BDS IN THE PEWS
January 2006 Digest (Vol. 4 No. 5)
January 17, 2006
Table of Contents:
NGO News Updates:
NGO Monitor in the Media
NGO Monitor Reports Published this Month
NGO News Updates:
Human Rights Watch: Contrived "Balance"
Offsetting the overdue increase in reports on Arab and Iranian human rights violations, HRW's condemnations of continue, based on journalists' reports and unverified Palestinian claims. In December, HRW published a letter to President Bush on "Expanding Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories", and responded to an Israeli newspaper article on options in the face of Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza. Both denunciations were based on unverified media reports and false claims. While the revamped Middle East advisory board has expanded HRW's horizon beyond , it has not ended political abuses of human rights norms.
NGOs and UN Reform
The UN is a major source of funding for highly politicized NGOs. For example, the website for the Gaza section of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights includes the following information:
Assistance was provided to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) to support the establishment of a Women and Group Rights' Unit, …. OHCHR has supported a similar effort in the West Bank within the organization LAW. Assistance provided to al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, which focused on economic and social rights, to strengthen its fieldwork unit [sic]. OHCHR, Gaza is also assisting other non-governmental organizations to conduct work in the law reform area.
As NGO Monitor has shown, these and other NGOs supported by the OHCHR are active in the anti-Israel demonization campaigns and incitement.
NGOs Continue Divestment/Boycott Campaigns (“Durban” Strategy)
Update: Sabeel conferences promote Divestment
"CJPP answered the international call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions issued by more than 170 organisations of Palestinian civil society in July 2005.”
“Twenty Quebec organizations, including the Fédération des Femmes du Québec (FFQ) and the provincial union of CEGEP teachers, have endorsed a new campaign to boycott Israeli products and companies deemed to be supporting the Jewish state’s ‘apartheid politics.’”
”The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is troubled by the United Church of Christ's continuing partnership with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center"
Update: EU Funding for Political NGOs
”Radical European NGOs promote anti-Israel EU report on Jerusalem”, ECCP, December 21, 2005.
Issuing a joint statement, several NGOs, lead by Belgian Senator Pierre Galand “defied the refusal of EU Ministers to publish a report compiled by their own diplomats regarding Israeli violations of international law with regard to East Jerusalem”. The 30 NGOs supporting the statement also included BADIL, Friends of Sabeel UK; the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and War on Want.
French group announces conference in Jerusalem to promote NGO role, “solidarity”.
The Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem (CRFJ) announced a conference on April 24-25, 2006, for Israeli and Palestinian graduate and doctoral students. “Collective action is anchored in all kinds of solidarity, social and territorial roots, as it mobilizes diverse forms of action dependant on internal strategies as well as on political opportunities.” The conference will include sessions on “Israeli left wing organizations contesting the Israeli politics in the Palestinian Territories”, “The case of NGOs expertise against public policies” and “The judiciarisation of political claims among the Arab minority in ”. Additional information can be obtained from CRFJ’s Elisabeth Marteu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Submission to the British Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism (PCAA)
In response to a request by the PCAA for an independent analysis on British NGOs, NGO Monitor submitted a report. It covered British NGOs that are active in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including War on Want, Christian Aid (including links to UK Friends of Sabeel), and Amnesty International.
Click here to view submission.
Items of Interest
”There has been a steady outflow of pro-Palestinian NGO personnel from the Strip, some out of panic, some from a realization that the Palestinian revolution, so called, is animated by bloodlust. According to The Times of London, one British aid worker who was recently held hostage by gunmen for three days told her kidnappers, ‘I came to work with these people and I feel like I've been stabbed in the back.’ Is this the future of Palestine?”
Martin Peretz, “Mayhem in Gaza and the Future of Palestine: Warning Shots”, The New Republic, January 3, 2006
“Non-governmental organizations that justify their campaigns on the basis of moral claims have adopted this false morality. Amnesty International, which was founded during the Cold War to press tyrannical regimes to release political prisoners, has lost its way entirely.”
Gerald Steinberg, “Understanding when weakness is not a virtue”, The Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2006
“Normally, international aid reaches the Palestinians directly, but also through myriad international NGOs. … I found Ramallah was crawling with do-gooders of all nationalities. Being kind to Palestinians is now a big industry …The Palestinians are today the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world. According to the 2004 World Bank report, they are suffering ‘the worst economic depression in modern history’.”
Ghada Karmi, “With no Palestinian state in sight, aid becomes an adjunct to occupation”, The Guardian, December 31, 2005
As demonstrated by previous NGO Monitor analyses (“Asleep at the Wheel”, August 26, 2004), the NGO community has given the situation in Sudan relatively limited attention, compared to headline-generating areas. In “A failure of purpose”, which appeared in The Guardian on January 3, 2006, Jeevan Vasagar asks whether well-meaning western aid agencies are what Africa really needs. "Aid work in Africa often seems to be a story of misunderstandings and disappointments. What exactly are the NGOs trying to achieve? If the purpose of aid work is to diminish poverty, the past decade looks like a dramatic failure. … Ending poverty appears to have little to do with overseas aid or the activities of NGOs."
