NGO Complains to OGP About Israel’s Behavior

2 September 2016

Israel is acting in ways contrary to the principles it endorsed when becoming a member of the Open Government Partnership, according to a nongovernmental organization, the Alternative Information Center (AIC).

After a month’s delay, the Open Government Partnership on Sept. 2 posted the four-page letter dated July 25.

The OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee met Sept. 1 and discussed the complaint letter. The usual first phase of the process is to conduct evaluation of the merits of the complaints by the OGP Support Unit with members of the subcommittee. The subcommittee decided to further discuss the issue during their Sept. 20 meeting in New York, an OGP official told FreedomInfo.org.

The AIC, based in Jerusalem, expressed concern that Israel is violating its commitment under the OGP Declaration to protect the ability of not-for-profit and civil society organizations to operate in ways consistent with the OGP commitment to freedom of expression, association and opinion.

The letter states:

“Specifically and in regard to the Alternative Information Center, Israel:

  1. Severely restricts the freedom of movement of AIC staff and members:
  2. Encourages action against “anti-Israeli” groups

According to the letter, “Palestinian staff and members of the AIC are thus not permitted by Israeli authorities to enter Israel while Israeli staff and members of the organisation are not permitted to enter Area A of the West Bank, where the majority of their Palestinian colleagues work. The AIC working methodology of joint Palestinian – Israeli work is thus effectively criminalised by Israeli authorities.”

The group said that its website had been hacked, stating, “While it is impossible to know who targeted the AIC’s website, Israeli politicians have acted to undermine organisations critical of Israeli policy, especially those supporting the BDS movement.” BDS is an acronym for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Later, the letter says: “Whether or not Israeli officials are behind attacks on human rights organizations, their rhetoric seems to be having the effect of riling up “pro-Israel” activists to intimidate on their own.”

letter endorsing the AIC complaint was filed by a South African group, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty.

Concerns Filed Under OGP Process

Since the OGP establishing its “response policy” in 2014 to handle objections about members’ behavior, particularly activities that restrict civic society, it has dealt with two complaints, about Azerbaijan and Hungary.

In May, the OGP Steering Committee voted 16-3 (with three abstentions) to make Azerbaijan an “inactive” member, agreeing with complaints that the government has created an environment inhospitable to civil society activity. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

In June, an OGP committee agreed with civil society complaints about Hungary, the OGP announced. The Criteria and Standards committee conducted a review of the evidence presented in the letter. The subcommittee adopted a report which found the concerns expressed in the letter to be relevant to the government of Hungary’s participation in OGP and to the text of the Open Government Declaration. The subcommittee drafted a document that outlines the actions to be taken by the government of Hungary to restore a positive operating environment for civil society. (See previous Freeedominfo.org report.)

The subcommittee is waiting for the formal response of the Hungarian government to the report, according to an OGP official. It is expected to be received in late September.

The OGP in the past has posted reply letters from the governments involved. The procedures call for  the OGP to request a reply letter if the subcommittee deems the complaints valid.

The OGP delayed the release of the AIC letter to allow the subcommittee to consider it, an official siad.

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