MESA Academic Freedom Award

Palestinian NGOs

2022 Recipient

MESA’s Academic Freedom award this year goes to six Palestinian research and human rights organizations: Addameer, al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

On 22 October 2021 Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced a move to classify these organizations under the rubric of terrorism.  The six organization filed an objection against this designation and the subsequent Israeli military order to shut down.
An international outcry ensued from a wide range of non-governmental organizations as well as from the governments of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden and from the EU.  However, on 17 August an Israeli government committee issued its final ruling ordering the immediate closure of three of the six groups.  In the early morning of 18 August 2022, Israeli forces raided and forcibly closed the premises of all these organizations.  

The studies and reports produced by these respected institutions are well-researched and carefully documented; for decades, scholars of and advocates for international human rights and of Palestinian affairs have depended upon these materials for their own work.

The criminalization and closure of these organizations represents a dangerous precedent in an ongoing Israeli campaign of intimidation, threats and violence against Palestinian students, scholars, researchers and institutions, by, in this case, targeting of human rights advocacy, documentation and research. This move also sends a clear message of intimidation aimed at terminating attempts by international colleagues to conduct research with these organizations or to utilize documentation developed by them. In so doing, it violates well-established principles of academic freedom.  

This criminalization of human rights work violates the rights enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. As a party to the UDHR and as a signatory of the ICESCR, Israel is obligated to uphold these conventions. 

Thus, in making this award, MESA adds it voice to those of more than 1,000 institutions around the world including labor unions, lawyers' unions and several other unions and institutions around the world in support of these Palestinian organizations, and in condemning the Israeli closure decision. 


MESA’s 2022 Academic Freedom Award Recipients

Addameer  – Founded in 1991, Addameer (Arabic for “conscience”) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.

Al-Haq — An independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization, Al-Haq is based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the organization has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Bisan Center for Research and Development —Established in 1989, Bisan Center for Research and Development is a non- governmental, nonprofit, democratic and progressive Palestinian civil society organization that works to support poor and marginalized Palestinians in their struggle to advance their socioeconomic rights in the context of national liberation, through the production and application of critical development knowledge, and the building of partnerships with progressive bodies and entities.

Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) — An independent, local Palestinian child rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 

Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — A progressive feminist community organization founded in 1980, the Union works to improve the status and empowerment of Palestinian women to ensure true equality between men and women and social justice for all groups of society.

Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) — Established in 1986 by a group of agronomists, the UAWC is one of the largest agricultural development institutions in Palestine. A progressive civil society organization, UAWC contributes to the agricultural sector’s development by empowering Palestinian farmers.

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