Terror designations promote tolerance of apartheid

Israeli soldiers deny Palestinians' freedom of movement at Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah (Ahmad Al-Bazz - ActiveStills)

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  November 22, 2021

Israel’s designation of six prominent Palestinian organizations as “terror” groups last month must be answered with pressure on the US and EU to reject the baseless allegations.

The US and the Europeans are not likely to add the targeted human rights and social services organizations to their lists of state-designated foreign terrorist groups. But the Palestinian organizations could be denied funding, financial services and payment transactions all the same.

The UK moved to list the whole of Hamas, including its political wing, as a terrorist organization last week, carrying on with the decades-long criminalization of the Palestinian liberation movement by imperial powers.

The terrorism framework that has criminalized the Palestinian liberation struggle already severely constrains the ability of legal organizations to carry out their work in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Regardless of whether Washington, Brussels and London buy Israel’s claims against the groups, the terror designations may well achieve the desired aim of cutting off funding and denying access to financial services, starving the organizations of the resources necessary to carry out their work.

Israel’s proxies in the US, UK and EU will use the allegations to bring forth additional meritless legal challenges to disrupt Palestinian rights advocacy as they have done for years.

The lawfare group Shurat HaDin, closely linked to the Israeli government, has already “threatened to sue a US foundation for aiding and abetting terrorism” on the basis of the new Israeli designations, Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights said last week.

“The point is to stop support for Palestinians and the prospect of litigation itself or false smears is intimidating and chilling for people,” she added during a webinar hosted by Columbia University’s Center for Palestinian Studies.

Silent blessing

The new designation of Hamas as a terror group in the UK is a reminder that Israel’s powerful allies are too happy to join it in demanding total Palestinian capitulation to colonization, apartheid and perpetual occupation.

The US and EU have listed nearly all Palestinian political factions as terrorist organizations due to their rejection of the Oslo accords and their refusal to surrender their right to armed resistance against colonial effacement.

So far no state has come out in support of Israel’s claims against the human rights and social services groups. But not nearly enough have clearly condemned the move.

The targeted groups include three human rights organizations – Al-Haq, Addameer and Defense for Children International-Palestine – engaged in the International Criminal Court’s war crimes investigation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It is no coincidence that the terror designations come on the heels of the court opening a formal investigation earlier this year, despite Israeli and American efforts to thwart it.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister who signed off on the terror designation order, is all but certainly a person of interest in the probe.

The Biden administration has not explicitly rejected the Israeli “terror designations” and Washington’s silence may be seen as an implicit blessing.

Linda Thompson-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, reportedly declined to meet with the targeted groups during her visit to the West Bank last week. Her agenda focused instead on promoting normalization agreements between Israel and nearby authoritarian states at the expense of Palestinian rights.

She did meet Gantz, however, and tweeted that she looked forward to “working together on shared priorities,” which presumably include undermining the Palestine case at the ICC.

The EU has also failed to unequivocally condemn the Israeli move signed off by Gantz, even though the 27-member bloc’s foreign policy chief said last week that Israel still has not provided evidence supporting its claims.


The Israeli designations have been widely seen as an overreach and have generated global condemnation.

But however clumsy and unpopular, the move may have the desired effect of sabotaging the targeted groups’ work.

It puts the organizations on the defensive and diverts resources away from their core activities, including advocating for accountability on the international stage.

The real threats and disruptions of the “terror” designations aside, Israel’s extreme move may be seen as a validation of the effectiveness of the targeted groups’ work.

As Ahmed Abofoul, a legal researcher with Al-Haq, puts it, “Israel’s step is an attack from an anxious apartheid regime that is willing to do anything to silence those who expose its war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Al-Haq has found that the fiercest Israeli backlash has been in response to its business and human rights advocacy and longtime cooperation with the ICC.

But as Abofoul notes, “for Israel, any action from the Palestinians is an act of terrorism,” whether it be resistance, diplomacy, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement or advocacy at the ICC.

Abofoul adds: “Moreover, for Israel, any criticism of its human rights violations is anti-Semitism. Even calling Israel’s regime by its name and the accurate legal characterization, i.e., ‘apartheid,’ is anti-Semitic.”

The conflation of criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Jewish bigotry is aimed at “re-engineering international public opinion to digest and tolerate its apartheid,” according to Abofoul.

Likewise, the “terror” designations are ultimately aimed at making any Palestinian rights advocacy a taboo.

And so Israel’s attempts to keep Palestinians powerless and isolated must be met with increased international solidarity and advocacy. Supporters of Palestinian rights and liberation must leverage pressure on governments that let Israel get away with its crimes.

Urgent action is required for these groups to continue carrying out their missions and the spotlight must remain on Israel’s crimes as its violent colonization proceeds apace.

As Al-Haq observes, the Israeli regime “can only maintain itself by erasing the presence, existence and resistance of the people that stand in the way of its settler-colonial project.”

Champions of freedom everywhere must do all they can to throw more obstacles in the way of Israel’s goal to usurp all of Palestine, including pushing back against its persecution of human rights advocates.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada