The ABA schools Israel on international law regarding the military’s decision to silence widely respected Palestinian voices by calling them ‘terrorist’
Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners rights group designated “terrorist” by the Israeli government. Francis is pictured in her office in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. December 2021. (Photo: Yumna Patel)
In what must have come as a surprise to Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the American Bar Association (ABA) has now weighed in on Israel’s designation last year of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist.” On behalf of the ABA, its president, Reginald M. Turner, wrote in a letter to the prime minister dated April 22, “We request that you review the concerns some in the international community have expressed questioning whether the procedures utilized [in making this designation] inappropriately deprive persons or organizations of their rights.”
The American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary association of attorneys
and legal professionals, “committed to… advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world,” according to its website.
In the ABA’s letter to Bennett, Turner wrote, “Advancing the rule of law is one of the ABA’s four goals, the objectives of which include working for just laws, including human rights and a fair legal process; assuring meaningful access to justice for all persons; preserving the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary; and holding governments accountable under law.”
The six targeted organizations are Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. As Turner wrote, “A number of organizations and officials have expressed concerns that these designations have been made on the basis of vague or uncorroborated allegations and target legitimate human rights activities.”
The ABA letter didn’t address the discovery that mobile phones of some of the Palestinian organization’ staff members had been previously hacked by sophisticated spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group, but a post on the European Union’s website cites a report by Front Line Defenders and charges that Israel’s designation was “premised on ‘secret evidence’ and information obtained using unlawful means… part of an ongoing institutionalised Israeli campaign of persecution and attacks to criminalise the organisations and cut off their sources of funding and support from the international community.”
Israel has provided no public evidence of its charges against the organizations, but has insisted that it has provided such evidence to the White House. When asked about the U.S. response to this attempt on Israel’s part to silence Palestinian human rights organizations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly equivocated, saying that the State Department is looking into the charges.
The letter calls attention to Israel’s biased court system. The American Bar Association has thus added another respected voice to the growing criticism of Israel’s apartheid laws, policies and practices and, by extension, to the silence of the U.S. State Department on this matter.
Reginald M. Turner Jr.,
While the ABA “takes no position on the ultimate culpability of the designated organizations,” Turner wrote, “procedural rights guaranteed under international law would suggest that authorities should disclose to those organizations or their counsel the evidence on which the allegations are based to permit them to prepare a proper legal defense.”