February 2006 Digest (Vol. 4 No. 6)
February 26, 2006
Table of Contents:
Feature NGO Monitor Publications this Month
Making an Impact: NGO Monitor crucial in AAUP decision to postpone Ford Foundation sponsored conference.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) postponed a conference sponsored by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations on academic boycotts and academic freedom, planned for February 13th to 17th in . The list of invited participants included many who are active in the boycott campaign and the wider effort to delegitimize the existence of Israel, in accordance with the Durban agenda. The Ford Foundation was widely criticized for its funding of many of the NGOs that fueled anti-Israel activity at the UN Durban Conference in 2001 and was quick to respond to critics who said that the AAUP conference promised to become an "academic Durban."
NGO Monitor has played a vital role in monitoring Ford since Durban, and influenced the recent decision. Editor Gerald Steinberg wrote directly to Ford's President Susan Berresford (read letter) and was interviewed in the Jerusalem Post:
"By inviting some of the most virulent supporters of boycotts and sanctions, the AAUP conference would have turned into another ideological effort to place Israel on trial," Prof. Steinberg told the Post.
"The contrast between the proclaimed objectives designed to explore the issue of academic freedom, and the preponderance of obsessive anti-Israel activists was untenable," Prof. Steinberg added. "To their credit, the funding agencies, including the Ford Foundation, recognized this contradiction and the dangers that the AAUP conference would have reiterated the slogans and NGO agenda of the 2001 Durban conference."
For More Information
NGOs and Breaking News
Europe intending to channel more funds to Palestinians via NGOs - Article: "Funding NGOs is no solution" (Op-ed, Gerald Steinberg).
The international community is debating how to continue to provide aid to Palestinian society in the wake of Hamas' election victory. European leaders recently announced that they will avoid giving money to those classified as terrorists, and will instead channel more funds via NGOs (link has expired). However, evidence shows that NGO partners must be picked carefully and continually monitored. USAID presents a good model of how to direct funds towards humanitarian needs and development, while generally avoiding NGOs involved in extremist political campaigning or incitement. Despite this, even USAID was found to be supporting the biased anti-Israeli political activities of ANERA, and funding its publications that erase the context of terrorism and promote the Palestinian narrative.
"NGOs in the region have become parties to the conflict, and not neutral engines of development and peacemakers If international donors want to provide humanitarian assistance they will have to develop their own organizations and monitoring systems, rather than using the existing network of NGOs.'" (from Gerald M. Steinberg, "Funding NGOs is no solution," The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 12, 2006)
Christian Aid and Sabeel promote Anglican vote on divestment.
On 6th February, the Church of England Synod voted for "morally responsible investment" in the "Palestinian occupied territories." Christian Aid's Chair, Bishop Gladwin has been extremely vocal in promoting and then defending this vote for divestment, which is part of an international campaign to delegitimize Israel. This campaign is being led by Sabeel, the extremist Palestinian NGO, and Gladwin is the patron of Sabeel's UK branch.
>>See "Churches debate pro-Palestinian divestment," Brian Murphy, MercuryNews.com. (link has expired)
Christian Aid is continuing to exploit humanitarian issues to attack Israel. Its activities this month have run counter to the spirit of cooperation expressed after the Charity's meeting with the UK Chief Rabbi in December 2005. Christian Aid's press release entitled "Aid cuts will hit Palestinians" on 3rd February 2006 claims that "Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories is the main cause of Palestinian poverty. While aid is a necessary lifeline for the Palestinians, it can only address the symptoms of the occupation rather than bring about a lasting solution to poverty." As in the past, the article lacks proportionality and universality; and there is no mention of terrorism or corruption in the PA or that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
NGO Activity in Focus
Sabeel continues to promote the Durban agenda.
Sabeel and the Joint Advocacy Initiative of theYMCA East Jerusalem (link has expired) and YWCA of Palestine will launch the World Council of Churches' "global advocacy week concerning the situation in Palestine and Israel." The Conference (12-19 March 2006) program is endorsed by a number of NGOs including Caritas Jerusalem and EAPPI, and includes "solidarity visits with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron," a "settlement tour with ICAHD" and an opportunity to "witnes[s] the destruction in Jenin Refugee Camp".
