On 15 April 2021, 16 Palestinian and regional civil society organisations sent a joint submission the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, highlighting Israel’s attacks against civil society organisations and human rights defenders, carried out between May 2020 and April 2021, for their work in the field of human rights, including with UN.
Addressing Israel’s systematic campaign of silencing, intimidation, harassment, and delegitimisation of human rights defenders, activists, and organisations seeking to challenge Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people and calling for justice and accountability under international law, the joint submission highlighted how Palestinian civil society organisations have continued to be the subject of an intensified online disinformation and smear campaign by Israel. This campaign, orchestrated predominantly through Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and government-affiliated organisations, aims at maintaining Israel’s regime of racial domination and oppression, including by creating a climate of fear and intimidation and preventing Palestinian human rights organisations from carrying out their advocacy work.
In particular, the joint submission highlighted smear-publications produced by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and its government-affiliated organisations, including NGO Monitor. The smear-publications, which include inflammatory, baseless, and false allegations of “ties to terrorism,” aim to silence Palestinian organisations, discredit their work, and thereby delegitimise and defund civil society organisations.
Finally, the joint submission offered the following recommendations:
- Examine Israel, as the Occupying Power, and its conduct, including through its Ministry of Strategic Affairs and government-affiliated organisations, in smearing human rights defenders and activists, restricting their work and the right to freedom of expression, and threatening their right to life, amongst other rights, both offline and online, including on social media platforms;
- Demand that Israel immediately cease all practices and policies intended to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, in violation of their right to freedom of expression, including through arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, institutionalised hate speech and incitement, residency revocation, deportations, and other coercive or punitive measures;
- Engage with online platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to ensure that posts containing death threats and misinformation about human rights defenders are removed, that their best efforts are taken to guarantee that their platforms are not employed in coordinated attacks within organised campaigns that aim at denigrating Palestinian human rights defenders, that they test their policies and procedures periodically to ensure that they do not discriminate against any person or group nor influenced by political whims and systematic incitement campaigns, and that Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms adhere to their human rights responsibilities; and
- Highlight the root causes underpinning Israel’s disinformation campaign and quashing of freedom of opinion and expression in the occupied Palestinian territory, and call for an immediate and unconditional lifting of the 13-year land, air and sea closure of the Gaza Strip, an end to the 53-year occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and an end to the 72-year apartheid over the Palestinian people as a whole on both sides of the Green Line, and as refugees and exiles abroad denied the right of return.