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November 2006 Digest (Vol. 5 No. 3)

November 09, 2006

 

Table of Contents:

Focus: Human Rights NGOs Neglect Hamas’ Use of Human Shields

NGO Activity in Brief

NGO Monitor Publications this Month

NGO Monitor Making an Impact


 

Focus: Human Rights NGOs Neglect Hamas’ Use of Human Shields

The Palestinian use of human shields to protect armed gunmen and rocket launching crews from Israeli responses is a widespread but largely unreported aspect of this conflict. On November 2, amidst the ongoing warfare in Gaza, armed Palestinians entered a mosque in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, to escape from IDF units. A standoff developed and on November 3, Hamas broadcast a radio appeal for women to go to the mosque and act as human shields for the gunmen. Hundreds of women then went to the mosque, providing cover for the gunmen to escape. At least two gunmen and two women acting as human shields were killed. Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister " saluted the women of Palestine ... who led the protest to break the siege of Beit Hanoun."

The use of human shields contravenes Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Convention, article 51 (7), which states that "the parties shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations."

Neither Human Rights Watch nor Amnesty International has commented on this abuse of international law, (as of November 8). Other international NGOs such as the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Christian Aid and Oxfam have also failed to comment on this use of human shields.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) which states that its goal is to "protect human rights and promote the rule of law in accordance with international standards," did not condemn Hamas' use of human-shields. Instead, PCHR accused Israel of conducting "state-sponsored terrorism" in its press release of November 4, called the IDF actions "collective punishment in violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention" and condemned the IDF for not using "proportional" force "against Palestinian resistance activists in civilian neighborhoods." The statement also misrepresented events of November 3 stating that "a group of about 300 women...organized a demonstration and headed to Beit Hanoun", implying that it was a spontaneous action not coordinated by Hamas.

Al Mezan, in a press release of November 5, also grossly misrepresented the incident and did not acknowledge that the people in the mosque were gunmen or that the women protesters had been coordinated by Hamas. The release stated that "after the IOF had rounded-up a group of Palestinians … a group of women walked toward the mosque … in an attempt to protect the besieged Palestinians [emphasis added]." Al Mezan went on to condemn Israel for its "grave breaches to international humanitarian law" and called for "international intervention."

 

NGO Activity in Brief:

 

NGOs Promote "Right of Return" at UNHCR Session

Human Rights Watch and BADIL, a radical Palestinian NGO promoting the claimed "right of return" for Palestinians, helped organize a "side-meeting" at the UNHCR’s Annual Consultation with NGOs, which took place on September 27-29 preceding the UNHCR’s 57th Session of the Executive Committee. The meeting was entitled " Palestinian Vulnerability to Forced Displacement" and discussed "the current situation of Palestinians and the appropriate response to their ongoing displacement." BADIL presented a report headlined " Displaced by the Wall." (BADIL recently received ECOSOC recognition in the UN, despite objections that this NGO was particularly divisive.) Campaigns promoting Palestinian claims regarding a "right of return" are widely viewed as designed to prevent a two-state agreement and a negotiated end to the conflict. See NGO Monitor's detailed report on this issue.

The " NGO Statement on International Protection", drafted by "a wide range of NGOs" was presented at the Executive Committee in October. The NGO participants in the UNHCR Executive Committee session included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, CARE International, CARITAS International, Oxfam International, BADIL and World Vision International, among others. The statement called on "all actors to redouble their efforts at addressing this [protection] gap for Palestinian refugees, beginning with their right of return in keeping with UN General Assembly Resolution 194, including the right to restitution and compensation."

The NGO Statement on the General Debate again promoted the "right of return" and "call[ed] upon the international community...to seek protection – particularly the implementation of the right of return, restitution, and compensation – and solutions on behalf of Palestinian IDPs inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory."

International Human Rights Group (FIDH) issues biased report on conflict

The International Federation for Human Rights ( FIDH), a France-based network, issued a twenty-nine page report on October 20 entitled "Failing the Palestinian State, Punishing its People," based on a visit to the PA sponsored by FIDH . The group met with highly politicized NGOs such as Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Al-Haq. Their report includes statements that lack credibility, such as the claim that the June 25 cross-border attack by Hamas in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was kidnapped, was in response to the Gaza beach explosion on June 9 (the cause of which remains unclear). This claim is not consistent with the fact that the tunnel used in the attack would have taken months to dig. The document also criticizes Israel’s suspension of the agreement to transfer Palestinian taxes, as well as the international community’s cessation of direct aid to the PA. The report neglects to mention the conditions set for resuming aid and blames Israel and the international community’s stance towards the Hamas government for inter-factional Palestinian violence.

