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Open Letter: Palestinian, Israeli and International Human Rights NGOs Deplore Politically-Motivated Claims Aimed at Discrediting Human Rights Defenders

01-02-2010 00:00

1 February 2010 The Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy, a not-for-profit organization created by Canada's parliament in 1988 to encourage and support human rights around the world, recently voted, with substantial objection, to repudiate grants given to Al Haq and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, two well-known Palestinian human rights organizations located respectively in the West Bank and in Gaza The Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Rights and Democracy, Mr.
Aurel Braun, was quoted (in The Globe & Mail) as criticizing both organizations for being two 'of the most vitriolic anti-Israeli organizations' and for 'their accusations against Israel's human rights violations.
Further, the article reports that Braun had said that 'there is no way to ensure that some of the money given to groups in Gaza does not go to the banned terrorist organization Hamas'.
He also led a personal attack against Al Haq's executive director – the well-known human rights defender Mr.
Shawan Jabarin – for allegedly being an activist in a PLO faction (ibid).
These remarks made by the chairperson of Rights and Democracy are extremely grave as they seem to support the Israeli government's policy of silencing human rights' defenders.
In recent years, Israel's attempts to silence any voice of opposition regarding its human rights violation, have reached alarming levels.
In addition to arrests of activists and the closing down of organizations, Israel has also denied many human rights defenders the possibility of effectively advocating for human rights by the imposition of travel bans.
A new tactic used by Israel, supported by right-wing groups, is to go after the funders of human rights organizations.
In this context, it came as a shock to us – Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations – that instead of advocating for and defending human rights defenders, who work to counter Israeli violations of human rights and ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, the board of Rights & Democracy has instead chosen to join the side of the violator.
The undersigned organizations contend that labeling esteemed human rights organizations such as Al Haq and Al Mezan as 'questionable' under the aforementioned circumstances is to take sides with the violator.
It seems that the Board's decision to repudiate grants to Al Haq and Al Mezan, might well be because they have been doing their job too well, in particular their investigations of Israel's human rights violations during last winter's attack on Gaza.
Or perhaps, it could be due to Al Haq's exposure of and litigation against the involvement of Canadian businesses in such human rights violations in the West Bank.
Maybe it was this unexpected and apparently unwelcomed exposure that prompted Right and Democracy's recent misguided conduct.
The contention that Al Haq and Al Mezan are some “of the most vitriolic anti-Israeli organizations,” because they ‘accuse’ Israel of human rights violations on their websites is a distorted and misleading representation of the facts.
Al Mezan and Al-Haq carry out professional documentation of the human rights violations committed by all of the involved actors in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
Their documentation has been deemed reliable and precise by international bodies that apply the strictest relevant standards.
Without this proper documentation by them and other human rights NGOs, defending human rights is a mission impossible.
The two organizations receive support from a wide array of donors including governments and non-governmental contributors who are satisfied with their work and their management due to the transparency that each organization exhibits.
The public smear campaign initiated by the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy is intended to stop NGOs from doing their vital work of human rights monitoring and reporting.
It is equal to a call to cease altogether any meaningful promotion of respect and protection of human rights in the oPt, in clear contradiction to Canada’s declared interest in furtherance of universal values of human rights and the promotion of democracy.
In November 2009, the UN General Assembly reiterated its commitment to defend human rights defenders recognizing 'the substantial role that human rights defenders can play in supporting efforts to strengthen peace and development, through dialogue, openness, participation and justice, including by monitoring, reporting on and contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights.
' Israel, recognizing that same strong role, carries out deliberate policies and practices that directly or indirectly seek to suppress, obstruct and delegitimize human rights organizations in Israel and the oPt.
We denounce these policies and practices, and call on fellow human rights defenders around the world to also denounce them.
We also denounce Israeli travel bans on human rights activists operating in the oPt and Israel, and especially the blanket travel ban on Gaza human rights defenders.
While Israel is violating their rights, Rights and Democracy Board is trying to de-legitimize them, using the same rhetoric.
We demand that we be allowed to meet, to advocate, and to struggle for what we all hold dear: human rights and social justice.
Signatories: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Right in Israel Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association Ramallah, AL Dameer Association for Human Rights –Gaza AL-JANA - The Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts – Beirut, Lebanon Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic American Jews fr A Just Peace Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine The Association Swiss-Palestine ASP Association for the Support of Needy, Palestinian Children, Switzerland Association France-Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) Arab Association for Human Rights – HRA BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights Boston Coalition For Palestinians Rights (BCPR) Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) Defence for Children International - Palestine Section Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights Flemish Palestine Solidarity Committee Gaza Community Mental Health Programme Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement Group for Justice and Peace in Palestine (JPP) Switzerland Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) Institute for Policy Studies Washington DC USA International Jewish Anti-zionist Network (IJAN), France International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network The Israeli Association for the Palestinian Prisoners The International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) Jewish Voice for Peace, USA Labor for Palestine Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate Medico International Medico Swiss Mopat - Movement Palestine for All - Brazil The Netherlands Palestine Committee New York City Labor against the War Olive Oil Campaign Switzerland The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), UK Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People Palestine Think Tank STW (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign) Palestinian Workers Union –Greece The Peace People in Belfast Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-Israel) Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Right to Education Campaign - Birzeit Tlaxcala Translations Collective U.
Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israe Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) Women in Black Union Square in New York City Women in Black (Vienna) Women in Black, Maastricht, Netherlands   cc: Right & Democracy, Canada,  Fax: (514) 283-3792  

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