Amnesty International’s UN “Justice Campaign” Against Israel
Lawfare Threats: Harassing Israeli Officials
HRW Update: Personnel Damage HRW’s Credibility
NGOs exploit UN Committee on Women to Attack Israel
Dutch Foreign Minister Rejects Funding for Electronic Intifada
Unsubstantiated NGO Claims on “Tear Gas” Death
Israeli NGO transparency bill becomes law
NGO Monitor vs. Breaking the silence
NGO Monitor in the Media

Amnesty International’s UN “Justice Campaign” Against Israel

As part of efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense operations and prosecute Israeli officials as “war criminals,” Amnesty International has launched a two-month “international justice campaign for Gaza conflict victims.” Amnesty has been lobbying the UN Human Rights Council, in advance of the March 23 session, to prepare a resolution that “condemns the inadequacies of the investigations conducted by Israel” into the Gaza war. 

This campaign is part of Amnesty’s anti-Israel lawfare agenda. Amnesty is pressing the UNHRC to refer Israel to the “International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor” and “to the UN General Assembly for action,” and calling on individual states to “investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the conflict before their national courts by exercising universal jurisdiction over crimes under international law.” Amnesty has also directly lobbied the ICC Prosecutor on this issue.

Amnesty also presented a petition of over 66,000 signatures to the UNHRC, reiterating the NGO’s demands and follows “public demonstrations and other campaigning activities [by Amnesty members] in at least 18 countries around the world to draw attention to the continuing lack of accountability for the crimes committed during the Gaza conflict.”

Lawfare Threats: Harassing Israeli Officials

Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu, the Israeli army spokesperson,  travelled to the UK under an assumed identity, citing concerns of protests and “well-funded anti-Israel activists [that] are exploiting universal jurisdiction powers to wage lawfare against us.”  British law allows private citizens to obtain arrest warrants directly from a judge, without the approval of a prosecutor.

Although the likelihood of a successful prosecution against Benayahu is negligible, his incognito trip reflects the real goal of anti-Israel lawfare: the harassment of senior Israeli officials.

Representatives of the British government have repeatedly promised to change the law to prevent abuse by NGOs and activists, and in December 2010 amendments to the existing law were introduced. However, a number of NGOs that are active in anti-Israel activism are campaigning to prevent the changes. Amnesty launched a “Priority Action” to “Save our War Crimes Legislation,” falsely claiming that the amendments “will hamper victims' attempts to bring private prosecutions through the British courts against perpetrators of torture and war crimes.” Similarly, officials from War on Want, ICAHD-UK, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Amos Trust, International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Pax Christi and others signed a letter published in the Guardian, alleging that the new law would “delay[] proceedings, allowing suspects to escape justice; and would constitute a gross interference with the rights of the victim and the responsibilities of the judiciary.”

HRW Update: Personnel Damage HRW’s Credibility

In the first two months of 2011, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) personnel continued to damage the NGO’s credibility regarding the Middle East, and reflected HRW’s moral decline. HRW appointed Shawan Jabarin, an alleged senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, to its Mideast Advisory Board. Jabarin also heads the NGO Al Haq  a leader in exploiting foreign courts to prosecute Israeli officials (“lawfare”). In response to criticism of HRW for this appointment, HRW Program Director Iain Levine falsely claimed that Jabarin “has been one of the leading Palestinian voices condemning...suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza.” In reality, Al Haq has failed to condemn terror attacks that target Israeli civilians. (See Prof. Gerald Steinberg’s op-ed in the Jewish Week [New York].)

Similarly, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Division has been widely criticized for her support for and praise of Seif al-Islam, the son of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. (“‘Human Rights Watch should have been keeping tabs on Libya’”, Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2011; “Giving Qaddafi the Benefit of the Doubt,” Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Feb. 28, 2011; “Middle East Experts Got Saif Qaddafi Exactly Backward, Didn’t They?” Omri Ceren, Commentary, Feb. 21, 2011.)  During a visit to Libya in 2009, Whitson claimed to have discovered a “Tripoli spring” led by al-Islam, praising him as a leading reformer and commending him for creating an “expanded space for discussion and debate.” Whitson only acknowledged the absence of human rights “reforms” in Libya in a Los Angeles Times op-ed (February 24, 2011), weeks after the rebellion against the regime had intensified and Qaddafi began murdering his own citizens. Seif al-Islam continues to be an integral part of the regime’s repression, appearing on state television to warn protesters that the regime would “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” (See: Human Rights Watch and the selling of Gaddafi, Gerald Steinberg and Anne Herzberg, Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2011)

NGOs exploit UN Committee on Women to Attack Israel

In another example of NGOs exploiting international platforms to advance anti-Israel political agendas, several NGOs filed a joint written submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which met to discuss Israel on January 18, 2011.

One of the NGO submissions, co-authored by Palestinian NGOs Badil, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, blames injustices suffered by Palestinian women on Israeli “apartheid” and “occupation.” Violence against Palestinian women is attributed solely to Israel’s security policies, rather than responsibility resting with the local authorities in the Palestinian Authority. (Read NGO Monitor’s submission to CEDAW for a more detailed critique of the NGO submissions.)

