53rd Session UN Human Rights Council
Item 2 – Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in Israel
Less than a year ago, Israeli authorities, with Yair Lapid as prime minister, raided the offices of and issued closure orders against seven prominent Palestinian civil society organizations. All had previously been outlawed, baselessly designated as “terrorist organizations” under Israeli law and as “unlawful associations” under military law, which is applicable in the West Bank. Then, in December, the Lapid government deported the Palestinian human rights defender Salah Hamouri, who worked with one of the designated organizations, from his native Jerusalem.
Since then, a new Israeli government has come to power. One member of that government, Bezalel Smotrich, who serves as finance minister and a minister in the Defense Ministry with wide authority over the West Bank, has vowed to “take action” against particular human rights groups, warning that they pose an “existential threat” to Israel.
It is Palestinian civil society groups that face the existential threat, as this new Commission of Inquiry report shows. While Israel’s systematic attacks on human rights advocacy have faded from the headlines, Palestinian civil society continues to face the very real prospect that any day Israeli authorities could jail their most prominent leaders.
While governments around the world, including many in Europe, have criticized the designations, tepid statements won’t stop Israel’s repression. Governments should forcefully call for the Israeli government to reverse its designations and to allow human rights groups to carry out their vital work unhindered. They should make clear that they will impose meaningful consequences on the Israeli government should it fail to do so.
The international community must act before it’s too late. The fate of human rights advocacy in Israel and Palestine may hang in the balance.