To: Secretary of State John Kerry
CC: Mr. Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
US Department of State
Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
US Department of State
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We call on the US State Department to make a public statement upholding the rights of peaceful Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders in accordance with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.
Recent threats against Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders have included such things as:
Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz’s calling for "targeted civil eliminations"of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leaders, specifically mentioning by name Boycott National Committee member Omar Barghouti.
Death threats against the Palestinian activist Emad abu-Shamsiyah,who filmed the March 2016 extrajudicial killing of a wounded Palestinian suspect Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif.
Ongoing attempts to shut down Breaking the Silence, an organization for Israeli veterans that publishes testimonies of Israeli soldiers who have witnessed war crimes.
These are not empty threats: there was an arson attack on the home of a key Palestinian witness in last year's Duma arson attack case, which killed a Palestinian mother and father and their 18-month old son.
The safety of witnesses, whistleblowers, and nonviolent activists must be protected, as well as the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Because Israel is the top recipient of US military assistance–– $3.1 billion dollars annually approved by the State Department–– it is incumbent upon the State Department to closely monitor and respond to the human rights situation in Israel/Palestine.
To this aim we call on the US State Department to make clear to its counterparts in Israel, in a written public statement, that the Obama Administration expects the Israeli government to preserve the safety and uphold the rights of Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders. Incitement to violence against human rights defenders must not be countenanced, whether coming from Israeli government officials or lawless right-wing settlers.