If So, Benny Gantz, I’m a Proud Terrorist

Moria Shlomot
Moria Shlomot
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a Kahol Lavan meeting, earlier this month.
Moria Shlomot
Moria Shlomot

Like many people in Israel and abroad, and like the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, I was shocked by Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s declaration designating six Palestinian civil society NGOs– unquestionably human rights organizations – as terrorist organizations.

Among these “terrorist organizations,” according to the defense minister, are Al-Haq, an award-winning human rights organization with a high profile international reputation; the Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International, which protects the rights of Palestinian minors ; and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which defends Palestinian security prisoners and detainees held in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons and detention centers.

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I am glad to say that these important and valuable organizations have many supporters. I hope that many people feel, as I do, that this move was one step too far even for those who prefer to take a forgiving approach toward the actions of Israel’s new “government of change.”

I have firsthand knowledge of DCIP’s important and meaningful work, and especially its concern for the welfare of children who have been arrested by Israel, namely, representing them before the military prosecution, supporting them during legal proceedings, and providing direct and indirect aid after their release from detention in Israeli prisons.

That is why I believe that designating this almost-holy NGO as a terrorist organization is like declaring Israel’s National Council for the Child to be a branch of Al Qaida, or claiming that it’s dark outside at noon – an intolerable and unforgivable madness.

According to the small amount of disclosed materials on which the declaration relies in designating Defense for Children International-Palestine as a terrorist organization, it was argued that the organization leads the campaign to accuse Israel of mistreating detained Palestinian minors. Well, the fact is that Israel does mistreat detained Palestinian minors.

Thousands of Palestinian minors are detained every year using techniques and methods any one of which constitutes a fundamental violation of their rights (from breaking into their homes in the middle of the night to handcuffing them, blindfolding them, denying them legal advice before they are questioned and all the way to threats, humiliation and the use of violence during interrogations).

Yes, Israel abuses minors, their families and entire communities. If the person making this claim is a terrorist – then I am a proud terrorist. As part of our activity in Parents Against Child Detention we expose these practices so that every parent, every brother, sister, uncle or grandmother will know that this abuse is being carried out in all of our names, day after day and night after night, against many Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

We are familiar with the data and reports of DCIP, and we rely on them and on the reports of other organizations. We know and appreciate the work of the brave members of Defense for Children International-Palestine, support it, rely on the credible information published by it and hope that the organization will have access to numerous resources in order to further expand its activity.

To date we have not heard any details from the Defense Ministry of the concrete reasons for the dramatic announcement, which changes the face of reality in many ways. That’s why with sorrow and horror I’m relying on the press release of the contemptible organization NGO Monitor. According to their statement to the media, DCIP formulated and promoted draft bills introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, that call for “sanctioning U.S. military aid to Israel.”

McCollum has introduced legislation that would bar Israel’s security forces from using money from U.S. military aid to detain Palestinian children. It would not halt or reduce the aid, but rather promise to U.S. taxpayers that their taxes will not be used for activities that are prohibited by international law (Convention on the Rights of the Child) and Israeli law itself (Youth Law [Trial, Punishment and Treatment]).

We are living in an insane, upside-down world, if the terrorist is the one protecting the rights of children, working on their behalf and rescuing them from those who impose systematic political terror on them.

There is disrespect and undermining of the term “terror,” which characterize actions that arbitrarily harm innocent people in order to advance political agendas. More than that: There is real scorn here for the genuine struggle that must be adopted against terror of any kind.

Gantz’s declaration is like a prize to the actual terrorist organizations. It is a blow to the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence. If DCIP is a terrorist organization, what should we call armed militias that hurt children? What should we call organizations that deny children their rights and endanger their welfare and their safety? If DCIP is a terror organization, what should we call the Israel Defense Forces?

Moria Shlomot, a lawyer, is the executive director of Parents Against Child Detention.

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