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US lawmakers enter resolution condemning Israel's NGO designations

October 29, 2021 at 9:20 am

US Congresswoman Betty McCollum in Washington, DC on June 11, 2020 [Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]

US Congresswoman Betty McCollum yesterday led a group of progressive lawmakers in introducing a resolution that seeks to condemn Israel for its designation of six prominent Palestinian NGOs and civil society groups as terrorist organisations.

The resolution says Tel Aviv’s decision is “a repressive act designed to criminalize and persecute important Palestinian human rights organizations,” and says the House of Representatives should “recognize the valuable work of Palestinian civil society organizations.” It specifically named the six organisations designated by Israeli Prime Minister Benny Gantz.

“When a government uses the label of terrorist as a weapon to silence the work of human rights organizations and advocates who courageously represent vulnerable people living under military occupation, it is a sign of incredible weakness more aligned with an authoritarian regime than a healthy democracy,” McCollum said in a statement.

“The U.S. invests billions of our taxpayer dollars to support Israel’s security, not Israel’s system of occupation and repression of Palestinians. It is incumbent upon Democrats in the U.S. House and the Biden administration to condemn this Israeli decision and draw a clear line that anti-democratic repression of Palestinian civil society is not tolerated,” she added.

The US provides Israel with roughly $3.8 billion in military funding each fiscal year, and pressure has been mounting, particularly among progressive Democrats, to ensure Israel abides by human rights laws in return.

McCollum is being joined by nine co-sponsors, including Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Andre Carson and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

READ: The PA should show real solidarity with human rights groups, not exploit their predicament

The six groups Israel designated as terrorist organisations are the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, and Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

Israel alleges the groups are directly linked or affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which it has designated as a terror group.

Gantz’s decision to designate the groups has prompted widespread outcry, including from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who called the listings an attack on human rights defenders, freedom of association, and the right to public participation. She said the decision should be immediately revoked.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the decision is “a stain upon Israel”, adding that “the outlawing of human rights groups and persecution of humanitarian activists are quintessential characteristics of military regimes, in which democracy in its deepest sense is a dead letter.”

McCollum’s resolution notes that “delegitimization and disinformation campaigns have been advanced by a network of rising nationalist Israeli civil society organizations and associated organizations outside of Israel, with the support of Israeli Government ministries.”

They seek “to silence and eliminate lawful human rights work that exposes widespread human rights violations inherent in Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians,” the resolution says.