Gisha is an NGO focusing on issues related to freedom of movement for Palestinians. Their main tool in pursuing that goal is through legal channels (such as petitioning Israel’s Supreme Court), and in the process, downplay the context of terror. The resulting implication is that Israel is imposing restrictions on Palestinians without cause.
Past activities have included cooperation with other NGOs, such as Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. According to their website, they receive support from such sources as the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights at Yale Law School, the New Israel Fund, the Dorot Fellowship and the Center for the Legal Defence of the Individual (Jerusalem).
On December 27-30, Nonviolence International and the Holy Land Trust held a conference in Bethlehem entitled “Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance”. The conference included the involvement of such radical NGOs as Sabeel, ICAHD, ISM and CPT. The conference also featured a speech by Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who, according to reports, “did not shy away from directly linking human and animal suffering, and said that ‘to allow one form of violence to exist while asking for the eradication of the other is painfully hypocritical.’ … ‘Every day, millions of animals, who pledge allegiance to no flag, and who have done nothing to provoke aggression, are the victims of the longest running undeclared war in human history: the war on the animal nations’."
NGO Monitor in the Media
FrontPageMagazine.Com ran an interview with Gerald Steinberg (“Keeping an Eye on the Haters”) on January 5, 2006.
Prof. Steinberg explained how human rights organizations are often run by low-level political figures “who exploit the huge budgets provided to non-governmental organizations (particularly from Europe), they have access to PR and influence, without the burden of accountability.” He also cited glaring examples of NGOs exploiting human rights issues to demonize Israel, as Amnesty International did in its report on domestic violence in the Palestinian territories.
Prof. Steinberg also appeared as a guest on the BBC’s call-in talk show, Have Your Say, on the topic of Israel’s future in the post-Sharon era. Responding to callers accusing Sharon of various crimes against Palestinians, particularly in Lebanon, Dr. Steinberg clarified that Lebanese Christians, not Israelis, carried out massacres against Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shattila, and that Sharon learned his lessons from the Israel’s failures in Beirut. He also noted that the Palestinians have yet to accept Israel’s existence in the region. “Israeli society, especially under Ariel Sharon, has moved a long way from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. But the Palestinians are still stuck in 1947, and that means rejectionism,” he said.
NGO Monitor’s reports on Al Mezan Center for Human Rights appeared this month on the media-review weblog Mediacrity. In a post about British activist Kate Burton’s kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists (“Moonbat Gets a Taste of Terrorism”), the author points out that international volunteers come to Gaza to protect Palestinians but unwittingly end up serving the radical agendas promoted by “human rights” groups such as Al Mezan. The author argues that the mainstream media’s silence about the real intentions of many groups claiming to pursue human rights agendas contributes to the phenomenon, and backs his claims with quotes from NGO Monitor’s reports.
NGO Monitor’s recent reports on radical cleric Naim Ateek and Sabeel, the NGO he directs, also stimulated a response in a letter written by the chairman of Friends of Sabeel North America. Published on the website of Miftah, the letter addresses on-line critics of Sabeel as “pro-Israel apologists” – in an apparent refererence to NGO Monitor – who “willfully distort and twist the message of Sabeel.” The author defends Sabeel’s efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel through divestment campaigns and denies that Sabeel’s use of crucifixion imagery contains antisemitic overtones. He also follows Sabeel’s practice of ignoring any Palestinian responsibility in the conflict with Israel, placing all of the blame for “Palestinian suffering” on Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
NGO Monitor Reports Published this Month:
Update: UK Department for International Development (DFID)
Following NGO Monitor’s analysis of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), correspondence with the department has further clarified its role in the funding of Palestinian NGOs. The response from DFID highlights the conclusion of the earlier report - that although much of DFID money is spent on genuine humanitarian projects, significant funding has gone to highly politicized NGOs such as the Ramallah Centre for Human Rights, the Palestinian NGO Network and the Land Research Centre.
World Bank PNGO Project: Support for Social Services Diluted by Politicized “Portal”
The World Bank Palestinian NGO project (WB-PNGO) aims to support “the overall professional, and strategic development of the Palestinian NGO sector”. It has been relatively successful, compared to other funders. However, the NGO Portal funded by the World Bank is a notable exception, providing a platform for extremist political NGOs such as PCHR, Al Haq, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights and ARIJ; and has been as source of funding for Al Mezan, which was involved in its development. These organizations are exploiting the World Bank’s resources for external attacks against Israel, (including the use of terms such as “apartheid”) rather than focusing on internal development objectives.
NGO Monitor News Alert: Background Information on Al-Mezan
According to news reports, Kate Burton was working for the extremist Palestinian NGO known as al-Mezan, based in Gaza, when she was kidnapped with her parents by gunmen on December 28. NGO Monitor's profile of al-Mezan provides detailed information on its activities.
Click here for details
See also Ghada Karmi, “With no Palestinian state in sight, aid becomes an adjunct to occupation”, The Guardian, December 31, 2005
”The kidnapping of aid worker Kate Burton and her parents in Gaza this week is a sharp reminder of the political context of aid.”