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But, a new report by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, an organization that investigates and sharply criticizes many self-described human rights groups as thinly disguised anti-Israel outfits, suggests there is no reason to celebrate.
I spoke by phone today with NGO Monitor's president, Gerald Steinberg. He makes the case that NGOs funded in large part by European governments and the EU have hijacked the rhetoric and legal framework of international human rights to "launch political warfare against Israel but also against democracies more broadly." NGO Monitor has released an updated monograph, "NGO 'Lawfare': Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict." By releasing the report to coincide with International Human Rights Day, Steinberg explains that NGO Monitor is trying to make the case that the "dominant actors who control a lot of the agenda" are some of the worst offenders and apologists for human rights abusers.
The report is exhaustive, and persuasive, documenting how NGOs employ human rights lingo (e.g. "disproportionate force") and international conferences, coordinate with the Arab League, and use the International Criminal Court and international legal principals, such as "universal jurisdiction," for a single purpose: to vilify the state of Israel and undermine its right of self-defense. We have seen such ludicrous abuses as the issuance of an arrest warrant by the ICC against Kamida chief and former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
One of the more egregious examples in the report demonstrates the link between European governments and Palestinian groups, which under the banner of "human rights" launch daily assaults on Israeli sovereignty. A press release from NGO Monitor announcing the new monograph described how the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) filed arrest warrants "in multiple countries against Israeli officials, primarily for 'war crimes' over the 2002 targeted killing of Hamas terrorist Salah Shehade'." The money for this, roughly $400,000, was provided in 2005 by the Dutch affiliate of Oxfam, which diverted European Union grant money for the "Abolition of the Death Penalty Project," a project supposedly intended to abolish the death penalty "in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, applied by the Palestinian National Authority via judicial death sentences and via extrajudicial executions." The money was actually used by PCHR to strategize with attorneys on its "war crimes" lawsuits.
NGO Monitor has repeatedly criticized the non-transparent funding and lack of oversight of NGO groups, and it has supported a bill in Israel's Knesset to require NGOs to disclose their foreign funding sources. Recently, NGO Monitor revealed that the anti-Israel propaganda website Electonic Intifada has been funded by the Dutch government, via the aid group Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation. Steinberg told the Jerusalem Post, "Based on our experience, we assume that the top Dutch government officials are completely unaware of the link between money given to ICCO for aid, and Electronic Intifada, a group whose rhetoric and activities undermine hopes for mutual understanding."