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Opinion | Israel is Silencing Palestinian Civil Rights Organizations

As a consequence of these groups’ work, the Israeli authorities have been raiding offices and harassing the staffs of these and other organizations for years. Just this past July, Israeli soldiers raided D.C.I.P.’s office in the West Bank city of Al-Bireh, seizing computers, hard drives and client files related to the Palestinian child detainees whom they represent in Israeli military courts. When such raids occur, staff members have sometimes been arrested.

International human rights groups known for documenting Israeli rights violations have also not been spared. In 2019, Israel deported Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, after a long legal battle, and that same year it imposed a travel ban on Amnesty International’s West Bank-based campaigner Laith Abu Zeyad.

These tactics are seemingly part of a wider, continuing movement to delegitimize, defund and permanently gut Palestinian NGOs. The shrinking space of Palestinian civil society has been well documented. It’s part of a campaign, spearheaded by the Israeli government, with support from groups like NGO Monitor and UK Lawyers for Israel, to disseminate disinformation and pursue these groups in court, targeting civil society organizations that monitor and resist Israeli human rights violations, including the continuing expansion of illegal settlements.

These attacks on civil society are not limited to organizations operating in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. They spill out into courtrooms, campuses and government offices across Europe and North America through smear campaigns, the proliferation of unconstitutional anti-boycott laws and lawsuits meant to distract and drain nonprofit organizations providing solidarity to Palestinian civil society.

But why label these groups “terrorist” now? Undoubtedly, the United States and Europe are the intended audience of the designation. It seems Israel’s goal is to weaponize the sprawling infrastructure of antiterrorism laws created around the world after Sept. 11, targeting Palestinian human rights defenders by labeling their legitimate work “terror,” thus making their organizations, their efforts and their very persons toxic, untouchable and, most important, far harder to fund.

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