Statement from Atalia Omer on Israel's designation of Palestinian human rights groups as "terrorist organizations"


On October 22, 2021, Israel’s Defense Ministry categorized six Palestinian groups as “terrorist organizations.” Here, Atalia Omer, professor of religion, conflict, and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, responds to this recent decision. 

On October 22, 2021, the Israeli Defense Ministry declared six Palestinian civil society organizations as "terrorist organizations." These six organizations are all working in the territories Israel occupied in 1967. These institutions are renowned and prominent human rights' defenders and include Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.

The criminalization of Palestinian human rights defenders by calling them “terrorist organizations” is an act against justice and is characteristic of totalitarian regimes. This designation weaponizes “law” to imprison and crush dissent. This manipulation of an anti-terrorism frame means that the Israeli military can now seize the properties and discontinue the work of these organizations, as well as criminalize human rights and humanitarian activities more broadly. 

The current escalation threatens the immediate survival of many Palestinians who rely on services provided by these organizations, including prisoners held without trial and children. It intends to silence, curtail, and destroy resistance to an ever-entrenched regime which B’tselem, the prominent Jewish Israeli human rights' organization, has recently, in a detailed evidence-based report, defined as "apartheid." 

I join many global human rights organizations in condemning the explicit shift in Israeli policies, and calling for them to be rescinded.