July 2006 Digest (Vol.4 No.11)
July 17, 2006
Table of Contents:
Update - Gaza Crisis and NGO responses
Focus - The NGO Network and the UN Human Rights Council- "Business as Usual"
The inaugural session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), June 19 - 30, was marked by the same politicisation and selectivity that plagued its predecessor. The Council adopted only one country-specific resolution, condemning Israel for military action in Gaza. (In contrast, the humanitarian disaster and ethnic cleansing in Darfur was debated without such a resolution.) The resolution demanded an end to Israeli military operations in Gaza and resolved to "urgently dispatch the Special Rapporteur." The NGOs that supported the new council and attacked Israeli and American criticism of its inherent biases (as detailed by NGO Monitor) were also active in this session.
Amnesty International (AI) applauded the outcome of the first session of the Council, which, it said, "has laid important groundwork for a stronger and more effective" body. AI also welcomed the biased Special Session on Israeli military operations in Gaza Palestinian Territories and called on the Council to "commit to concrete action to address the serious violations of human rights taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."
World Vision International (WVI) submitted a statement to the Council blaming Israel for problems faced by Palestinian children, erasing intra-Palestinian violence and corruption as a causative factor. WVI statement also called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza, effectively calling on Israel to halt efforts aimed at freeing a kidnapped soldier.
Human Rights Watch issued a press release of June 30 praising the special session on Gaza but also "urged it [the Council] to look at international human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by Palestinian armed groups as well." HRW further called on the council to "avoid the selectivity that discredited its predecessor." Peggy Hicks, HRW global advocacy director said "the council's singling out the Occupied Palestinian Territories for special attention is a cause for concern...the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories deserves attention, but the new council must bring the same vigor to its consideration of other pressing situations."
UN Watch criticized the Council's exclusive focus on Israel in its first session. Hillel Neuer, UN Watch Director, said that Council members are "showing contempt for Mr. Annan's urgent plea to leave behind the discredited Commission's self-destructive obsession with bashing Israel, at the expense of urgent human rights situations affecting millions of victims in Darfur, China, Chechnya, and in so many other places across the globe."
Update - Gaza Crisis and NGO responses
Following NGO Monitor's previous report on denunciations of Israel's response to the June 25 abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit, additional NGOs have joined in the condemnations of Israeli policy. Following the Palestinian position, some seek to de-legitimize Israel's right to defend its citizens and free kidnapped soldiers.
HRW released two statements on July 6 that focused disproportionately on the Israeli response and understated Palestinian responsibility. Despite its "human rights" focus, HRW did not call for Corporal Shalit's release. HRW's written statement called for an "independent investigation" into Israel's actions in Gaza as well as Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
EMHRN, the Euro-Med Human Rights Network, which has a history of pro-Palestinian positions, also issued a press release on July 4 declaring that "attacks on civilians, Palestinian and Israeli, cannot be justified by any means" thereby creating a moral equivalence between aggressor and defender. EMHRN repeated the pseudo-legal rhetoric of other NGOs, calling Israel's actions "collective punishment" and claiming that strikes on infrastructure "cannot be classified as a legitimate military targets." EMHRN called on the EU to demand an end to Israeli military operations but failed to criticize the cross border attack which initiated the crisis. There is also no call for the release of the kidnapped soldier, although EMHRN calls for his humane treatment.
Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights NGO, issued a press statement on July 1 that affirmed the "Palestinians right to resist and confront the occupation" and called on "all members of Palestinian resistance movements" to act according to humanitarian law. Al Haq acknowledged the abduction of Corporal Shalit but did not call for his release. The statement demanded that "armed Palestinian activists" "avoid targeting civilians; military operations must be limited to military targets;" Al Haq makes no mention of the illegality of both the cross-border attack and the abduction of Shalit.
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), a human rights NGO, based in France sent an open letter to UN Security Council members calling for UN intervention and demanding that the Israeli government end its operation in Gaza. FIDH stated that Israeli army actions "constitute at the least war crimes, if not crimes against humanity" and called Israel's response "disproportionate" without defining what a proportionate response to Palestinian violence would be. FIDH selectively invoked a UN resolution regarding "deliberate targeting of civilians", and called on the Security Council to send an "international interposition force" to the region. FIDH did not acknowledge that the Palestinian attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing was illegal or that the abduction of Shalit also breached international law. FIDH did however call on the Palestinian Authority and the abductors to release Shalit.
Christian Aid issued another emotive news report on July 5 highlighting humanitarian problems of the population in Gaza but did not report on rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities, the abduction and murder of Israeli Eliyahu Asheri or the Palestinian failure to release Corporal Shalit. The release concludes by repeating the Swiss government's biased claim that "there was 'no doubt' Israel has not taken the necessary precautions required of it under international law to protect the Palestinian civilian population"; and the "Take Action" request is to "ask your MP to condemn attacks against Palestinian civilians."
