U.S. progressives condemn Israeli army crackdown on Palestinian rights groups – but Israel lobby is quiet

Ramallah - PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh pays a solidarity visit to a closed NGO office (Shadi Hatem - APA Images)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  August 18, 2022

Israel’s openly-fascistic move of shutting down seven Palestinian human rights groups was widely condemned by American progressives. But rightwing Israel lobby groups were silent.

The shocking news is that Israel entered occupied territory over night to raid the offices of seven Palestinian rights groups, destroying property and confiscating files, and putting steel plates on some doors, barring the groups from operation under military orders. All as Israel’s fledgling prime minister runs for reelection and needs to show he is not “soft on the Arab side.”

The seven groups promptly issued a statement saying the raids showed that Israel is “a racist, apartheid, and colonial state.” They are desperately seeking to rally opposition to the crackdown, which followed the claim last year for which Israel has offered no evidence that six of them support terrorism.

This openly fascistic move is getting wide coverage around the world. And many have leaped to denounce it. Rep. Betty McCollum called on the Biden administration to “condemn these efforts to silence groups advocating for Palestinian human rights & civil society.”

CAIR also called for action at the highest levels:

This is a blatant attempt to stifle Palestinian political activism & block documentation of Israeli #apartheid & human rights abuses. @POTUS must speak out against this repression.

Adalah-NY reflected the steady stream of condemnations. Human Rights Watch has expressed solidarity with the groups. The Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement demanding the Biden administration act.

Today’s physical assault by Israeli occupying forces on the offices and property of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations must be urgently condemned by the Biden administration in the strongest terms, with concrete actions in response to the criminalization of human rights defenders to follow. 

Jewish Voice for Peace also said it was time to act: “The Israeli government is openly and blatantly working to erase documentation and exposure of its violent apartheid regime…. We desperately need members of Congress to start speaking out NOW.”

Few Congresspeople were speaking out though. For instance, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff, and Andy Levin – civil rights advocates who support Israel — had no comment this morning. Steve Cohen was tweeting about Navalny in a Russian prison. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the Squad had also not shown up.

Americans for Peace Now had a strong statement calling on the Biden administration to demand that Israel cease its persecution of the Palestinian groups.

APN strongly condemns Israel’s persecution and oppression of Palestinian civil society organizations. International government officials, including members of Congress, who were briefed by the Israeli government regarding the grounds for these measures have publicly said that they found the rationale for outlawing the six organizations insufficient and unconvincing.

Other Israel lobby groups were not so hard on the country.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy was working hard for Israel, offering a rationale for the crackdown. “Israeli evidence could reveal a troubling reality wherein groups publicly defend the human rights of some people while supporting acts of terrorism targeting others.”

J Street got a statement up this afternoon that expresses “deep concern” not condemnation and aligns itself with Israelis: “J Street echoes Israeli pro-democracy groups in expressing deep concern over reports…”

J Street still imagines a good Israel: “labeling human rights advocates as ‘terrorists’ in order to criminalize their activities is… totally inconsistent with Israel’s democratic values.”

The New Israel Fund statement was also careful. “This is dangerous for any democracy that values free speech and civil rights.” Though it said its grantees (including B’Tselem) condemned the action, and it quoted attorney Michael Sfard saying the allegations are baseless.

The news caught other Israel lobby groups with their pants down. The the big center-right groups have had nothing to say today about the racist authoritarian move.

The ADL has had nothing to say about the matter on twitter. Democratic Majority for Israel, nothing. AIPAC — nothing. Same for the American Jewish Committee. The Conference of Presidents was silent.

Many European diplomats are reported to have shown solidarity with the human rights group Al-Haq today in Ramallah. Al-Haq says the European Mission came by as well as Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

It’s “shameful” that the US Embassy is not in this list, Yousef Munayyer writes.

Jamil Dakwar anticipates the official U.S. talking point: “We are still waiting for clarifications from the Israeli government.”

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006