A number of prominent human-rights NGOs have been centrally involved in the campaign to delegitimize Israel's defensive security barrier designed to thwart Palestinian terror attacks. These NGOs, including HRW, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam, etc., were central players in the public relations effort linked to the UN General Assembly vote to request an "advisory opinion" on the barrier from the International Court of Justice. When the Court met in The Hague in February 2004, these NGOs issued one-sided and highly politicized press statements and reports.
Now that the ICJ majority, some of whose judges represent highly immoral regimes, has issued a highly politicized ruling, in stark contrast to the opinion of the Israeli Supreme Court, the anti-Israel demonization campaign is set to resume with full force. Pro-Palestinian governments have declared their intention to use this one-sided advisory opinion in the effort to impose economic sanctions on Israel through the United Nations. Terms such as "apartheid" and other terms of incitement will be used in the continuing effort to falsely compare Israel's response to war and terror to the White regime in South Africa.
The question facing these human rights NGOs is whether they will again march at the head of the anti-Israel campaign on this phase of the demonization process. Will NGOs like HRW, whose Middle East activists have a long history of extreme anti-Israel bias, Amnesty International, and Christian Aid again follow the UN/ICJ majority in denying the right of Israelis to prevent Palestinian terrorism? Will they continue to repeat the propaganda published by their local allies, such as Al Haq, Al Mezan, Adalah, PNGO, etc?
Based on the precedents, the chances for reform of the political agendas of these NGOs appear to be small. In October 2003, HRW distributed press releases and mass e-mails that included a call to the U.S. government to penalize Israel for constructing the separation barrier. HRW's statements on this issue parroted Palestinian claims that the barrier will impede "freedom of movement," endanger "access to food, water, education, and medical services," and appropriate land, without giving the Israeli rationale behind the barrier. And like Christian Aid and other leading anti-Israel NGOs, HRW provided little or no analysis of the Israeli security environment, the role of the Palestinian Authority in the failure of the Oslo process, and the strategic use of terrorism. HRW even ignored its own detailed study of Palestinian terror ("Erased in a Moment").
This pattern was repeated in February 23 2004, on the day after a Jerusalem bus bombing, when HRW issued a highly politicized and biased attack on Israel's policy of unilateral separation to coincide with the opening of the ICJ process. HRW endorsed the view that the hundreds of Israeli lives that have already been saved by the separation barrier are of lesser importance than reducing Palestinian inconvenience, and used sweeping and unsupported terms such as "indiscriminate punishment" and "arbitrary and excessive restrictions on the freedom of movement". This and other attacks on the Israel anti-terror barrier relied closely on local PLO-linked NGOs who united in "The Apartheid Wall Campaign". The result was a blatant political attack with no substantive merit, and, more importantly, another example of the exploitation of the human rights framework in the pursuit of hostile political agendas.
In a feature on its website (Why the Israeli 'barrier' is wrong), Christian Aid condemned the separation barrier on humanitarian grounds while failing to address the Palestinian terrorism. Amnesty International issued its own analysis in February 2004 as to the legality of the security barrier (The place of the fence / wall in international law). While briefly recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, Amnesty declared that the security barrier "violates international law and is contributing to grave human rights violations."
The NGO community, like much of the human rights framework, including the UN Human Rights Commission, has lost credibility through its political agenda and anti-Israel bias. This process was demonstrated at the Durban conference in September 2001, in which the NGOs and the UN bodies joined forces, and has continued without pause. By separating themselves from the politics of the ICJ and the demonization of the UN majority, these NGOs now have the opportunity to rededicate themselves to the norms of universal human rights that they claim to represent.