On July 11, six Israel-based political NGOs (ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, HaMoked, B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha (the Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement) called on the Israeli government to keep open the crossings into Gaza for essential supplies. The NGOs termed Israel's current policies as "collective punishment" while ignoring the security threat at the Gaza crossings. The statement also did not mention the cause of the crisis or call on any Palestinian body to release Shalit. (Some of the NGOs have separately called for Shalit to be treated humanely.)
NGO Activity in Brief
Despite Sabeel pressure, Presbyterian Church reverses divestment policy
The Presbyterian Church USA held its 217th General Assembly (GA) on June 15-22. At the convention the GA effectively overturned the 2004 anti-Israel divestment resolution promoted by Sabeel." The Assembly also acknowledged the "hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion" that resulted from the action in 2004 and asked for "a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue." This reversal marks a significant setback in Sabeel's international drive for divestment.
"War on Want" steps up political campaign against Israel
War on Want (WoW), a highly political British charity noted for its denunciations of Israel, launched a fundraising campaign in June entitled " Together we can knock down Israel's Apartheid Wall." WoW condemned Israel's security barrier and declared that the "the Wall is not about Israeli security", ignoring evidence to the contrary.
WoW also stepped up its own disinvestment campaign, claiming that British supermarket chains such as Tescos and Sainsburys are "implicated in Israel's war crimes against the Palestinian people." Wow held a meeting on July 9 at Amnesty International's headquarters in London, entitled "Profiting from the occupation: A people's tribunal to expose the corporations behind Israel's occupation of Palestine." Speakers included Jeff Halper of ICHAD, a politicized NGO which receives funds from the EU, and Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and board member of MIFTAH. Reverend Stephen Sizer, a prominent member of Sabeel UK and a major divestment campaigner, also spoke.
WoW is being investigated by the Charity Commission for England and Wales following a complaint that this event contravened prohibitions on political campaigning.
Former Pink Floyd lead singer Roger Waters who has promoted WoW's campaign against Israel's security barrier, sprayed graffiti on a walled section of the barrier outside Abu Dis near Jerusalem during his visit to Israel.
FIDH (France) condemns Israel, promotes Hamas
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), based in France, completed a "Fact-finding Mission" in the Palestinian territories in conjunction with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. FIDH Secretary-General Olivier De Schutter headed the mission. Preliminary conclusions criticized Israel for withholding tax funds from the Hamas government, and erroneously described the cessation of aid by the U.S. and the EU as "economic sanctions."
Adalah fights for rights of arrested Hamas officials
Adalah, an Israeli-based NGO successfully petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to force the Israel Prison Service to grant three Hamas officials access to legal counsel. The detainees are suspected of violating the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance.
Badil calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel
Badil, an NGO promoting the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, issued a press release on June 6 supporting "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel." The statement said "just as in the case of Apartheid South Africa...a comprehensive regime of ... BDS against Israel is not only the most politically effective but also the most morally sound strategy for bringing about Israel's compliance with international law and universal principles of human rights." Badil has been funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and Oxfam.
B'Tselem tells "Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign" to remove it from their supporters list
On June 26, B'Tselem was informed that the Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign (BIG) listed it as a supporter of the boycott campaign. B'Tselem stated that it does not support such a campaign and that they would be writing to BIG to instruct them to remove B'Tselem's name from the list. B'Tselem is now no longer listed on the BIG website as a boycott supporter.
NGO Monitor Publications this Month
- NGOs' Political Biases Reflected in Reports on Gaza Violence, July 6, 2006
- NGO Political Agendas Distort Reports on Gaza Beach Incident, June 26, 2006
- NGO Update: Christian Aid: Continued Bias and Missing Context in Palestinian Agenda, July 13, 2006
Gerald Steinberg on the Durban Strategy (Yale Israel Review)
Clifford May criticizes the politicized selectivity of human rights organizations (Commentary)
Jeff Emmanuel notes the absence of criticism from human rights NGOs for Iraqi insurgents (Washington Times)
Anne Bayefsky condemns the new Human Rights Council's partisan first session (National Review Online)
Mark Tooley discusses divestment and Sabeel's role (American Spectator)
NGO Monitor in the Media
The European Jewish Press produced a feature focusing on EU funding to radical NGOs and NGO Monitor's role in bringing this to the attention of the European Parliament.
The Jerusalem Post wrote about NGO Monitor's conference, noting that several powerful NGOs, including Amnesty International, cancelled their participation in the conference. Amnesty spokesman Amnon Vidan claimed his NGO withdrew because "human rights NGOs were under-represented."
Steinberg and NGO Monitor's publication manager Alex Margolin responded to Vidan's comments in a letter to the Jerusalem Post. "Our responsibility is to offer them a place at the table. If they refuse, the failure is theirs" they said.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency also covered the conference, focusing on the session titled "NGOs and the Hamas Dilemma."