We write as mental health and allied professionals to alert all our colleagues to the consequences of the Israeli Defence Ministry’s egregious designation of six Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist organizations. This action, taken on 19 October 2021, targeted Al-Haq, Human Rights Organisation, Addameer Prisoner Support organisation, Defence for Children International-Palestine, The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. All of these are organisations which carry out indispensable work both in protecting and supporting Palestinian adults and children who are subjected to daily abuse, violation and land theft and in collating and disseminating such abuses and publicising them to the wider world.
The consequences of such a designation are chilling in the extreme both for Palestinians themselves but also for all those who support them. It effectively criminalises the work of these six NGOs, allows the Israeli government to close their offices, seize their assets, arrest their staff and prohibit funding or other
forms of public support both within Palestine and internationally. It represents yet another attack on the very fabric of Palestinian civil society.
The Ministry of Defence ruling on 19 October is the culmination of a long campaign both by Israel and its allied bodies abroad to undermine the work of these organisations and to diminish their capacity to bear witness. To give just one example, the Israeli sponsored ‘NGO Monitor’ and the UK Lawyers for
Israel have conducted a campaign of defamation against Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) causing them to use precious funds in libel action. When faced with their unevidenced smears these bodies have had to back down
However the Israeli government has been allowed to operate with such impunity that providing evidence has hardly been its priority. Instead it relies on its customary narrative of labelling as terrorist any resistance to its settler colonial regime and, by association, any organisation that supports its victims or
documents its abuses. This pernicious and distorted use of language will be familiar to those in the solidarity movement who experience virtually any support for Palestinian rights being labelled as anti-Semitic.
We interpret this arbitrary and punitive action against these six Palestinian NGOs as a response by the Israeli government in the light of the success of the BDS movement, the impending investigation by the International Criminal Court and the ever increasing awareness and dismay of citizens world- wide about its oppressive and murderous policies. But the consequence of this cynical attack on NGOs will be felt on the ground in all too material ways by Palestinian women, men and children if they are deprived of their few sources of support in the face of physical assault, arbitrary arrest and detention, home demolitions and land theft.
We stand by our brave colleagues in Al Haq, Addameer, DCI-P, Bisan, UAWCand U PWC. We will continue to offer you our full support and solidarity and we will continue to narrate and bear witness to the ethical and necessary work you carry out.
Palestine Global Mental Health Network
France Palestine Mental Health Network
Ireland Palestine Mental Health Network
South Africa Palestine Mental Health Network
UK Palestine Mental Health Network
USA Palestine Mental Health Network
27 October 2021