AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
22 August 2022
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nanaia Mahuta
Tēnā koe Hon Minister Mahuta,
As I am sure you are aware, just last week, the Israeli army shut down several Palestinian civil society organisations in the West Bank. Separately, a large Israeli army convoy raided the town of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank at dawn on Thursday. The six organisations raided have previously been listed, without any evidence whatsoever, as “terrorist” organisations by Israel. They are all internationally recognised humanitarian organisations including: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UPWC), the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, and the Palestine Chapter of the Geneva Based Defence for Children International. Their offices were ransacked, equipment confiscated and the organisations deemed “unlawful”.
This is, of course, a ploy to silence voices who draw attention to Israel’s continuing breaches of international law and human rights. There has been an international outcry about this action with the Government of Ireland condemning it. Francesca Albanese (UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory) has tweeted that “Israel’s hubris knows no bounds: attacking civil society means attempting at what is left of “civil life” under Israeli rule. Yet the international community is responsible for tolerating the intolerable. Inaction is complicity”.
The UN Human Rights Office (UNHCR) said: “Despite offers to do so, Israeli authorities have not presented to the United Nations any credible evidence to justify these declarations.” UNHCR accused Israel of seeking to shrink the scope of Palestinian rights work and said: “Human rights defenders must be immediately protected from these unjustified attacks.”
EU chief diplomat Joseph Borrell’s spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said: “The EU will continue to stand by international law and support civil society organisations.”
Amnesty International’s regional deputy director Amna Guellali said: “These organisations have contributed enormously to human rights in the [occupied Palestinian territories] and across the globe, yet Israeli army boots trample all over their work.” Amnesty called “on all governments to condemn the Israeli army’s attacks on Palestinian civil society”, to press for the organisations’ reinstatement and support international court investigations into Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
The International Jewish Collective for Justice in Palestine (IJCJP), a Coalition including 15 countries across the globe including Alternative Jewish Voices in Aotearoa, also condemns Israel’s raids and call on their own governments to likewise condemn the raids.
The NGOs have asked all supporters of Palestinian rights to contact their elected representatives asking them to condemn the criminalisation of Palestinian human rights defenders.
Minister Mahuta, we urge you, and your Ministry officials, to publicly condemn Israel’s use of military force to intimidate Palestinian NGOs and to raise your concerns through diplomatic channels to hold Israel to account. We look forward to your response on this matter.
Co-Convenor, Justice for Palestine