NGO Monitor published an op-ed on Moment Magazine’s blog, noting that “these NGOs demonstrate that the advancement of Palestinian and Israeli women’s rights is not their aim. Rather, they hijack an international platform and the rhetoric of human rights to demonize Israel, using Palestinian women as pawns to advance a singular political agenda. These groups have abandoned the women they purport to advocate for, and as such, have once again called into question the sincerity of their pursuit of universal human rights.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Rejects Funding for Electronic Intifada

In January 2011, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal called on ICCO (Dutch Inter-Church Development Organization) to “remedy” its funding for Electronic Intifada (EI). Minister Rosenthal stated that EI’s activities to be “directly contrary to Dutch Government policy,” and warned that ICCO’s Government funding could be in jeopardy: “There’s nothing wrong with holding critical views, but going directly against Government policy is something else.”

As NGO Monitor research revealed, the Dutch Government was indirectly funding EI,  providing ICCO with approximately 90% of its budget; ICCO in turn, transferred €150,000 of this funding to EI between 2006 and 2009. Although ICCO claimed that it stopped using public funds to support EI, Rosenthal “dismissed this argument as disingenuous.”

EI, which is headed by Ali Abunimah, accuses Israel of “apartheid” and “genocide,” employs Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric in reference to Israel and Israeli soldiers, and leads international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns.

In response to the criticism of the Dutch Foreign Minister, ICCO refused to end its funding for EI, claiming that BDS is the “ultimate form of peaceful resistance, the only leverage that the Palestinian people have left.” 

For more details, see: Dutch FM mulls slashing funding for anti-Israel charity, Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2011

Unsubstantiated NGO Claims on “Tear Gas” Death

Following the January 1, 2011 death of Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh after a protest near Bilin, NGOs immediately publicized claims, made without evidence or thorough investigation, that the cause of death was inhalation of tear gas fired by Israeli security forces.  The same day, Yesh Din released a statement, blaming Israel for the death: “The writing was on the wall. When the authorities in Israel do nothing to investigate the killings of protesters – more protesters are doomed to the same fate.” In a Twitter statement, also from January 1, Jessica Montell of B’Tselem asserted, “Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh died this morning after inhaling tear gas yesterday in Bil'in demonstration.” On January 2, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) attributed the death to “the use of massive amounts of gas [in an] irresponsible” manner. The same claims were made by Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Haq.

In contrast, an in-depth IDF investigation, issued two weeks later, determined that Abu-Rahmeh died as a result of faulty medical care in the hospital, not from tear gas inhalation. According to the Israeli army, doctors misdiagnosed the patient, and she “died from an overdose of Atropine administered at the hospital.” An IDF spokesperson stated, “it’s a pity that there were sources who took advantage of the incident in order to accuse the IDF without first examining the circumstances.”

In addition to the unsubstantiated claims, NGOs used the incident to demonize Israel and advance anti-Israel campaigns. International Solidarity Movement (ISM) called on companies to stop providing equipment that “Israel misuses to kill and maim unarmed protesters.” Similarly, PHR-I referred to Abu-Rahmeh’s death as “yet another harsh injustice of the Israeli occupation….”

Israeli NGO transparency bill becomes law

On February 21, the Knesset passed legislation requiring NGOs to issue quarterly reports about their foreign funding, and to disclose on their websites and advertisements when they are backed by foreign governments. The law’s genesis was the NGO Monitor Trojan Horse report on the impact of European governmental funding for Israeli NGOs. The report had noted that much of the funding for political lobbies that claim to be based in Israeli “civil society” comes from foreign sources – particularly the European Union and European governments – and by using the resources made available by these donors, the Israel-based NGO network is able to promote often fringe political ideologies, and to oppose the policies of the democratically elected government on many issues.

Following the passing of the legislation, Prof. Steinberg wrote in an Haaretz op-ed that, “When officials from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and another dozen nations use their ‘soft power’ to fund dozens of Israeli groups… whose officials travel the world declaring that Israel is a nation of war criminals, these groups are also promoting the interests of their sponsors.”

Additional media coverage of NGO Monitor research on this issue:

NGO Monitor vs. Breaking the silence

In December 2010, the NGO known as Breaking the Silence (BtS) published a 431-page compilation entitled Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier testimonies 2000-2010.It claims to counter the “official Israeli position” that IDF actions are defensive in nature: “The soldiers’ testimonies describe an offensive policy that includes annexation of territory, terrorizing and tightening the control over the civilian population.” These highly tendentious conclusions have been copied uncritically by media sources worldwide.

NGO Monitor released a critical review of the book, “Breaking what silence?”, which reveals systematic problems with the methodology and conclusions of BtS’ compilation. Contrary to Breaking the Silence’s self-perception as a beleaguered and oppressed group of Israeli dissidents, the NGO is free to publish its allegations without consequence or punishment. Journalists in Ha’aretz and from international papers frequently provide BtS with a platform.

BtS also receives extensive funding from European governments, enabling officials to artificially amplify their impact within Israel and speak and promote their ideology to international audiences. NGO Monitor also published a Hebrew op-ed, summarizing the research findings and analysis. 

NGO Monitor in the Media