Founded by a group of Palestinian lawyers in 1990, LAW was a Jerusalem-based NGO that identified itself as a “Palestinian human rights organization.” Its stated goals were to “promote human rights and further the principles of the rule of law, … to defend Palestinian rights in accordance with international human rights law and United Nations declarations, … [and to] protect human rights through an intensive program of documenting and following up abuses, and through providing legal and financial help to people in need.” The organization’s full name was The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment. The acronym LAW was derived from the name of its predecessor activist organization, Land And Water.
LAW organized workshops and conferences “in order to raise human rights awareness and to strengthen community involvement.” It also produced a journal so as “to participate in the building of a democratic civil society through bringing human rights issues to the attention of the Palestinian community.”
Politically and ideologically, LAW sided entirely with the Palestinian side in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was an active participant at the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001, playing a central role in the steering committee and pre-conference organizing. LAW press releases regularly depicted Israel as an oppressive nation that engaged in widespread human rights violations against Palestinians. For example, LAW referred to the security fence that Israel was building to prevent future terror attacks in the West Bank as an “apartheid wall” that “will restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, Palestinian livelihoods, and Palestinian access to land — a wall which divides upon ethnic, national, and religious identity.”
LAW also made frequent references to Israeli “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” accusing the Jewish state of engaging in “a policy to deliberately target civilians [via] indiscriminate attacks [that] cause excessive losses to civilians in deaths, injuries, and property.”
LAW was a signatory to a May 15, 2002 petition calling for the creation of a Friends of the Earth Palestine Campaign, to combat the alleged “environmental violations” of the Israeli army. The petition read, in part: “Often times, daily environmental violations such as massive land sweeping have reached proportions that equal decades of similar crimes. … We [Palestinians] continue to watch as our land and our future are destroyed, and we continue to engage the world—to demand for witnesses and voices—amidst our travesty.”
Following an independent audit, LAW’s executive director was accused in 2003 of embezzling millions of dollars from donor funds. In response, European governments and international foundations withdrew their support, and the NGO shuttered its operation.
Part of this profile is adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.