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Palestinian human rights orgs slam Israeli gov’t minister for ‘libelous’ smears

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Last week, the news broke in Israeli media that Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs (MSA) had launched a “stealthy campaign” that resulted in the shuttering of some 30 bank accounts affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“For years, boycott promoters have disguised themselves as ‘human rights activists,’ managing to raise tens of millions of euros from Western countries and citizens who thought they were contributing to causes supporting justice and equality,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement.

He went on to say that, over time, his ministry has “revealed that the supposed ‘human rights’ NGOs are in reality filled with anti-Semitic operatives with deep ties to terrorist groups fixated on destroying the State of Israel.”

Erdan celebrated his ministry’s alleged achievements, saying “our efforts have drastically undermined the boycott campaign” internationally.

According to the ministry, 10 US bank accounts and 20 European accounts were affected.

Israel Hayom reported that the Paypal, DonorBox, and Plaid accounts of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network were affected “after it was divulged that Samidoun maintained close ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),” a major left-wing political faction in Palestine.

But in a statement to Mondoweiss, Samidoun called the claims about their accounts “erroneous.”

“We do not and have never had a Plaid account. It is a mystery to us as to what account they believed they closed down or who was actually affected by this,” the group said, adding that in their opinion, smaller apps like DonorBox were “frightened by the bogus legal threat letters ” they received from zionist groups legal groups aligned with the Israeli state and the MSA.

The shutting down of their accounts on certain platforms like Paypal and DonorBox, the group says, do not actually “indicate any legal or political validity to the smears propagated by the MSA and its affiliated lawfare organizations.”

“It merely indicates that corporations like PayPal – who also provide services to illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank of Palestine while denying them to Palestinians under occupation – easily concede to these demands rather than upholding Palestinian human rights. This comes as no surprise,” the group said.

Highlighting the fact that it is Erdan who is “responsible for the Israeli prison system currently jailing over 5,200 Palestinian political prisoners,” he is more motivated to suppress groups like Samidoun who advocate for prisoners rights.

“The attacks on Samidoun and Palestinian human rights defenders are merely the latest attempt by the Israeli settler colonial state to shield itself from international accountability and enjoy immunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the group said. “Those concerned about perpetrators of terror wearing suits can look directly at Tel Aviv and Washington, DC in the highest offices of government  to find those who best fit that description.”

Israel Hayom reporting claims by the ministry, also added that the credit-card accounts of Ramallah-based human rights NGO, Al-Haq, were also closed due to the group’s director’s affiliation with PFLP, and several stints in Israeli prison. Al-Haq’s director, Mr. Shawan Jabarin, like thousands of other Palestinians, was imprisoned by Israel for several years without charge or trial.

Despite the ministry’s claims of success against Al-Haq and other organizations, Al-Haq pushed back, saying that their organization does not actually hold credit card accounts, “and therefore despite the sweeping claims articulated by the MSA, there was never an account open, that could be closed to begin with.”

The group slammed Erdan’s smear campaign against Palestinian rights groups as “spurious, unsubstantiated and libellous,” constituting what it called an “illegal interference” with Palestinian civil society under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, which require Israel as an occupying power to “not interfere with the civil life of the occupied territory unless absolutely necessary for military or humanitarian reasons.”

“The Israeli MSA report provides no credible proof that the accounts closed had any links to terrorism,” Al-Haq said. “The report is but the latest offensive in the Israeli government’s undisclosed economic and propaganda campaign aimed at attacking and silencing peaceful Palestinian organisations.”

Al-Haq continued:

“…The report is premised on racist caricatures, attempting to paint Palestinian civil society organisations as essentially suspicious and violent, in order to discredit and defund them. Beyond being published by the MSA itself, the report notably has no date and no named author, does not cite credible sources, and does not withstand academic scrutiny.

On 23 January 2019, and in response to another MSA report, the office of the European Union (EU) in Israel stated that the report contained allegations that are “unfounded and unacceptable.” This served to reiterate the EU’s previous response flatly denying similar allegations that the EU was funding terrorism.”

The group went on to reiterate its rejection of any forms of racism and anti-Semitism, and that, despite the ministry’s attacks on the organization, Al-Haq’s funding has remained unaffected.

Erdan posted a screenshot of Al-Haq’s statement on Twitter, saying “The days of you masquerading as ‘human rights activists’, raising money for your hateful boycott, while promoting anti-Semitism and terror, are over.”

The Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch Omar Shakir took to Twitter to defend Al-Haq, and called Erdan a “demagogue in a suit.”

This article has been corrected to reflect the statements of Samidoun. 

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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2 Responses

  1. eljay on June 24, 2019, 10:00 am

    … “For years, boycott promoters have disguised themselves as ‘human rights activists,’ managing to raise tens of millions of euros from Western countries and citizens who thought they were contributing to causes supporting justice and equality,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. …

    Mr. Erdan is right: Everyone – boycott promoters and Zionists included – should actually and actively support justice and equality throughout I-P.

    I look forward to Mr. Erdan leading by example.

