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Israel’s predatory policy in East Jerusalem

Jul 13,2022 - Last updated at Jul 13,2022

The European Union's delayed resumption of funding to two pre-eminent Palestinian human rights organisations a year after suspending support has been welcomed by these organisations and Palestinian civil society groups as a whole. The European Commission paused financial aid in May 2021 to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza and Al Haq in the West Bank after Israel claimed they had transferred EU funds to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel designates as "terrorist" organisation.

The European Commission was alone in effecting this policy, while country donors, including Ireland, Holand and Norway criticised the Israeli ban and the Commission stance.

The PCHR and Al Haq gather evidence of suspected Israeli war crimes in the occupiedPalestinian territories and have provided information to International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators who have been denied entry to Israel and Palestine by the Israeli authorities.

Israel also banned five other Palestinian groups in a sweep against Palestinian Civil society: Adameer Prisoner Support, Bisan Centre, Defence for Children International, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Union of Palestinian Committees. They, too, have cooperated with the ICC.

By branding them "terrorist" organisations, Israel has the right to close them down, confiscate their assets, halt their activities and charge staff with "terrorist" offenses on the basis of confidential allegations.  Israel makes liberal use of secret intelligence or information in such cases and while bringing charges against individual Palestinians.

In October 2021, UN "terrorism" experts denounced Israel's designations. “Israel has had six months to substantiate its accusations and it has failed to deliver... We call on the funding governments and international organisations to swiftly conclude that Israel has not established its allegations and to announce that they will continue to financially and politically support these organisations and the communities and groups they serve.” However, Israel did not budge and there was no international pressure on its government to end the blacklisting.

On April 25 this year, the UN experts called on Israel to lift the banning orders. They contended that Israel's allegations have "not been accompanied by any public concrete and credible evidence... We note that the information presented by Israel has also failed to convince a number of governments and international organisations that have traditionally provided funding for the indispensable work of these... organisations.”

The experts singled out the EU's withholding of funding from the PCHR and Al Haq and criticised the bloc for undermining their work, arguing that this has had an "incalculable impact on the communities they support."

The experts accused Israel of misusing anti-terrorism legislation "to attack some of the leading civil society organisations in Palestine. Such misuse must be rejected and countered". They continued by stating, "Applying anti-terrorism laws to well-regarded human rights defenders and civil society organisations, without persuasive evidence to substantiate these claims, seems to indicate a politically-motivated attempt by Israel to silence some of its most effective critics in violation of their rights to freedom of association and of expression.”

The experts called for the international community to publicly declare Israel has not substantiated its allegations; resume and even increase financial and political support for these organisations, and demand "that Israel retract the designations and cease its harassment of all Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights and civil society organisations which promote human rights and accountability in Israel and Palestine".

I quote these experts at length because their words amount to a scolding of the EU and other donors which had and have denied Palestinian, Israeli and other civil society groups the funding and backing they need to function under Israel's 55 year-old repressive occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel's most infamous closure of an essential Palestinian civil society organisation took place in 2001 when Israeli security forces seized and looted Faisal Husseini's Arab Studies Society located at Orient House in occupied East Jerusalem. This outrage took place a few months after his death from a heart attack in Kuwait. Israeli raiders confiscated a valuable collection of historic photographs of Palestine, Ottoman, British colonial era and Jordanian documents on land ownership in Palestine, and confidential material on Palestine Liberation Organisation activities in the Holy City. Other Palestinian institutions in the eastern sector of the city were also shut down in the same operation which provided a precedent for further Israeli closures. In 2020, Israeli forces even invaded the East Jerusalem branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and carried away documents, files and computers. For Israel, music is subversive.

Israel has focused its campaign on Palestinian cultural institutions in occupied East Jerusalem, in particular, to eradicate the Palestinian presence in that sector of the city which they have annexed to West Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1948. Israel’s predatory policy deprives Palestinians living in the city of services, culture and protection against Israel's land grab and systematic violations of Palestinan rights under laws governing occupiers treatment of occupied populations.

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