By Shawan Jabarin, General Director, Al-Haq
Yesterday, the Palestinian people joined the rest of humanity in welcoming a new year with optimism and hope. Many people, including myself, take this opportunity to make resolutions in the transition from the past to the future committing to eliminate previous bad habits in aspiring to lead better lives in the year to come. Unfortunately, those that seek to deny the rights of the Palestinian people to pursue better lives have chosen to continue their bad habits of trying to undermine the pursuit of those rights by attacking Palestinian civil society organizations, such as Al-Haq, through a strategy of convoluted claims and allegations that aim to instill doubt and fear into the minds of our supporters. Although I generally ignore this strategy, this year I have resolved to address it; even if only once, because I am sure that the absence of a response will be exploited by the so-calledMinistry of Strategic Affairs and its collaborators.
Before directly addressing the most recent developments, it is important to address the premise on which their strategy is built. That premise being, the human mind can be easily manipulated and exploited because most people do not take the time to question the information they are provided or lack the intellectual capacity to develop such questions, much less pursue the answers needed. In simpler terms, their strategy is built on ignorance. Of course, the reliance on ignorance to instill fear in order to achieve political objectives is nothing new in the history of humanity. I, however, build my response on a different premise; one that has faith in human intellectual capacity to see through the fog of misinformation in the pursuit of truth. It is the ignorance upon which their strategy is built that I write to resist.
The most recent tactic employed as part of their strategy involves discussions between Palestinian civil society and the EU around a newly added clause, commonly referred to as an anti-terrorism clause. The concern stems not from the terminology of the clause, rather from the potential politicization of the listing associated with the clause which could undermine the ability of Palestinian civil society organizations to engage with Palestinian society. I will now elaborate on this concern for those interested in the pursuit of truth.
First, can the use of the term terrorism be politicized? Of course. History is full of examples where the term is applied to one side or the other in situations of conflict, colonialism, apartheid or national liberation. What is less likely to be found in history are examples of a consensus on the proper application of the term. If politics did not play a role in the application of the term, then it would be more likely to find violent Israeli settler groups on such lists. Their inclusion, however, could cause problems in Israeli foreign relations, especially if members of those groups were elected to the Israeli Knesset, which could then have an impact on things such as cooperation agreements and investments in Israeli Bonds. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the British to come to terms with David Ben Gurion being named Israel’s first prime minister, after previously having listed him as wanted terrorist. Perhaps it is the fact his name adorns Lydda airport which inspires (or incites) those violent settler groups to act on the premise that the ends justify the means? In the context of an asymmetrical balance of power, however, such conjecture is not accepted equally.
Due to the inherent subjectivity in the utilization and application of the term, there will always be some disagreement. That is why we prefer to rely on the more objective use of international humanitarian law principles such as distinction and proportionality. In the context of a conflict situation such as ours, the need to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law by all actors, requires engagement with all actors. Considering the nature of the conflict and the duration of the occupation, during which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been directly subjected to the Israeli arbitraryjudicial, military and intelligence machinery, it is only logical that we raise our concerns with our partners when this clause was added.
The problem, however, is not with the fact that such discussions among partners have taken place; rather it is with how those discussions have been exploited to further the broader agenda of undermining the ability of Palestinian civil society to operate. It is no coincidence that such tactics are used on the heels of significant developments at the ICC, where Palestinian civil society has played an important role. That is why I do not want to take too much time in addressing these tactics and the distractions that come with them and instead continue to focus on the substance of our work. That being said, I do want to briefly address the more personal attacks directed against me and against Al-Haq.
As I have stated earlier, the premise of their strategy is built on ignorance. The inability to distinguish between the past and present, criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people and anti-Semitism, advocating for compliance with, and enforcement of, international law, consumer boycotts and right to call for them. Their tactic is to throw everything together in any engagement with the belief that people will simply begin to associate everything together as one whole because that is the easiest and least intellectually rigorous path to take. Again, I have faith that people will not simply take the path of least resistance and take the time to pursue the truth.
Now, let me address the elephant in the room. In the course of my life under occupation I share the distinction along with the hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians that have been subjected to the machinery of the Israeli occupation, including its arbitrary judicial system and the torture inherent within. That same judicial system also overturned a multi-year travel ban that was imposed upon me, to which many others are continuously subjected. For the past decade, every time I travel abroad, I go through Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian border controls on the way out and on the way back in. This is in addition to the visa requirements and border controls of other countries around the world. Considering the capacity of the Israeli occupation forces and its development at the expense of Palestinian rights over the years, if there was even the slightest amount of evidence to corroborate the allegations being made, there wouldn’t be a letter sent to the EU by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Instead there would be breach through my door in the middle of the night.
They know where I am day and night. But they do not care about me; they want Al-Haq to stop working for Palestinian rights, just like they want Palestinians to stop believing they have any rights at all. Anyone daring to challenge that view can expect to be in the crosshairs the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and its collaborators. My work is Al-Haq and Al-Haq’s work is the rule of law. We abide by the rule of law and can only ask that others do the same. Claims and accusations that aim to replace the rule of law undermine the system as a whole, if allowed to do so. It is only through the use of intellect in the pursuit of the truth can the rule of law system prevail. Otherwise, ignorance will triumph over intellect. That is what I write to resist.