In a widely condemned move, the Israeli government has banned the group I founded. This is how it enforces impunity for its illegal policies of occupation.
By Raja Shehadeh | The New York Review | Oct 27, 2021
Throughout the more than four decades since Al-Haq’s founding, the organization has continued to serve the objectives for which it was established: documenting and resisting through the law Israeli human rights violations, including the mistreatment of prisoners, the economic exploitation of the Occupied Territories’ natural resources, and the illegal settlement building.
In 1978 I returned to Ramallah from my legal studies in London brimming with ideas about the importance of the rule of law and the possibilities for resisting the Israeli occupation using international law. The following year, I and two colleagues, a Yale graduate named Charles Shammas and the American lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, established an organization we called Al-Haq (Arabic for The Right) as an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva. It was one of the first human rights groups in the Arab world and the first and only one of its kind in the Israeli-occupied territories.
Al-Haq’s first major activity was to document the extensive changes in local laws in the occupied West Bank mandated by Israeli military orders. These, in violation of international law, were designed to enable Israel to carry out illegal acquisitions of land for the building of illegal Israeli settlements. In a study Jonathan and I authored, titled The West Bank and the Rule of Law, published in 1980 jointly by Al-Haq and the ICJ, we pointed out that these orders were withheld from public view. That Israel was thus using secret legislation to break international law was a national embarrassment, though it was denied by the government and initially challenged by a number of Israeli journalists. After investigating the matter, these journalists learned that we had not exaggerated and that these orders indeed had not been published.