EU - Restrictive Policies, Statement

The ELSC calls on the EU to oppose Israel’s latest attempt to suppress Palestinian Civil Society

Published on Thu Oct 28 2021 - modified on Fri Oct 29 2021

On 22 October 2021, the Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced the official designation of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations (CSOs) as “terrorist” organisations. This decision is the most recent development of a longstanding strategy by Israeli authorities and disinformation groups such as NGO Monitor to repress Palestinian civil society through criminalisation and delegitimisation. This phenomenon has been widely acknowledged and denounced by national European governments, including in the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium and the United Nations.

This is not the first time that the Israeli government and its allies have disseminated unfounded allegations to pressure European States and institutions in order to disrupt their financial support to Palestinian organisations. Nevertheless, these inflammatory accusations have already been rejected as unsubstantiated by the EU (in 2018 and 2021) and Member States, including Belgium and Sweden.

It is worth noting that, none of the Palestinian CSO’s or their staff members have been included in the EU’s list of proscribed organisations. In order to be added to this list, the Council of the European Union is required to designate the CSOs in the light of a decision taken by a competent authority which must be based on ‘serious and credible evidence’. The Court of Justice of the European Union has stated that, in order to rely on a decision of a third State, such as Israel, to designate CSO’s as proscribed organisations, the Council must carefully verify that the relevant legislation of that State ‘ensures in practice a protection of the rights of defence’ equivalent to that guaranteed at EU level by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is certainly not the case as the 2016 Israeli counter-terrorism law poses serious human rights concerns. As explained by Professors E. Lieblich and A. Shinar, and clarified by the human rights organisation Adalah, the legislation in question allows entities to be included on the list of terrorist organisations without any right to a hearing or to submit defensive evidence beforehand. The designation is based on classified evidence that the listed organisations are not authorised to access, not even when opposing the decision before the Minister of Defence or the Supreme Court, thus erasing any guarantee of a fair trial.

We therefore firmly condemn the allegations by the Israeli Minister of Defence and call on the European Union and its Member States to reject the designation, to publicly oppose the suppression of Palestinian civil society, and to continue their financial support to their Palestinian partners.

See the reactions to the Israeli decision from the EU, Member States, international organisations and institutions.

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