Sizer (Sabeel U.K.) withdraws parish's funds over divestment rejection

Reverend Stephen Sizer, Vice Chair of Friends of Sabeel UK, has withdrawn £140,000 of his Parish's money from the Church of England's Central Board of Finance (CBF) investment account, in protest at the Church's decision against divestment. Sizer, who threatened this action in March 2006, as previously reported by NGO Monitor, accuses the Church of "profiting from the colonisation of Palestine." Sizer has referred to Israel as an "apartheid regime", is active in promoting the divestment campaign and is a proponent of replacement theology.


Sabeel Divestment Activities

Sabeel’s active promotion of anti-Israel divestment included a conference in Kansas City on October 21-22 attended by 336 people (according to Sabeel). After criticizing the Presbyterian Church for hosting the event, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle Editor, Rick Hellman was invited to the conference where he gave a workshop entitled "Disputation: A Zionist perspective on peace."

Human Rights Watch update: Reports on Hezbollah use of cluster bombs and human shields; and violence against Palestinian women.      

Human Rights Watch issued a three page report on October 19, which stated that Hezbollah had fired cluster munitions at Israel during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict of July/August this year. This came over 2 months after HRW published a 51 page report on "Israeli war crimes" in Lebanon. The report stated that "Hezbollah launched cluster attacks that were at best indiscriminate...At worst, Hezbollah deliberately attacked civilian areas with these weapons." The long publication delay was attributed to claims that the Israeli government had requested secrecy, but HRW’s evidence for this claim lacked credibility.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East Division Director, published an op-ed in Al-Sharq al-Awsat on October 5, in which HRW acknowledged that its numerous reports during the war were not correct. Whitson stated that Hezbollah was guilty of using human shields during the recent Israel-Lebanon war: "Human Rights Watch’s research found that on a number of occasions Hezbollah unjustifiably endangered Lebanese civilians by storing weapons in civilian homes, firing rockets from populated areas, and allowing its fighters to operate from civilian homes." This contradicts HRW statements such as by HRW’s Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert on July 31 where he claimed that "our investigations have not found evidence to support Israeli allegations that Hezbollah are intentionally endangering Lebanese civilians by systematically fighting from civilian positions." (see NGO Monitor report on NGO activities during the Lebanon war)

HRW also published a 101-page report on November 7 entitled "A Question of Security: Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls" detailing the PA’s failure to address this issue. Lucy Mair, the report’s co-author wrote "when confronted with cases of violence against women and girls, the Palestinian criminal justice system is more interested in avoiding public scandal than in seeing justice done." Unlike Amnesty's discredited report on Palestinian women, HRW's publication does not attribute these human rights violations to Israel, but explores Palestinian sociological and religious factors, as well as the political responsibility of the PA.

Al Mezan condemns killing of terrorists

In a press release of October 18, Al Mezan condemned Israeli army operations which resulted in the killing of three armed terrorists and a fourth individual whose status as a combatant or a non-combatant is unclear. The statement said that Israel’s actions were a "serious violations of human rights" and "constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law." The report did not mention anywhere that at least three of the dead were Hamas gunmen participating in violence at the time.

 


Adalah criticized by Israeli Attorney General

Adalah, a pressure group claiming to promote Arab rights in Israel, was criticized by Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz for statements on the police investigation of the deaths of thirteen Arab Israelis in the October 2000 riots. Adalah held a press conference on October 15 where it unveiled its 133 page report condemning the investigation. Mazuz stated that "you [Adalah] chose to hand over your own report in which you presented sharp and absolute facts and conclusions, … you held a press conference in which [speakers] made - in addition to legitimate criticism - harsh and unacceptable statements." Mazuz was referring to statements referring to the Israeli government as a "junta which proves each day that it is the most fascist and racist in history."
 

ANERA receives $2.2 million from USAID

American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), received $2.2million from USAID to expand an existing USAID/OFDA–funded food and relief supplies program in Lebanon. As reported by NGO Monitor , ANERA operates many valuable humanitarian aid programs but also engages in biased anti-Israeli political activities. Its publications erase the context of terrorism and promote the Palestinian narrative.

 

 

 

NGO Monitor Publications this Month

 

NGO Monitor Making an Impact

  • UK Parliamentary Select Committee on International Development discusses NGO Monitor's evidence on Christian Aid and UK funding for NGOs that work in Israel and with Palestinians." See recording at 1hr 2min 28 secs
  • NGO Monitor’s analysis of EU funding for politicized NGOs such as ICAHD, PCHR, and EMHRN was given to Javier Solana (responsible for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy) and members of his delegation during their visit to Israel on October 25.
  • Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor’s Research Director and Legal Advisor, was interviewed on bridgesforpeace.com radio on October 30.
  • Gerald Steinberg quoted in the Jerusalem Post in relation to Human Rights Watch’s report on Hezbollah’s use of cluster bombs, Jerusalem Post, "Report: Hizbullah Used Cluster Bombs", Hilary Leila Krieger, Oct. 19, 2006.


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