ELSC Newsletter: JanuaryPublished on Thu Feb 03 2022 - modified on Thu Mar 17 2022
This month we share with you our 2021 achievements in pushing back against silencing Palestinian rights advocacy, a campaign in support of an activist of BDS Austria sued over a Facebook post, updates on the repression of Palestinian civil society, an important ruling in Germany on the illegality of anti-BDS motion, and unfounded allegations of antisemitism to delegitimise Palestinian rights supporters in the UK.
ELSC 2021 ACHIEVEMENTS
The year 2021 witnessed a rise in global mobilisation efforts for justice, Palestinian rights, and an end of apartheid. As Palestinian rights advocacy exposed Israel’s human rights violations and empowered the discourse on Palestine, the Israeli government and its allied groups intensified their attacks against Palestinian rights advocates.
In this context, the ELSC provided legal support in 80 cases of repression against advocates for Palestinian rights in Europe, assisting over 140 advocates including Palestinian and European CSOs, activist groups, students, academics, artist and cultural institutions. Read below on the successful experience of Progetto Palestina, a student activist group based in Italy, which confronted repression with resilience:
It gave us new energy and we started working to transform this attack into an opportunity. The ELSC backed us, and allowed us to focus on our activities while they took care of the legal aspects of the issue. We started a communication campaign on and off campus, which culminated in a big demonstration on Nakba Day, when more than 5.000 people marched for the streets of Turin, demanding the end of the apartheid regime and a free Palestine.
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CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF BDS-AUSTRIA FACING UNFAIR LAWSUIT
The Municipality claims defamation over a picture posted by BDS Austria on Facebook showing the famous “Visit Apartheid” poster with the logo of the City of Vienna, which was placed by unknown people on a billboard in Vienna.
This case reflects the pattern of targeting Palestinian rights advocates through the adoption of the illegal anti-BDS motion as illustrated in this expert opinion. The activist is now facing a lawsuit with legal costs and damages that could amount up to €35.000. The lawsuit was challenged in a court hearing on the 28th of January and the case is still pending. To support the activist, we are raising donations to help him cover the legal fees, if you stand for Palestinian rights advocacy please support by donating.
Over 1600 people have signed our petition, co-sponsored with the European Coordination of Committees and Associations For Palestine (ECCP), calling upon the Municipality of Vienna to withdraw its unfounded lawsuit and repeal its anti-BDS motion.
UPDATES FROM THE UK
On-campus repression and violations of academic freedom in the UK escalate with the latest attack on the Palestinian PhD student Shahd Abusalama, supported by the ELSC. Shahd got suspended from teaching by Sheffield Hallam University as a result of a smear campaign by pro-Israel groups that deliberately targeted her as a critical voice against the reality of apartheid in Palestine. The significant #InSupportofShahd campaign successfully resulted in Shahd’s reinstatement, yet her case is still under an investigation.
If you too have faced repression for Palestinian rights advocacy, make sure to fill out our incident report form and request legal support if you need.
A VICTORY FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN GERMANY
The German federal court of Leipzig ruled that Munich’s anti-BDS policy violates the freedom of expression. The Federal court also affirmed that the anti-BDS resolution is not law. The ruling unfolds amidst a context of harsh repression of Palestinian rights advocates in Germany, and therefore represents a victory for the Palestine solidarity movement and BDS supporters in the country.
Keep posted, we will soon release an analysis on the judgement! This jurisprudence shows more than ever the legitimacy and the necessity of the BT3P campaign that is asking the German Parliament to repeal its anti-BDS motion. After the Administrative Court of Berlin dismissed their complaint in October 2021, they recently filed an appeal to the Administrative Court of Appeal of Berlin-Brandenburg.
CASE UPDATE IN FRANCE
A French Court is also set to be ruling on the legitimacy of BDS since on 27th January 2022, there was a hearing in the Court of Appeal of Lyon on the case of French activist Olivia Zémor who was sued for reporting boycott calls. The first instance judgement, in May 2021, was crucial as it acquitted her by referring to the landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that asserted the legitimacy of BDS calls under freedom of expression.
We hope that the Court of Appeal will confirm the first instance judgement and reaffirm the legality of BDS. The decision is expected on 5 May 2022.
CHALLENGING REPRESSION OF PALESTINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY
Lawfare and disinformation campaigns continue to harm Palestinian civil society as Israel seeks to enforce its unsubstantiated designation. Yet, a new article by +972 Magazine exposes another failed effort by Israel to convince European officials of the unfounded allegations of ties with terrorism against the six prominent Palestinian CSOs.
Even without any evidence on the misuse of funds – confirmed by an external investigation – the Dutch government has given into political pressure by ending its funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a vital organisation in the occupied Palestinian territory. The decision has been widely condemned by international civil society actors that mobilised collectively to urge the Dutch government to resume its funding to UAWC and reject Israel’s designation.
In a statement, the Charity & Security Network also condemned the Dutch government’s decision and urged donors to continue their support for Palestinian civil society, providing them with an important briefing and guidelines.
In another politically driven move, the European Commission (EC) suspended funds to Al-Haq in May 2021. After a successful audit and while there is no evidence on the misuse of funds, the EC still has not resumed funding. Not only it contributes to the unfounded attack on the Palestinian civil society, but it also violates principles of good administration and proportionality.
You can help us to ensure that defenders of Palestinian rights receive free legal advice and support by making a one time or monthly donation to the ELSC. Any donation would empower our fight for Palestinian rights in Europe.
If it is not possible to make a donation at this time, you could follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter and spread the word about repression of civic spaces for advocates of Palestinian rights.