatize the Palestinians’ plight as refugees. Israel said Sunday that Gaza militants used civilian demonstrators as cover as they fired at soldiers and tried to lay explosives near the border fence. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza and sponsored the protests, called the killings a “massacre.”
Israel threatened to use greater force to quell violent Palestinian protests along the Gaza Strip border, rejecting allegations it used excessive firepower against demonstrations that left at least 16 Palestinians dead….
Book suggestion: Night in Gaza, by Mads Gilbert (2015)
A participant’s view by a Norwegian medical doctor in hospitals during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014, Operation Protective Edge, with excellent photographs by the author. Israel has now banned him from entering the region for life.