Human rights funders must support civil society in Palestine

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Israeli soldiers confiscated computer equipment and client files in a dawn raid on Defense for Children International – Palestine’s main office in Al-Bireh on July 29. (Source: DCIP)
A trustee of a Jewish family foundation that has contributed to Palestinian and Israeli civil society, Dr. Rothchild raises concerns over developments that signal danger for the human rights sector globally.

By Alice Rothchild | Alliance Magazine | Mar 17, 2022

By trying to intimidate us into silence and inaction, the Israeli government is making us complicit in harming the very civilian populations that we have been charged to protect.

In recent months, the Israeli government hurled smears at Amnesty International for issuing a report concluding that Israel is imposing a system of apartheid on the Palestinian people. The government is now considering punishing the messenger by stripping Amnesty’s Israel country section of its tax-exempt status and barring Amnesty staff from entering Israel. This crackdown on nonprofits extends beyond Israel’s borders as the government’s allies push for the UK and Australia to also strip those Amnesty country sections of their charitable status. And this goes well beyond Amnesty – Israel has deported a Human Rights Watch staffer, banned Israeli human rights groups from speaking to students, and criminalized the work of six venerable Palestinian non-profit organizations, creating a chilling effect on those funding and otherwise supporting them. Israeli officials are on the record stating that the goal of designating the six Palestinian NGOs ‘terrorist’ groups is to deprive these organizations of international funding.

Every funder that supports human rights defenders, regardless of where they are in the world, should be alarmed by this precedent. When governments target human rights organizations with false accusations and smears, it creates a chilling effect on NGOs and their funders globally, weakening their ability to hold states accountable for rights violations. This establishes a dangerous precedent, and we have seen countries like Brazil, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, and Russia engage in such targeting of the human rights sector.

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