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The Politics of NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israel Conflict

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[Abstract]

Terms such as “non-governmental organization” or “global civil society” are used to describe tens of thousands of groups, varying greatly in structure, objective, funding, impact, and other key aspects. The main influence of these organizations results from the application of “soft power” as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments”. NGOs are particularly influential on issues related to human rights and humanitarian aid. Their soft-power is based on the perception of technical expertise, combined with morality and normative goals, untainted by partisan politics or economic objectives, and projected through the media and other channels. Powerful NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Federation of Human Rights, work cooperatively in transnational advocacy networks, using the language and frameworks of human rights and humanitarian assistance, These organizations spread their views and campaigns via frameworks such as the UN Human Rights Council, in alliance with diplomats and political leaders from selected governments with similar objectives. Israeli policy has been a central focus of this NGO soft-power influence from the 2001 Durban NGO Forum through the UN Goldstone Commission on the Gaza war. The central role of NGO influence is reflected in the Goldstone Commission’s mandate, procedures, and reports, and the campaign to implement its recommendations. The article examines the influence of NGO activity in the political conflict, and on Israeli foreign and security policy in particular.

About the Author

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald Steinberg is founder and president of NGO Monitor and professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University. He is the founder of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University. His research focuses on the changing nature of power in international relations, as reflected in Middle East Diplomacy and Security, The Politics of Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Israeli Politics and Arms Control.