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Irish Congress of Trade Unions Condemn Israel's Treatment of Palestinian Civil Society Organisations

In a statement, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, known as Congress, joins with trade unions and other civil society organisations in strongly condemning 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 call 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. 

Irish Trade Union delegations routinely meet a number of these organisations, and a particularly strong relationship has been built up with DCI-P. Congress affiliates were very proud to sponsor a major conference on the planned traumatisation of Palestinian children in 2019  with a keynote speech by Khaled Quzmar the Director-General of DCI-P.

Khaled had travelled to the conference with a child ex-detainee and his father, who both delivered powerful testimonies to the suffering they endured under harsh Israeli occupation. This could not have happened if organisations like DCI-P were not working on the ground in Palestine to report on Israeli atrocities and to advocate for international intervention.

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.

While noting the statement by Minister Coveney on the matter, we believe that it is far from an adequate or appropriate response, particularly as the Irish government is directly involved in the funding of some of these organisations.

We believe that the imposition of sanctions by the Government is desirable and that within the EU the Irish government should be demanding the same triggering of sanctions as has been used - - often with great speed - against numerous other countries. As well as publicly opposing this draconian measure, the Government should demand that Israel reverses it and further 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.

Finally, we request the Irish Government to urge the European Union and its member states who are key supporters of and donors to Palestinian civil society, to ensure that banks and financial institutions in their jurisdiction are notified that Israel’s designation of Palestinian organizations is unfounded and inapplicable.


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