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Israel's 'fierce' targeting of human rights groups exposed in new report

Carlos Latuff's cartoon - Criticisms of Israel labelled as antisemitism [Twitter]
Criticisms of Israel labelled as antisemitism - Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/Twitter]

Over the past decade, Israel has been running a vicious smear campaign targeting human rights groups critical of the Zionist state, a new report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) has found. Titled Target Locked, the report exposed "the unrelenting Israeli smear campaigns to discredit human rights groups in Israel, Palestine, and the Syrian Golan."

Human rights groups and NGOs that are working on issues related to the Israeli occupation, settlement activity, accountability for international crimes and human rights violations, asylum seekers and refugees, political prisoners, or the rights of the Palestinian minority within Israel, have been the primary target of a vast delegitimisation campaign led by Israel's Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (MSA).

MSA, say the report's authors, has been "fiercely" laying out an Israeli strategy to delegitimise human rights groups and NGOs defending Palestinian human rights as "anti-Semitic operatives with deep ties to terrorist groups fixated on destroying the State of Israel".

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The strategy put in place by the Israeli government is threefold: delegitimising civil society's critical voices through "naming and shaming" and associating them with terrorists or anti-Semitics; pressuring anyone giving a platform for their discourse, and lobbying actively to cut their sources of funding.

The report found that an elaborate anti-Palestinian network has been erected over recent years and that the vicious targeting of groups critical of Israel accelerated with the election of former US President Donald Trump. "Acting alongside are infamous government-controlled NGOs (GONGOs), whose main objective is to relay the propaganda of the Israeli Government against civil society actors, including at the international level," says the report.

"Both the MSA and government-affiliated groups are conflating legitimate criticism of gross Israeli human rights violations with anti-Semitism and are employing vague and unsubstantiated claims of terrorist affiliations against Palestinian civil society organisations (CSOs), in order to deprive the latter of funding essential to their sustainability," the report argued, adding that these campaigns are coupled with intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders. The types of harassment include travel bans, arbitrary detentions and arrests, judicial harassment, deportation, physical and cyber-attacks and death threats.

READ: Israel committing 'apartheid' against Palestinians, HRW says

Describing the "development of the legislative and administrative arsenal" Israel deploys against human rights groups, the report listed a series of laws that have been introduced to impede the work of CSOs within historic Palestine and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. "From 2010 onward, an unprecedented number of bills have been tabled at the Knesset to limit NGO civic space," says the report.

One of the main goals of the campaign is to de-fund the work of human rights groups, the report says. Domestically, efforts by the Israeli government have focused on implementing legislation hindering NGO access to local and foreign funding. In parallel, the Israeli government along with its pro-governmental and anti-human rights groups have been conducting an offensive campaign by which, outside of Israel, they put pressure on funders to stop supporting Palestinian human rights NGOs based on accusations of their alleged support for terrorism.

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IsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestine
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