Poster on the topic

We don’t see very much in the mainstream media about the situation in Palestine since the ceasefire of the 11-day war last May. In that short war, at least 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Twelve people were killed in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl.

That the ceasefire is holding is good news. However, the conditions on the ground that led to that conflict continue, like the expulsions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and there are reports of increased violence. According to the October update of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Violence continues during the ceasefire, with an additional 100 Palestinians killed in the West Bank and Gaza, and thousands injured. One Israeli was killed since the cease fire. Settler violence has increased, including injury and property damage.

In an incident on October 14, Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy and injured and arrested another, while both were allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles near a Jerusalem checkpoint, according to Israeli sources. 

Israeli settlers have committed violent, daily attacks over the past few weeks against Palestinian villages. They even attack residents harvesting their olive orchards in the occupied West Bank. The attacks, which include beatings of farmers, attacks on Red Cross and Rabbinical monitors, and the uprooting of more than 300 olive trees, preceded the formal start of the olive harvest season on October 12. The attacks have recently intensified with some 8,000 olive trees targeted this year.

Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Media Watch Committee compiles the names of Palestinians who have died at the hands of the Israeli military this past month to the extent possible. We say their names:

Yousef Muhammad Odeh 15 years old

Yousef Fathi Soboh, 16

Osama Subuh 22 years old (Soboh)

Ahmad Zahran 31 years old

Zakaria Badwan 36 years old

Mahmoud Humeidan 27 years old

Muhammad Ali Khabisa 28 years old

Alaa Nasser Mohammed Zayyoud 22 years old 

Asra Hazimiya (also spelled Israa Khzamiah) 30 years old

Alaa Nasser Zayud 22 years old

Muhammed Abu Ammar 40 or 41 years old

Unnamed 16 year old child from Burqin

Unless the root causes of violence are addressed and the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians are equally respected, this vicious cycle of violence will continue and neither side will be able to live in peace and security.

Settlement Expansion

Late in October, Israel announced the approval close to 3,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank. This expansion of settlements is a clear violation of international law and a major impediment to peace. Although this expansion has been strongly condemned by Biden’s State Department, Biden has been silent on the issue to date. The US continues to stand firm on providing $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel, not to mention the additional $1 billion approved by congress in October to replenish Iron Dome missiles. U.S. foreign policy holds the key to leveling the playing field and pressuring Israel into compliance with international law and international human rights standards.

More than 600,000 Jews live in 145 settlements built since Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians have called on the world to confront Israel over the "aggression" constituted by settlement construction on land they claim for a future independent state.

Six Palestinian Human Rights/Civil Society Organizations Attacked

On the weekend of October 22, Israeli’s defense ministry targeted six highly respected and credible human rights and civil society groups claiming that they are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This order paves the way for Israel to raid their offices, seize assets, arrest staff, and criminalize any public expressions of support for the groups. Most of the targeted organizations document alleged human rights violations by both Israelis and Palestinians.

The designated groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, as well as the Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. These organizations are being targeted because their work challenges Israel’s apartheid regime and ranges from protecting children and producing research, to supporting political prisoners, women, and farmers.

In a recent webinar, leaders of all six groups stated that their work has been frequently targeted in the past with threats, confiscation of property, closure of offices, and arrests. They are operating under a system of military law that does not provide due process, as in civilian courts. They all affirmed that they will continue the work of documenting human rights violations on both sides, their support for Palestinian civil society, and their efforts to protect and empower women and children.

They believe that they are targeted because they have been effective in exposing the injustices and brutality of Israeli’s illegal occupation to the international community and the International Criminal Court. It is thought that this order would be used mainly against Israelis and international organizations that support them. They have been reassured by major European Union funding organizations that these claims are baseless. (YouTube: Foundation for Middle East Peace and others - titled On Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist Organizations.”)

The consequences of these designations from the Defense Ministry are severe and alarming. Employees, activists, donors, and others affiliated with these organizations are now potentially subject to prosecution.

International response to the criminalization of these organizations has been forceful

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint statement calling the Israeli designation "appalling and unjust," saying the move constitutes "an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement." Israeli human's right organization B'Tselem said that the declaration is a "characteristic act of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organizations."

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel stated, “neither evidence nor proof of the serious charge have been provided.”

October 26, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet slammed the decision as “an attack on human rights defenders, on freedoms of association, opinion, and expression, and on the right to public participation, and should be immediately revoked.”

US - based organizations signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Blinken demanding that the Biden Administration condemn Israel’s Crackdown on Human Rights Groups. The 288 groups demand that Israeli rescind their decision to outlaw and criminalize these six groups.

Representative Betty McCollum introduced House Resolution 751 condemning the repressive designation by the government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups with nine co-sponsors. Representative McCollum released this statement: “When a government uses the label of terrorist as a weapon to silence the work of human rights organizations and advocates who courageously represent vulnerable people living in under military occupation, it is a sign of incredible weakness more aligned with an authoritarian regime than a healthy democracy,” McCollum said. “Israel’s decision to brand these prominent Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations exposes the truth that Israel’s occupation is violent, immoral, and unjust, and that peaceful efforts to defend the rights of Palestinian children, women, farmers, or prisoners must be declared illegal. The U.S. invests billions of our taxpayer dollars to support Israel’s security, not Israel’s system of occupation and repression of Palestinians. It is incumbent upon Democrats in the U.S. House and the Biden administration to condemn this Israeli decision and draw a clear line that anti-democratic repression of Palestinian civil society is not tolerated.”

Jewish Voice for Peace and many other US organizations are urging us to contact our members of congress.

These human rights organizations are in no way an existential threat to Israel but rather they are essential to drawing international attention to human rights violations and creating pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza that would lead to a lasting peace.