At the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, Palestinian human rights organizations Al Haq and Addameer drew attention to the systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons “as part of its settler-colonial and apartheid regime against the people of Palestine”. Although Al-Haq and Addameer are meticulous in their work, it is extremely appalling that human rights organizations are trapped within the cycle of notifying international institutions of the violations resulting from their punishment. It is not as if the UNHRC is not committed to colonial violence.
The role of the human rights organization is much higher than its capacity, rather than being exploited. Palestinian human rights organizations are already working within a settler-colonial context and confronting colonial violence that directly targets them. In 2021, Israel designated six Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist organizations, including Al-Haq and Addameer. The move attracted international opposition, but it is worth asking why the international community considered it necessary to express its disagreement with Israel about the designation of human rights organizations, and remain silent on Israeli colonial violence against the people of Palestine? Israel’s security narrative does not distinguish between NGOs and Palestinian civilians, but the international community’s selective approach to human rights provides more evidence of how it has bent the Palestinians and NGOs into an unsustainable ally. Or, more precisely, a friend who only promotes international manipulation of the human rights discourse.
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Since the international community is too busy chartering Israel from impunity, even as the settler-colonial enterprise continues to expand the parameters for normalizing human rights violations, it stands to reason that priority will not be given to the consequences of colonial violence on Palestinians. On the other hand, the international community considers it important to maintain the appearance of a purported balance between ensuring that Israel remains unscathed, while maintaining its diplomatic discourse on human rights. The result is that Palestinian NGOs are enslaved into a system that pretends to support them, while ignoring the valuable work they do.
Thus, while international organizations distinguish between Palestinian rights organizations and the Palestinians, they place the former in repetitive situations where reports are welcomed and not matched by action to hold Israel accountable. To what extent, then, is raising awareness among intelligent international institutions a viable option?
Palestinians and Palestinian NGOs are living in a settler-colonial context. The human rights reports from Palestine presented by the United Nations and its affiliated institutions are contrary to the recognition that the root of the violations is settler colonialism and subsequent colonial violence. Therefore, the only part of Palestinian NGOs that is acceptable to international institutions is their adherence to formalities, which is related to the illusory state-building involved in the two-state compromise. The content of the reports themselves – even the work done by Palestinian NGOs – is of no concern to the international community. Only their participation in the network of colonialism has consequences for the international community, which is a great violation of human rights that no one talks about. Colonialism does not give the colonized any space to speak.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.