Among the myriad problems in the security cabinet’s decision to “punish” the Palestinians for their diplomatic efforts to fight the occupation was one particularly dangerous and harsh element. Part 5 of the summary of the cabinet’s decision states: “Actions will be taken against organizations in Judea and Samaria that promote terror activities or any hostile activity, including diplomatic- judicial action against Israel in the guise of humanitarian activities.”
The significance of this decision is an official declaration of war on all Palestinian civil society groups fighting the Israeli occupation by peaceful means. No more legal squirming to find shaky evidence connecting Palestinian human rights groups to terror, as former Defense Minister Benny Gantz did with regard to the seven organizations that he recently outlawed in a decision that many countries still consider strange.
Instead of bothering to invent such indirect connections, the Israeli government simply declares in black and white that as far as it is concerned, all diplomatic and judicial action, that is, non-violent opposition, is fundamentally “hostile” and in the same bracket as terrorism.
In other words, to the Israel of today, Palestinian diplomatic activity is diplomatic terror, Palestinian court appeals are judicial terror, pro-Palestinian boycotts of goods are economic terror, a Palestinian demonstration is terror against public order, and a Palestinian protest song is musical incitement to terror.
Of course, the same goes for Palestinian democratic opposition at the ballot box. From Israel’s perspective, this is demographic terror. As playwright Hanoch Levin put it in “Security Instructions in the Occupied Territories”: “A man walking down the street glancing nervously from side to side and over his shoulder shall be suspected of being an Arab terrorist; a man walking down the street and looking calmly ahead of him shall be suspected of being a level-headed Arab terrorist.”
According to Israel, the Palestinian people have no legitimate or legal way to fight to achieve its national aspirations, because Israel isn’t really just fighting Arab terror, it is fighting the Palestinian national struggle – in any form it takes.
This decision is utterly absurd not only because it gives the same weight, legally and morally, to violent opposition and non-violent opposition (according to Israel, both are equally prohibited), but also because it empties the meaning out of the Israeli definition of terror.
When the world sees that Israel shutters Palestinian human rights groups charged with “hostile diplomatic activity” or “hostile judicial activity,” or organizations whose only sin is “humanitarian activity,” which to Israel is “in the guise of” general hostility – what will they think of the Israeli claim toward other organizations it will define as “terror organizations” over the years?
Israel erases the differences between these categories with its own two hands. In the case of the seven organizations that were recently outlawed, perhaps that was for the best. Israel is now helping the countries that donate to them belittle Israel’s definitions of terror and continue to contribute to them.
If the cabinet’s decision is to treat all Palestinian civil society groups as terror organizations (although it is not clear exactly what “actions” will be taken against them), this will be a major test for the human rights groups on the other side of the Green Line.
We need solidarity not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because the norms and practices of such persecution never stop in the territories; they always creep into Israel itself. Equating civil activities to terror will not stop with the Palestinians. It will trickle first to Palestinian organizations within Israel, and then, of course, to Jewish leftist groups.