As I outlined in a recent column, this year Israel declared the newest phase in its “war” against pro-Palestinian human rights groups and organisations. They have named their new tactic: “targeted civil eliminations”.
By inserting the word “civil” into their usual euphemism for cold-blooded assassination, Israeli officials are very deliberately sending out a message. It is a message of extreme violence.
Israeli death threats against Palestinian aid workers, humanitarians, journalists and poets are nothing new, but the “civil eliminations” campaign is a step-up in a particularly alarming and duplicitous campaign. It is mainly targeted at groups that support BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
More recently, it spread to non-political charities and aid organisations in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza director of World Vision currently languishes in an Israeli dungeon based on entirely fabricated “evidence” concocted by Israeli spies who didn’t even bother to make their lies even superficially convincing.
But now it has reached Europe, to the alarm of its targets.
Workers at Palestinian human rights organisations operating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague are the victims of a coordinated and sophisticated campaign of harassment and death threats. Dutch authorities are investigating, but it took the ICC stepping in for them to take it seriously.
Palestinian human rights organisations Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, PCHR, and Addameer have been working with ICC authorities, who have since January 2015 been conducting a preliminary examination into war crimes allegedly committed by Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza during the 2014 Israeli war on the coastal strip.
Israel wants to avoid this taking place, at almost any costs. And so it seems its dirty war has now spread to Europe.
Nada Kiswanson, a lawyer with Al-Haq working in The Hague, has received a steady stream of death threats for the last six months. She has been subjected to vicious and intimidating phone calls, emails and other forms of communication targeting her and her family. Kiswanson accuses Israel of being the culprit. “It’s very clear that the reason I’m being threatened is because of the work that I do in Europe and particularly at the International Criminal Court,” she told the Associated Press.
The complex and coordinated nature of the campaign suggests she is right to suspect Israel.
Only one day after buying an anonymous prepaid mobile phone, Kiswanson was subjected to threatening calls. She told Reuters that one of her relatives in Sweden was called and told that Kiswanson would be “eliminated”. Amnesty International has condemned the threats and called on Dutch authorities to do more to protect human rights workers.
Al-Mezan, a Gaza-based human right group, also received death threats targeting one of its workers. The staff member, working in Europe on the ICC case, received an email with an attached photo of the exterior of his home reading “you deserve to see your loved ones suffer and die. But maybe you would be hurt before them.”
Human Rights Watch condemned the threats against Al-Mezan and Al-Haq as reprehensible.
This sinister campaign follows a similar dirty war strategy against Al-Haq earlier this year, during which its workers and their families were threatened and harassed, and false claims of corruption were spread against it in a whispering campaign aimed at tarnishing its reputation.
Speaking to the Associated Press, an Israeli official said: “We do not react to such preposterous allegations.”
But it is far from ridiculous to suspect Israel of being behind this campaign. Indeed, to my mind it is the prime suspect, and Dutch authorities have not ruled Israel out as the culprit.
If any other Middle Eastern state had been so clearly implicated in conducting a campaign of death threats against human rights workers in Europe one could imagine how much of an international scandal it would have become in the press.
But Israel continues to benefit from almost total impunity and protection from the European Union and European governments. Until it is held to account, it will remain untouchable. While our governments refuse to act, it falls on us to subject Israel to pressure with campaigns of accountability – at the forefront of which is BDS.