Attempts to delegitimize humanitarian and human rights organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have been on the rise in recent years and are being advanced by Israeli governmental and right-wing civil society groups, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory said in a report published on Wednesday, January 16.
This has a negative impact on the ability of these organizations to deliver assistance and advocate on behalf of Palestinian rights, the report said. The situation is further compounded by longstanding access restrictions imposed on humanitarian staff and operations, restrictive legislation and attacks on human rights defenders.
“The bulk of the de-legitimization attempts have been advanced by a network of Israeli civil society groups and some associated organizations elsewhere, with the apparent support of the Israeli government,” said OCHA. “Targeted defamation and smear campaigns allege violations of counter-terrorism legislation and international law, or political action against Israel.”
OCHA stressed that most of these allegations “are baseless or misrepresent and distort critical factual or legal elements.” It said humanitarian organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory “adhere strictly to the principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity, and implement rigorous UN, donor and internal standards to ensure compliance with these principles, and all relevant bodies of law.”
Accusations being made against humanitarian organizations operating in the occupied territories have resulted in a range of negative impacts, said the UN organization. These include the allocation of time and resources to address allegations; some donors defunding certain activities to avoid risks; impediments by Israeli banks to the transferring of funds and procedures to close down accounts; refusal of Israeli venues to host events involving certain NGOs; and the potential undermining of information disseminated by organizations whose reputation has been damaged.