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May 2006 Digest (Vol. 4 No.9)

May 16, 2006

Table of Contents:

Feature: Research highlights Amnesty International's extremely disproportionate focus on Israel and the U.S.

International NGO Activity

NGOs at the UN and EU

NGOs continue to promote divestment

Political Activities of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs

NGO Monitor Publications this Month


Relevant Articles


NGO Monitor in the Media

 


 

Feature: Research highlights Amnesty International's extremely disproportionate focus on Israel and the U.S.

The Capital Research Center (CRC), based in Washington, D.C., and established in 1984 to study the advocacy activities of non-profit organizations, issued a report in May on Amnesty International (AI). The study argued that under the leadership of Secretary General Irene Khan, AI has adopted "double standards on human rights, a leftist political agenda, an unrealistic view on armed conflict, and propaganda against America and Israel."

The report also included statistical analysis of AI's published material from the beginning of 2005 to May 2006. CRC counted the number of news releases, reports, and urgent actions published by Amnesty International for selected countries and calculated the "reports per million citizens" for these countries. (This statistical approach is similar to the one developed and used in NGO Monitor's analysis of HRW's activities.) The results show that AI focused on the United States at twice the average global rate, and on par with Saudi Arabia. Israel is the subject of the greatest number of AI publications per million people with fifty-six times more reports per million than North Korea and twenty-five times more than Egypt.


International NGO Activity

NGOs condemn restrictions on funding for Hamas-led Palestinian Authority
Amnesty International USA, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Christian Aid and KAIROS joined other members of the NGO network in condemning U.S. and EU decisions to halt direct aid to the PA led by Hamas. See NGO Monitor's updated report.


Amnesty International USA accuses Israel of excessive force against Palestinian bomb maker

In a press statement released on April 11, Amnesty International USA (AI) called on Israel to end its "frequent, disproportionate and excessive use of force against Palestinians" and criticized Israel for the deaths of minors in recent operations in the Gaza strip. The press release cited the death of five-year old Bilal Abu al-Ein as an example of Israel's use of "excessive force", but failed to mention that the child's father, Eyad Abu Al-Ein, a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees (a terrorist group) and a bomb maker, brought his son and daughter to a terrorist camp to watch training exercises. Amnesty's statement asserted that the men were not involved in "armed confrontation" when they were killed, implying that the IDF strike was gratuitous. AI also termed these attacks "extra-judicial assassinations" - repeating political claims in the guise of international law.

Human Rights Watch criticize Hamas for defending terrorist attack of April 17
In a press statement released on April 21, Human Rights Watch said that by defending the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv of April 17, "the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority put itself on the wrong side of the most fundamental principle of international humanitarian law." Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, labeled the bombing an "atrocity", stated that it was Hamas' responsibility to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians and called on the Hamas government to "respect and enforce...the most elemental principle of international humanitarian law."

NGOs at the UN and EU

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch review human rights records of candidates for the new Human Rights Council - Founder of "Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize" nominated as expert for UNHRC
Amnesty International launched a webpage which provided a brief summary of the human rights credentials of candidates for the new Human Rights Council at the UN. The webpage was intended to enable the nations voting to evaluate the candidate countries' "contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights."

Human Rights Watch launched a similar webpage and stated that "member states should decline to support countries with poor human rights records." Ken Roth, executive director of HRW, said "it is up to U.N. members to exclude...abusive governments so that the council can be a real champion for human rights." Before the vote HRW recommended that Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia be rejected from the council. The election for the 47-member Council took place on May 9 and those elected to it include Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia. Kenneth Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch said "the new council has better tools and a better membership than the old commission." Critics of the new HRC framework argue that the support from HRW and Amnesty perpetuates the exploitation of human rights for political purposes.

Jean Zeigler has been nominated by Switzerland to be an expert for the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a section of the new Human Rights Council. Zeigler founded the "Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize", whose recipients include Roger Garaudy, a convicted French Holocaust denier. UN Watch and other NGOs criticized the nomination in a letter to the Swiss UN Mission in Geneva. Hillel Neuer of UN Watch said that the nomination "mocks the suffering of victims of the Libyan and Cuban regimes supported by Ziegler."


European Coalition for Israel calls for ending funding for NGOs promoting conflict
Dr Jürgen Bühler of the European Coalition for Israel addressed a conference on European funding for the Palestinian Authority in the European Parliament on May 3. He stated that "NGOs which are fuelling the conflict by promoting violence or by inflammatory speech should not be supported by the EU." Bühler also called for "strict monitoring of the civil society organizations which the EU is supporting to ensure that they fulfill the criteria for receiving funds."

NGOs continue to promote divestment 

Divestment Lobby Maintains Pressure on Church of England
Representatives of numerous NGO's, including War on Want, Friends of Sabeel UK, Interpal, ICAHD UK and Pax Christi as well as Reverend Stephen Sizer, wrote to the Church of England's Commissioners to reiterate their support for disinvestment from companies which do business with Israel. The letter was sent in anticipation of a meeting of the Commission's "Assets Committee", scheduled for May, which may make a final decision on disinvestment. War on Want coordinated the letter and signatories.

