The regime handed out the designations last October, ordering the organizations shuttered. The move targeted such NGOs as the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the legal-aid human rights group al-Haq, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
On Monday, those designations and their impact were the subject of a series of public hearings, which were hosted by a high-level team of UN investigators.
The heads of three of the terror-designated organisations took the floor on the first day, all saying Israel had justified the move with a “secret” file, and had provided no real evidence against them.
Speaking before a panel of UN Human Rights Council’s investigators, Shawan Jabarin, head of al-Haq rights group, shared his perspective of the Israeli decision.
The designation, he said, was “like an execution,” aimed at halting his organization from examining a vast array of rights abuses by Israel.
“We will not stop. Yes, they can detain us, they can arrest us, they can put us in prisons, they can kill us… but they can’t change our beliefs…,” Jabarin asserted, adding, “We will continue fighting against the culture and the policy of impunity.”
Jabarin was referring to the Israeli regime’s decades-old exemption from accountability before the UN and other international organizations, despite its near-daily and regularly-deadly atrocities against Palestinians.
He, meanwhile, noted that the “terrorist” designation had come after a years-long smear campaign against his organization, including efforts to get backers to drop their support, as well as death threats against him and other colleagues.
Jabarin described the terrorist designation and subsequent closure of his NGO as an “arbitrary decision,” saying Israeli security forces had used “mafia methods” against them.
“They used all means, I can say. They used financial means; they used a smear campaign; they used threats,” he said, saying his office was sealed with a metal door on August 18.
“Systematic attack against the human rights defenders”
Meanwhile, director of Addameer prisoner advocacy group said “a systematic attack against the human rights defenders” was ongoing in Israel.
Sahar Francis said the “terrorist” allegations against Addameer and the other Palestinian organisations relied only on testimony from prisoners pressured to become informers or subjected to “torture,” with no insight into their operations, adding, “There is no justice in this whole process.”
The first week of the hearings held by the UN investigators is also slated to address the killing in May of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
The 51-year-old journalist, who was wearing press attire, was murdered in cold blood while covering an Israeli military raid on the city of Jenin in northern West Bank on May 11. Later, her funeral was also attacked by the regime forces.
Addressing the gathering of the UN investigators via video link, lead investigator Navi Pillay, herself a former UN rights chief, said, “In these proceedings, we are not drawing any conclusions or making any judgments.”
The investigation has, however, not sit well with Tel Aviv, which has totally ruled out any cooperation with the probe.
The panel “intends to simultaneously play judge, jury, and executioner,” the Israeli mission in Geneva said in a statement, calling the hearings “sham trials” and “kangaroo courts.”