As a member of the Palestine Platform, Fobzu was a signatory to this letter:
The Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
King Charles Street
23 January 2018
Dear Secretary of State Boris Johnson,
On 7 January 2018, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs released to the press a list of international organisations, charities and campaign groups advocating for Palestinian human rights that it will block from entering Israel. The list includes the UK charity War on Want, a member organisation of the Palestine Platform. The other 19 groups banned by Israel have in common explicit principles and practice of non-violence, and commitment to human rights and international law. Several are faith groups (Quaker, Jewish and Muslim) and several are registered charities pursuing charitable goals.
We see this ‘ban list’ as an expansion of a larger wave of repression carried out by the Israeli government and its military authorities against Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, which has also included: targeting Palestinian human rights defenders with arbitrary arrest and detention; incitement against Palestinian human rights defenders by Israeli government officials; militarised repression of unarmed Palestinian protests, resulting in injuries and deaths; and legislation such as the ‘NGO transparency bill’ (2016) which closes down civil society space for human rights organisations in Israel. Banning UK-based and international groups will further isolate already struggling human rights organisations in Israel and the oPt, and have a devastating effect on them and their work.
This deeply troubling wave of repression has escalated over the past two years, and has been noted with concern by the European Union as well as the UK government. It has also been flagged by two UN Special Rapporteurs several months ago. Professor Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, and Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, noted the important work of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations, and called on the Government of Israel to “withdraw and rescind all restrictive legislation that targets human rights defenders, and to allow international rights organizations…to freely operate in Israel and oPt.” The worsening situation was also highlighted by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which were subsequently targeted by Israel with visa restrictions (later rescinded after international condemnation) and denial of entry to some of their staff.
This latest ‘ban list’ follows the same alarming pattern. It is an attempt to prevent UK-based and international organisations and charities from effectively working in support of human rights, and penalising them for speaking up about human rights abuse and violations of international law. Such restrictions on UK groups have dramatic implications on the ability of UK-registered charities and development organisations to do the work that they have been approved to do.
The work of human rights groups in Israel and the oPt is crucial, particularly as Israel’s violations of international law continue unabated. In the same week that Israel publicised its ‘ban list’, it also authorised more than 1,100 new homes in illegal West Bank settlements, and its military shot and killed two unarmed Palestinian children protesting in the oPt. This is on top of the hundreds of Palestinians held in administrative detention, and the over 350 Palestinian children held in military detention by Israel. This latest ‘ban list’, if left unchallenged, adds to the climate of impunity for Israel’s prolonged and systematic violations of international law.
Against this context, we urge the UK government to:
• Use all diplomatic channels to press Israel to rescind the list of banned organisations.
• Call on Israel to end all measures that restrict the work of Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders and organisations, including ending travel bans applied against them.
• Condemn Israel’s repression of human rights defenders and call on Israel to meet its obligations under international human rights law to halt the documented targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders with arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment and violence.
• Ensure that the UK embassy in Israel and British Consulate in Jerusalem are taking effective measures to implement the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in monitoring, reporting, and assessing violations against human rights defenders, and providing support and visible recognition to their work.
We are sending a copy of this letter to the Rt. Honourable Alistair Burt, MP, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and look forward to your response,
The Palestine Platform