Sizer also sent a letter, dated April 7, to the secretary of the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) on behalf of the Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment (IMRI). The letter criticized the EIAG's decision not to sell the Church of England's investments in Caterpillar Inc. and said that through its refusal to divest, the Church of England "is condoning these [human rights] abuses and at worst is complicit."

Sizer, the Vice Chair of Friends of Sabeel UK, is active in coordinating the " Living Stones Network" which describes itself as "an informal network of friends and supporters of the indigenous Palestinian Christian community" in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The network draws its membership from organizations and individuals who subscribe to the agenda and narrative that Sizer and Sabeel disseminate which, among other policies, advocates disinvestment from Israel. Sizer also gave a presentation at the Friends of Sabeel UK's AGM on April 8. Reverend Sizer is a major proponent of replacement theology and calls Israel an "apartheid regime." He also has strong ties with the Bishop of Chelmsford John Gladwin, a patron of Friends of Sabeel UK and Chair of Christian Aid's Board of Trustees.


Political Activities of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs

PHR-I, B'Tselem and other NGOs petition Israeli High Court against IDF responses to missile launches from Gaza
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel , the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court and demanded that the IDF's decision to reduce the 'safety zone' for artillery fire on the Gaza Strip be cancelled. Their statements failed to acknowledge that terrorist groups exploit civilians as cover for launching attacks against Israel, or insist that the PA prevent such attacks.

See "Playing Russian Roulette with Human Rights" by Alex Margolin.

However, in April, B'Tselem released a press statement which strongly denounced the firing of Qassam rockets into Israeli towns by Palestinian terrorist groups. The statement described these acts as "war crimes" and criticized the Palestinian groups who fire the Qassam's for launching them from areas where civilians live.

PCHR terms Israeli strike against terrorists "crimes".
In a press release of 24 April, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) labeled the killing of al-Aqsa terrorists in Bethlehem "extra-judicial executions" and called terrorists "activists." In addition, PCHR's press release of April 27, condemned an IDF attack on Islamic Jihad terrorists who were on their way to launch Qassam rockets at Israel. PCHR called on the international community to "intervene to stop such crimes." PCHR has Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN and was given a grant of $370,000 by the Ford Foundation in 2005.

Miftah editorial accuses Israel of "state terrorism"
An editorial at the Miftah website dated April 20 described the suicide bomber who killed eleven people on April 17 as "innocent." The article stated that the bombing "took nine innocent Israeli lives and one innocent Palestinian life", described Israeli policy as "state terrorism" and called U.S. insistence on the PA to prevent terrorist attacks an "unachievable demand."

Badil to participate in the International Refugee Rights Conference
On 17-19 June the Canadian Council for Refugees will hold the International Refugee Rights Conference. Badil, an NGO which advocates the so-called "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel (as opposed to the West Bank or Gaza) will be running a workshop on Palestinian refugee rights at the conference.

Roger Waters changes concert venue after NGO pressure
Following pressure from numerous Palestinian and International NGOs, Roger Waters has changed the venue of his concert from Tel Aviv to the Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam "co-existence town "in Israel. Waters originally rejected pressure to cancel the concert completely as requested by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Waters has helped promote War on Want's campaign opposing the security barrier.

 

NGO Monitor Publications this Month

Relevant Articles

NGO Monitor in the Media

In the last month, NGO Monitor staff contributed opinion pieces on European funding, NGOs and UN reform, and the failure of human rights NGOs to show concern for Israeli civilians.

  • NGO Monitor Editor Gerald Steinberg wrote a column in the Jerusalem Post on April 20 criticizing the European Union for continuing to fund politicized NGOs such as Machsom Watch and the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions ( ICAHD). "If Europe's bureaucrats and politicians are truly interested in providing assistance to civil society in the framework of Israeli democracy, there are many more worthy and far less hostile causes to support," he wrote. A more detailed article on this topic also appeared in the European Jewish Press.
  • ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halper responded to Steinberg's column on April 25 in a letter to the Jerusalem Post, denying that his NGO demonizes Israel. "Durban, questions about Israeli policy, human rights - are these issues "radical" or "anti-Israel?" he asked. Steinberg answered, "Halper's letter simply provides additional evidence of the radical agenda that is entirely divorced from the substance of peace efforts and reconciliation."

  • Israel Kasnett, a senior researcher at NGO Monitor, wrote an op-ed entitled "UN reform requires NGO Reform", published on April 26 on Ynet, a website affiliated with the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot. He noted NGOs, together with human rights violators such as Libya and the Sudan supported the new council, knowing that their access to the council would remain unimpeded. He further argued that the UN should review the broad access of NGOs that are biased and misappropriate their funds for propaganda.
  • Finally, Alex Margolin, NGO Monitor's publications manager, wrote an op-ed on Israel Insider about how NGOs such as B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel claim to uphold universal values but consistently promote the Palestinian narrative and use their status to attack Israel.


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