“We strongly condemn the Israeli government’s outrageous decision to criminalize six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups by designating them as ‘terrorists,’” the unions said in a joint statement, WAFA news agency reported Sunday.
The signatories of the statement include TUC, ASLEF, BFAWU, NEU, PCS, RMT, TSSA, UCU, UNISON, and Unite the Union.
They described the Israeli move as “a brazen attempt to further restrict Palestinian rights and to silence and punish Palestinian human rights defenders already working against incredible odds.”
The statement noted that the blacklisted organizations are amongst those most effectively documenting Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights, including the construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, attacks on Palestinians’ right to food sovereignty, and the illegal arrest and detention of Palestinians, including children.
According to the statement, the six organizations have been “undoubtedly targeted” because they “have made their voices heard internationally, including in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and in UN forums.”
“Smearing, attacking, and banning the most vocal proponents for accountability and justice is a classic move for repressive regimes. It is a threat to the Palestinian people and to human rights defenders everywhere,” the unions said in the statement.
Referring to influential reports by human rights groups, including Israel’s B’Tselem, which concluded that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid against Palestinians, the unions said that “the international legal definition of apartheid specifies that it includes the ‘persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.’”
“This blanket designation and banning of some of Palestine’s most vocal human rights and civil society organizations should be seen in this context,” they added.
In a statement on October 22, Israel’s minister of military affairs Benny Gantz announced the designation of the six civil society groups, namely Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees, as “terrorist organizations.”
The decision will authorize the regime to effectively outlaw the activities of these civil society groups, close their offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their staff members. Furthermore, Tel Aviv will also prohibit funding or even publicly expressing support for the groups’ activities.
Israel’s ministry claims the groups have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Palestinian resistance movement, alleging that they are funneling donor aid to anti-Israel resistance groups.
The British trade unions stated that the Israeli measure is aimed to “cut off international solidarity by isolating Palestinians and delegitimizing their crucial work”.
“We call on the UK government to publicly oppose this draconian measure, to demand that Israel reverses it and further to begin to fulfill its own obligations to uphold international law and Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination, and the right to oppose apartheid,” they said.
The Israeli measure has drawn condemnation from the United Nations rights experts and human rights watchdogs as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement also described the move as a “war” against the “Palestinian existence”.