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We welcome the statement put out today by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and unions affiliated to PSC, in response to Israel’s attempted criminalisation of Palestinian human rights organisations:

Trade union statement on the decision to criminalise six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups

We strongly condemn the Israeli government’s outrageous decision to criminalise six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups by designating them as ‘terrorists’. We echo the UN human rights experts, the international human rights groups, and the Israeli human rights advocates in their unequivocal condemnation of this decision, and calls on the international community to challenge this repressive move.

This attack is a brazen attempt to further restrict Palestinian rights and to silence and punish Palestinian human rights defenders already working against incredible odds. We note that the six organisations targeted are amongst those most effectively documenting Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights, including the building of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, attacks on Palestinians’ right to food sovereignty, and the illegal arrest and detention of Palestinians, including children. These organisations have made their voices heard internationally, including in the International Criminal Court and in UN forums, and they are undoubtedly targeted for that reason. Smearing, attacking, and banning the most vocal proponents for accountability and justice is a classic move for repressive regimes. It is a threat to the Palestinian people and to human rights defenders everywhere.

In the past year, human rights experts including Human Rights Watch and B’tselem have echoed what Palestinians have been saying for decades: that Israel’s control over Palestinians includes elements of the crime of Apartheid. The international legal definition of apartheid specifies that it includes the ‘persecution of organisations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.’ This blanket designation and banning of some of Palestine’s most vocal human rights and civil society organisations should be seen in this context.

This move is an attempt to cut off international solidarity by isolating Palestinians and delegitimising their crucial work. As trade unionists and campaigners for justice, we know all too well how repression and silencing works, and we also know how to stand up against it: by redoubling our commitment to stand with the Palestinian people, and in particular, the courageous human rights defenders criminalised for calling for freedom, justice, and equality.

We call on the UK government to publicly oppose this draconian measure, to demand that Israel reverses it and further to begin to fulfil its own obligations to uphold international law and Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination, and the right to oppose apartheid.

Link to TUC statement and list of supporting unions