The campaign publicity flyer reflects the extreme political agenda of the conference. It includes two pictures of the " Nativity Church under attack", one with an Israeli tank in the foreground and the other with the church partly concealed by smoke. The flyer "appeals to the World's church leaders to pray and act to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians as a consequence of the extremely harsh measures and policies imposed by the Israeli occupying forces" and "urges all national leaders to take action and pressure Israel to abide by international humanitarian law." There is no mention of terrorism.
Sabeel is also sponsoring a conference in Pittsburgh on February 24th and 25th 2006. Entitled, "Towards a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel," co-sponsors include ICAHD-USA and the Middle East Peace Forum. Among the speakers are Naim Ateek (head of Sabeel) and Jeff Halper of ICAHD.
Sabeel and its connections with the UCC have recently been criticized in a letter sent to the President of the United Church of Christ by Dexter Van Zile, Christian Outreach Director of David Project Center for Jewish Leadership, Boston, Massachusetts .
"At this point, I feel compelled along with many others to ask that you rethink your unqualified support for Naim Ateek, founder and director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. His repeated use of deicide imagery is clearly intended to evoke feelings of contempt for Israel as a Jewish state. It is not, as he and his defenders assert, merely an attempt to portray Palestinian suffering in the "Language of the Cross." It is important to note these statements were offered at the height of the Second Intifada, which killed thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. The use of this imagery did not calm the flames of hostility and fear, but fueled them...
It should be noted that Ateek has, on numerous occasions, stated that he does not acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East and has even repeated the canard that Israel should have been created in Europe. Sadly, on this score, Ateek's words have been echoed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who you laudably condemned for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. This echo should be cause for concern amongst those who would defend Ateek and the group he leads as peacemakers."
NGO Activity in Brief
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International: Following a long-standing pattern, these NGO superpowers issued similar statements in response to the election of Hamas. In a press release on 31st January, Amnesty said that "the campaign of suicide bombings and deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians by Hamas and other armed groups constitutes crimes against humanity;" and a HRW release on January 30th stated that " attacks that intentionally kill and maim civilians are among the very worst kinds of crimes - war crimes and crimes against humanity."
While the belated inclusion of terrorism as a violation of human rights is a promising development, these NGOs continue to draw amoral equivalence between terrorism and its defense or feel the need to "balance" criticism of Palestinians with that of Israel. Amnesty referred to the "spiral of violence" and HRW closely followed its reports on Palestinian terrorism with a critical release on impunity in the IDF.
Adalah, along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and other bodies, petitioned the High Court to allow the unification of mixed families by granting of Israeli citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis. These NGOs have pressed this issue for some time, demanding that Israel remove the limits that are imposed by most democratic states in such cases, and also erasing the context of the ongoing conflict and terror. (See previous NGO Monitor reports) The current petition claimed that the policy is racist and discriminatory and cited human rights to support its case : "Personal freedom touches on the most basic of human rights: The right to love, to love and be loved by one's partner, to aspire to establish a home and a joint life without any institutional obstacles."
However Justice Mishael Cheshin disagreed:
"It's true that the Palestinians are not a hostile people. But are the State of Israel's defensive efforts against terror attacks, against lone individuals carrying out attacks not a sufficient enough reason to prevent their entry? No one is preventing them from building a family but they should live in Jenin instead of in [the Israeli Arab city of] Umm al-Fahm." (From Yuval Yoaz, "Judge: Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians can go live in Jenin," Haaretz, February 14, 2006. (link has expired))
Adalah's monthly newsletter also described its letter to "Deputy State Attorney demanding the opening of a criminal investigation against Israeli army commanders and soldiers responsible for the extensive home demolitions executed in the south of Gaza in May 2004 during "Operation Rainbow". Part of its submission was the HRW report "Razing Rafah,", which includes many claims that lack credibility . The letter accuses Israel of "grave breaches of international humanitarian law," and describes the "unrestrained destruction" of the military operation with no mention of terrorism.
