The international community cannot let the Israeli apartheid regime criminalize human rights work

Editor’s Note: The following statement was released by participants on the 2016 U.S. Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

The U.S. Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine (2016) joins with organizations and individuals around the world to express our strongest solidarity with the six Palestinian human rights organizations that were falsely designated “terrorist institutions” by the Israeli government on October 19, 2021.  On November 7, 2021 the government issued a follow-up order declaring the organizations “illegal,” opening the way for their offices to be closed and the possible administrative detention of their staff.  

These six organizations –Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, Defense for Children International – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees – all welcomed us to Palestine in 2016.  They enabled us to hear stories directly from Palestinians  about the impact of military and settler violence, extra-judicial murder, mass imprisonment,  land confiscation, house demolitions, persecution of women, restrictions to water access, lack of worker rights, and the systems of comprehensive surveillance and control that envelop Palestinian lives.  

We also learned about the persistent, steadfast work that these organizations undertake on a daily basis to defend against constant violations of the most basic human rights. It is this courageous work that the Israeli government wants to silence by demonizing them as terrorist organizations.  We in the international community cannot let the Israeli apartheid regime shut down, isolate and criminalize their critical human rights work!

Our delegation was the first from the U.S.  to focus specifically on political imprisonment and solidarity between Palestinian and U.S. prisoners.  Convened by Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, a professor at San Francisco State University, the delegation included former U.S.-held political prisoners, Black Panthers,  prison abolitionists, and labor activists. We were already very familiar with the ways in which the U.S. has criminalized political activists and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in order to repress resistance and dissent.  Our visit to Palestine strengthened our understanding of how the U.S. and Israel have collaborated over decades to develop colonial carceral systems which function in similar ways.

When we witnessed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy being tried in Israeli military court as an adult and facing two life sentences, we thought about the thousands of Black and Brown youth across the U.S. who are tried and convicted as adults and are serving extreme sentences. When we heard from mothers, wives and sisters about the arduous challenge of visiting their loved ones in prison, traveling for 10-15 hours each way, we thought of the countless women in the U.S. who make long, expensive trips to their family members on a regular basis. When we saw the daily arduous realities of crossing the Apartheid wall and multiple checkpoints to get to work, schools and hospitals, we thought of the hardship of working families in the U.S. who struggle daily to make ends meet. When we heard about olive trees being burned and settlers taking over farmers’ lands, we recalled the history of farmworker organizing and indigenous peoples struggling to defend their lands in the U.S. We understood the crucial importance of the human rights organizations that insist on defending  Palestinians despite the risks they themselves face. 

In a recent L.A. Times op-ed, two members of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association described some of their recent work. “We visited hunger strikers protesting their arbitrary detention in hospital beds in the Ramleh prison clinic and submitted appeals to United Nations bodies to intervene. We have called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israeli war crimes, and in Israeli military and civil courts, we have defended Palestinian parliamentarians, students, children, journalists, feminists, human rights defenders, academics and thousands of everyday people who are arbitrarily arrested every year. “   Addameer challenged organizations in the U.S. “Imagine if the nonprofits providing services to the most vulnerable among you were being outlawed and their staff punished.” 

Those of us working in community organizations, universities and labor unions in the U.S. are not currently being outlawed in the same manner as the human rights organizations in Palestine.  Over the past several years we have seen escalated campaigns targeting those who act and teach in solidarity with Palestine and organize their communities against racism and oppression.  Clearly, the threat against Palestinian human rights organizations has global implications for those of us who fight for abolition and social justice. 

We stand with the six criminalized organizations and demand that Israel rescind the terrorist designations immediately. We demand that the US government: 

  1. Affirm that the Biden administration’s commitment to human rights has universal applicability;
  2. Issue a public statement that rejects the Israeli government’s false accusations levied against Palestinian civil society organizations;
  3. Publicly condemn and rebuke Israel for this authoritarian action, and call on Israeli authorities to immediately reverse their decision and end all efforts aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders;
  4. Support Palestinians seeking the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights, justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court.
  5. Cut all U.S. funding to Israel

In Joint Struggle,

  • Rabab Abdulhadi, Professor and Director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, San Francisco State University*, California
  • Diana Block, author and activist, California Coalition for Women Prisoners*, San Francisco, California
  • Susan Chen, counselor, faculty member California Faculty Association – San Francisco State University*, California
  • Dennis Childs, author and professor, University of California*, San Diego
  • Susie Day, writer, Monthly Review Press*, New York City, New York
  • Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party, 1967-1982
  • Diane Fujino, author and professor, University of California*, Santa Barbara
  • Alborz Ghandehari, former member of UAW 2865 BDS Caucus* assistant professor, University of Utah*
  • Anna Henry, activist and member, California Coalition for Women Prisoners*, San Francisco 
  • Rachel Herzing, Community Advisor to Center for Political Education
  • Hank Jones, activist, former US-Held political prisoner and member, Black Panther Party, Los Angeles, California
  • Manuel la Fontaine, former US-held prisoner and member, All of Us or None*, San Francisco, California  
  • Claude Marks, Former US-held political prisoner, Freedom Archives*, San Francisco, California
  • Nathaniel Moore, archivist, Freedom Archives*, San Francisco, California
  • Isaac Ontiveros, activist, Oakland, California
  • Michael Ritter, counselor faculty (retired) ; (former) CSU academic senator, and CFA Board, San Francisco State University,* California
  • Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union, local 100NYC(retired).
  • Laura Whitehorn, Former US-held political prisoner, New York City, New York

 *All institutional and organizational affiliations are for identification purposes only

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