Founded by a group of attorneys in Gaza in 1993, the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights seeks “to ensure the development of the principles of internationally recognized human right[s] standards and values” on behalf of “vulnerable populations” in the Gaza Strip. Toward that end, the organization provides “legal services to [Palestinian] detainees inside Israeli jails,” and aims to defend their “rights” against “Israeli violations.” Further, Al-Dameer produces reports replete with charges of Israeli transgressions against the Palestinian people, including accounts of “arbitrary arrests”; violations of “international norms … on protecting civilians during war”; and the subjection of prison inmates to “physical and psychological torture.”
Depicting Israel’s targeted killings of known Palestinian terrorists as “war crimes,” Al-Dameer minimizes the role which such terrorists play in perpetuating the Mideast conflict. By Al-Dameer’s reckoning, because the “Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation to achieve their … right to self-determination,” it is thus illegitimate to apply the term “terrorism” to acts of Palestinian violence whose purpose is to thwart Israel’s “savagery” against “an unarmed occupied people.” Guided by this precept, Al-Dameer commonly eulogizes Palestinian extremists who are killed in IDF operations, as “martyrs.” In one noteworthy instance, the organization sympathetically portrayed former Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, who had been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in March 2004, as a “handicapped adult confined to a wheel chair.”
In 2004 Al-Dameer demanded the dispatch of an international force “to protect Palestinian civilians” from Israeli depredations. Further, the organization called for “the formation of a War Crimes Tribunal to bring to justice the [Israeli] perpetrators of these actions.” Indeed, many of Al-Dameer’s activities can be classified as “lawfare,” the exploitation of courts for politicized attacks against Israel.
In the aftermath of Israel’s military response to the June 2006 Hamas kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Al-Dameer joined several other NGOS — such as Al-Haq and the Al-Mezan Center — in issuing multiple joint statements condemning Israel’s actions. In none of those statements did Al-Dameer or its co-signatories criticize the Palestinians or call for Shalit’s release.
In September 2006, Al-Dameer condemned the closure of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt as a human-rights violation and a form of “collective punishment” against the Palestinians. Yet the organization said nothing of the fact that ever since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza a year earlier, Hamas had used the Rafah crossing to smuggle large quantities of weapons into the territory.
In April 2007, Al-Dameer and several other NGOs sent a “Joint Letter of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations” to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Omitting any mention of Palestinian terrorism, the letter condemned the “Israeli occupation [which] has severe and long-term repercussions on the human rights of every Palestinian, and by extension contributes to an escalation of the conflict with repercussions on the prospects for regional peace and security.”
In December 2008, while Israel was engaged in its “Operation Cast Lead” battle against Hamas, Al-Dameer collaborated with several other organizations to send, on behalf of “the Palestinian human rights community,” an “urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” by Israel. Accusing the Jewish state of “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” including the “willful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly,” the letter asked UNHRC to impose “collective measures against the Israeli Government.”
In 2009, Al-Dameer likewise issued a number of statements demanding the prosecution of “Israeli war criminals.” By contrast, according to NGO Monitor, the organization “has never issued calls to prosecute Palestinians, including Hamas, for directly targeting Israeli civilians.”
Al-Dameer blames Israel not only for its alleged military atrocities and human-rights abuses, but also for the Palestinians’ “poverty, poor environmental health conditions, low per-capita income, few formal employment opportunities, and extremely limited participation by women in the labor force.”
Al-Dameer is a member of the Palestinian NGO Network, which was instrumental in producing many of the preparatory documents for the Durban 2001 Conference Against Racism, including the document calling for embargoes against Israel. The organization receives funding from individuals, local donors, and international institutions. Among its more prominent supporters are the United Nations Development Program, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Christian Aid, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Ford Foundation.
For additional information on Al-Dameer, click here.
Parts of this profile are adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.