Oxfam has joined forces with Israeli NGO Green Action promoting its Make Trade Fair campaign in israel and the Palestinian Territories. Green Action's "aim of promoting socio-ecological change through direct non-violent action, community service, and youth empowerment," is expressed in a number of its activities, including increasing awareness about the environmental effects of industrial and military activity. However, Green Action sometimes uses human rights rhetoric to give an unbalanced portrayal of the conflict and its victims. Fair trade partners are from areas where "the wide breach of Palestinian human rights is evident," they "suffer from the repercussions of the separation barrier, along with land theft, and the constant harassment of nearby settlers," and their products include olive oil and "za'ater made in Palestine." Green Action's funders include the Heinrich Boell Foundation (Germany), Oxfam GB and the New Israel Fund.
BADIL was admitted to consultative status with the Economic and Social Council at the UN on 24th January, following a failed effort in 2005. Badil was given "special status" while representatives of , US and France dissociated themselves from the decision because of the charity's position on "equating Zionism with racism", and how it "openly supported terrorism and glorified suicide bombers as martyrs."
See NGO Monitor's recent update on BADIL. [Note: As part of the UN reform process, the involvement of politicized NGOs such as Badil is being reviewed]
Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) held its seventh international conference in Washington, DC, on October 21-22, 2005, entitled "United by Faith for Action."
"While correctly pointing out the need to support fellow Christians in the Middle East, the conference leaders were either unable or unwilling to acknowledge Israel's need for security."
"the HCEF is a politically-driven body, defined as much by its opposition to the nation of Israel and the American "religious right" as it is by for its support of Palestinian Christians."
CBSP (Committee for Welfare and Aid to the Palestinians) is suing Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for defamation in a French court. Samuels allegedly said that CBSP "contributes to the financing of terrorism and participates in fund-raising for the families of Hamas suicide terrorists". The "United States State Department has classified CBSP as a terrorist organization, and frozen its assets [since] 22 August 2003."
Feature NGO Monitor Publications this Month
Letter to the United States State Department (and response) on use of NGOs in Human Rights reports, (with analysis of 2004 State Department report )
"Previous years' reports have included extensive quotes from NGOs that display a consistent anti-Israel political bias (in sharp contrast with the norms of universal human rights), publish claims that lack credibility, and ignore the complexities of human rights requirements in the context of mass terror..." (more)
Response from Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
Analysis of NGO Funding: The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA)
Additions to the Website
Details of Ford Foundation sponsored AAUP conference
Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)
NGO Monitor in the Media
NGO Monitor's reports and analysis contributed to the public debate on a range of issues this month, including academic boycotts, the US State Department's use of unreliable sources for reports on human rights, funding for the Palestinian government following Hamas' election victory, and anti-Semitism promoted by NGOs in Israel.
NGO Monitor's editor Gerald Steinberg chaired the "Academic Freedom and the Politics of Boycotts" conference at Bar Ilan University in January. In his presentation, Prof. Steinberg showed how politicized NGOs are leading the charge for boycott and divestment from Israel and remain unaccountable to the public-at-large. Other speakers at the conference included Alan Dershowitz, Anne Bayefsky, and Miriam Schlesinger, an Israeli academic who was removed from the editorial board of a journal as part of the academic boycott of Israel.
The Anglicans for Israel website published an article entitled, "Stop relying on Politicized NGOs, says NGO Monitor" about the US State Department's reliance on information from sources such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. "The State Department report refers to its NGO sources as 'reputable international organizations' and 'credible NGOs,'" the article states. "However, according to NGO Monitor, these NGOs have no independent research capabilities, provide insufficient documentation for independent verification, accept anecdotal claims from politically motivated groups or individuals, and discriminate between sources based on political agendas."
CAMERA, the Committee for Middle East Reporting in America, cited NGO Monitor's reports on Human Right Watch in its weblog, Snapshots. In an entry called, "HRW Relies on False, Unverified Media Accounts," the writer quotes NGO Monitor's Digest from January as the basis for its analysis of HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson's attacks on Israel.
The Israel Hasbara Committee quoted NGO Monitor's report on Sabeel in an abstract about Sabeel's role in Christian anti-Israel activism.
Finally, the pro-Israel Christian Attitudes blog quoted NGO Monitor's December submission to Britain's Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism in a (January 17th) post criticizing Christian Aid and Sabeel.