“Canada should condemn Israel’s criminalisation of Palestinian human rights organizations” – guest columnist Peggy Mason

The international human rights community is livid over the recent move by Israel to declare six Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist organizations. Guest columnist Peggy Mason calls on Prime Minister Trudeau to speak up.

by Guest columnist, Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute

“On 22 October Israel issued a military order declaring 6 respected Palestinian human rights organisations as terrorist groups. The groups are Addameeral-HaqDefense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.

The designation authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.

Apparently based on allegations characterized by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights as “extremely vague” and “unsubstantiated”, this action has engendered widespread condemnation. In the joint words of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch:

This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.

 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet further stated:

The organizations concerned are some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory and for decades have worked closely with the UN….

These designations are the latest development in a long, stigmatising campaign against these and other organisations, damaging their ability to deliver on their crucial work.

Arab Digest, which devoted its (paywalled) 28 October Newsletter to this matter, referenced a series of tweets from the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Per Olsson Fridh, where he noted that previous allegations against the organisations had not been substantiated “after careful scrutiny”.


In an article by a Palestinian commentator, entitled: Why Israel is trying to criminalise Palestinian civil society (Yara Hawari, aljazeera.com) 24 Oct 2021, Hawari states in part:

This attack on Palestinian organisations is not happening out of the blue. It is the latest escalation of Israel’s systematic campaign to stifle Palestinian civil society that has been ongoing for over seven decades.

In an echo of the joint Amnesty/Human Rights Watch statement referenced early, Hawari goes on to say:

…this is happening because of decades of Israeli impunity and unwillingness by the international community to hold the regime accountable. The international community needs to recognise its role as an Israeli crime enabler and finally take decisive action against Israel’s repeated violations of international law.

Whither Canada?

We observe pointedly that Canada has not been among those speaking out against this outrageous action, demonstrating yet again the cynical selectivity of our support for human rights and international law.  We also underscore the words of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in their joint statement that:

How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders.

We call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join Sweden and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning the criminalization by Israel of bona fide Palestinian human rights organizations.

We further call on the Government of Canada to end its unconscionable refusal to take steps to hold Israel accountable for its continuing, grave human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Peggy Mason

This column is a slightly abridged version of a blog post which first appeared in Ceasefire.ca. Peggy Mason is a former Canadian Ambassador and currently President of the Rideau Institute, an independent research organization which focuses on Canadian foreign and defence policy. She is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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