  2. Misterioso on June 25, 2019, 10:02 am

    Off topic, but bearing in mind “Israel’s” utter dependence (now 71 years) on the U.S. financially and geopolitically, most relevant:

    “Accelerating Imperial Decline” by Patrick Lawrence, Consortium News, June 25/19

    “Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran is driven by desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux. That can lead only to a continuing succession of failures.

    “The kinetic events of the past week in Washington, Tehran, and the Persian Gulf were nothing if not revealing. President Donald Trump proved the keeper of the peace, warmongers all around him, when he aborted an airborne attack on Iran Thursday evening. The Iranians continue to act with admirable restraint in the face of incessant provocations.

    “More such provocations are sure to come. Trump announced over the weekend that he will impose yet another layer of ‘major new sanctions’ against Iran on Monday. After a minor cyber-attack against an Iranian intelligence agency last week, the Pentagon has developed a list of Iranian entities it is considering for a more extensive cyber-war campaign.

    “But there are more fundamental truths to derive from the swift escalation of Washington’s hostilities toward Tehran. They come to four. Taken together, they offer a snapshot of an imperial power in accelerating decline.

    “Paralyzed Elites
    “First, Trump’s determination to avoid pointless new wars of adventure has divided Washington to an extent that is unprecedented at least as far back as the Vietnam debacle. In addition to hawkish factions within the administration and the national security apparatus, an apparent majority on Capitol Hill — liberals as well as Republicans — favors war as the principal instrument of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

    “This strongly suggests that Washington’s foreign policy elites are effectively paralyzed — that is, incapable of meeting a new century’s realities with new thinking. Trump’s authorization of last week’s cyberattack and his subsequent promise of new sanctions appear to be attempts to appease the swelling ranks of warmongers pressuring him to approve a military confrontation with Iran. It is to Trump’s credit that he has so far held out against those many who stand against him. It is not clear how long he will be able to do so. There is informed speculation that Trump never approved of the attack he canceled at the last minute Thursday night.

    “Crumbling Credibility
    “Second, Washington’s ability to impose a self-serving narrative on global events is in the latter stages of collapse. Winning broad acceptance of officially approved accounts of U.S. actions and intentions has been essential to the effective execution of American foreign policy at least since the Cold War’s onset in the late 1940s. This is a dwindling asset, as the cases of Ukraine, Syria, and now Iran attest.

    “Washington’s account of events in the Persian Gulf since two cargo vessels were attacked two weeks ago met open resistance within 24 hours, notably from Germany, the European Union, and Japan — all among America’s longstanding allies. The significance here cannot be overstated. If the U.S. can no longer control accepted narratives, its global alliances will progressively weaken. This process is already evident, notably in the increasing tension between Washington and its trans-Atlantic allies.

    “Desperation Phase
    “Third, in the twilight years of its long pre-eminence, the U.S. has entered what is best described as its desperation phase. Having no need of imaginative thinking or policy innovation for more than seven decades, Washington finds itself incapable of either. Instead, it assumes a perennial posture of resistance as a new, multipolar, and historically inevitable world order emerges. In a word, America now acts as spoiler wherever this new order is emergent.

    “This is evident in a variety of contexts. High among these are Western Europe’s densely woven interdependence with Russia, which elaborates continuously despite America’s objections, and the universally shared desire to achieve a lasting peace in Northeast Asia. In the case of Iran, Washington resists the Islamic Republic’s undeniable place as a regional power, incessantly painting a nation dedicated to regional security as a sponsor of terror that is intent — for reasons never explained — on destabilizing its own neighborhood.

    “A foreign policy that rests on desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux can lead only to a continuing succession of failures. Should Trump’s many adversaries in Washington prevail in instigating a military confrontation with Iran, the current crisis in the Persian Gulf will take its place among these. The outcome here may be evident in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.

    “Finally, there is the question of Washington’s increasing isolation. During the postwar decades the U.S. was ‘alone in the world’ — the phrase of the Italian journalist Luigi Barzini — by virtue of its unchallenged dominance. For better or worse, America led. This has turned upside down since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: The U.S. is now ever more alone because it repeatedly flinches from the 21st century, effectively refusing to accept that the 20th has passed.

    “There has yet to be an open breach between the U.S. and its postwar allies. But it is not difficult to imagine that one lies out in the middle distance — an eventuality that was unthinkable even a decade or so ago. The now-evident trans-Atlantic rift worsened steadily after the Obama administration force-marched the Continent to conform to the sanctions it imposed on Russia after the U.S.–cultivated coup in Ukraine five years ago. Trump widened it very dramatically when he withdrew last year from the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs.

    “It is lost on no one in Europe that the current crisis in the Persian Gulf is the direct outcome —and maybe the intended outcome — of that reckless decision. Should Washington’s hawkish factions persist in their transparent efforts to provoke a military conflict with Iran, the risk of a break straight down the middle of the Western alliance will draw all the nearer.

    “The U.S. remains beyond question the world’s most powerful nation, as is frequently remarked. But hard power is losing its agency: This is among the principal features of our new century. It is important now to distinguish between strong nations and the merely powerful. Most of what the U.S. does abroad has come to demonstrate the opposite of its intent. America is emerging as a powerful but weak nation, its leadership divided and unable to rethink its global position. And a loss of strength is the very essence of a nation in decline.”

    Patrick Lawrence: A correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune.

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