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BDS IN THE PEWS

 

 

 

February 2007 Digest (Vol. 5 No. 6)

February 19, 2007

 

Table of Contents:

Focus: Israeli Foreign Ministry protests UK Embassy funding of Israeli NGO study on the impact of the security barrier

NGO Activity in Brief

NGO Monitor Publications This Month

NGO Monitor in the Media 

Recommended Articles


 

FocusIsraeli Foreign Ministry protests UK Embassy funding of Israeli NGO study on the impact of the security barrier

Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights' stated mission is “to achieve the right to equality and social justice in matters of planning, development, and the allocation of land resources.” Its October 2006 study entitled “Between the fences: the enclaves that the separation barrier created” [translation], was funded by the British Embassy and the New Israel Fund.

Bimkom's report focuses on the hardships of livelihood and freedom of movement created by the security fence on Palestinian villages in the West Bank. Although it states that “Israel’s stated aim is to create a partition between the Israelis and the Palestinians and to prevent suicide bombers entering Israel”, it also accuses Israel of constructing the fence as a “land-grab” in order to annex settlements. The study uses the loaded Hebrew term for “obstacle” to describe the fence, rather than the neutral word for “fence.” The effect is to detract from security rationale for building the barrier, and focus exclusively on the impact on the Palestinians.  The report accuses the fence’s planners of paying little, if any, attention to the needs of the Palestinians, and states that “despite the fence’s dominance, both in the physical expanse and in the public consciousness, the security fence [obstacle], is only one layer in a whole system of measures that reduce the Palestinians’ freedom of movement” [translation].

The Israeli Foreign Ministry criticized the British Embassy’s financial support for Bimkom's agenda, stating that “it is interference by Britain in an internal Israeli matter. How would they react in London if our embassy was to fund research on a British organization that is trying to promote an agenda that is critical of [the government]? This is not acceptable in international relations.” 

See "British Embassy funding Israeli NGO study on impact of separation fence," Aluf Benn, Haaretz, February 6, 2007 and "Manipulating 'civil society,'" Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2007. Click here for more information on the UK's support for Palestinian and Israeli NGOs.

NGO Activity in Brief


B'Tselem strongly condemns Eilat suicide bombing; other NGOs remain silent.

B'Tselem condemned the January 29, 2007 Eilat suicide attack, where 3 civilians were killed, as a "grave breach of international humanitarian law and a war crime."  The NGO emphasized its opposition to the bombing, stating that it "undermine[s] all rules of morality and law" and that "whatever the circumstances, such acts are unjustifiable."

Other NGOs including HRW and Amnesty remained silent.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which claims to be "dedicated to protecting human rights", issued a press release on February 4, 2007 which condemned the internal clashes between Hamas and Fatah and "reminds [the Presidency and Palestinian government] that the Israeli occupation is the only party that benefits from internal fighting." The release stresses the importance of ensuring “the safety of civilian lives, and protecting them from harm,”  but PCHR made no comment on the Eilat bombing, which was carried out by a Gaza resident. 

 

Oxfam denounces bank charges on aid money; proposes direct funding of PA as solution

Oxfam issued a February 7, 2007 press release criticizing the more than 1million Euros per month of bank charges that erode European aid to the Palestinians. Oxfam’s Director, Barbara Stocking stated that "our aid is being delivered through a complex mechanism that is causing irreparable damage to essential services for Palestinian people." At the same time, in repeating Oxfam's call to "resume direct funding of the Palestinian Authority," she again ignored Hamas' refusal to renounce violence and the link between violence and the Palestinian economic situation."

In a February 10, 2007 letter to The Guardian, Oxfam GB's Middle East Director, reinforced this point.  He stated that “the Quartet needs to support [the Mecca Agreement] swiftly, decisively and wholeheartedly by ending its aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority. Since the aid boycott and Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax and customs payments, poverty has spiraled out of control”. Leach omits key causes of Palestinian poverty – internal corruption and diversion of aid to terrorism.  As Gerald Steinberg’s February 14, 2007 reply states, “Powerful charities such as Oxfam should focus on humanitarian aid, not produce simplistic political statements. Adam Leach may be well intentioned, but he presents a highly distorted and patronizing view of the causes of Palestinian suffering and the absence of peace .

Oxfam's political activities this month also included a February 5, 2007 joint report that lobbies against a military strike on Iran, and urges the UK government to "push for further development of a 'grand bargain' in which the EU offer of June 2006 is developed further to include security guarantees between Israel, Iran and the US." No evidence is presented to support claims that this approach is realistic, and such political pronouncements are outside of Oxfam's competence.

 

Analysis of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reports on Columbia – "distorted portrayal"

A February 1, 2007 report published by Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway, University of London in conjunction with members of the Conflict Analysis Resource Center (CERAC) analyzed Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s portrayal of the conflict in Colombia, 1998 – 2004. 

This academic study cites NGO Monitor's research on HRW's publications on the Middle East between 2004 and 2006.  The authors present a detailed methodology that shows that “both organizations have substantive problems in their handling of quantitative information. Problems include failure to specify sources, unclear definitions, an erratic reporting template and a distorted portrayal of conflict dynamics.”  Spagat concludes that it is "best to view AI and HRW as governmental watchdogs, applying human rights pressure mainly to the actors who are most likely to respond to it."

 

UK Conservative Councilor condemns Christian Aid's "muddled venture into politics"; CA calls on international community to back Palestinian "Unity Government"

In a press release of February 9, 2007, Christian Aid (CA) called on the international community to "back the Fatah-Hamas unity government and to “end the isolation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that has exacerbated poverty and insecurity.” CA also expressed support for the International Development Committee's January 2007 report. (The report reflected significant reliance on biased NGO submissions, included questionable factual claims and gave a distorted analysis of the obstacles and challenges to Palestinian development.)

In parallel, criticism of CA's biased and highly politicized agenda increased, reflecting NGO Monitor's reports. In a February 9, 2007 Social Affairs Unit blog posting, journalist and UK Conservative Councilor, Harry Phibbs, criticized CA for its activities in Ethiopia and the Middle East:

"[M]ost charities involved in the developing countries do excellent work - but some prefer to spend their time on political campaigning instead of concentrating on charitable activity. Christian Aid are among the worst offenders… [Ethiopia] is not Christian Aid's only muddled venture into politics. For a balanced look at the Middle East don’t rely on them…. Christian Aid News selectively quotes from the Archbishop of Canterbury to show him criticizing Israel but cutting out his condemnation of Palestinian terrorism."

Amnesty Canada's concern over Egypt’s treatment of alleged Canadian spy. Amnesty USA continues disproportionate focus on Israeli defensive actions in Lebanon.

Amnesty International (AI) Canada expressed its concern over Egypt’s incarceration of Mohamed Essam Ghoneim El-Attar, arrested on charges of spying for Israel. In line with Amensty's stated goal to "build respect for human rights … around the world," Amnesty Spokesman, John Tackaberry, stated in a February 7, 2007 interview, "[t]he fact that this person instantly confessed to these actions causes us to pause and consider how the evidence was obtained."

In contrast, Amnesty USA continued its disproportionate focus on Israeli actions in the Lebanon war, with its January 29, 2007 press release (following an August 31, 2006 release on the same topic), calling on the "the Israeli government to hand over detailed maps and coordinates of cluster bomb strikes in southern Lebanon." AI also called on the US to fulfill its "moral obligation to demand that Israel hand over detailed maps, and all other information must be made available urgently to reduce the loss of lives and allow for all citizens to rebuild their lives". Using emotive language, and alluding to "possible war crimes," this is another example of Amnesty's political agenda.  NGO Monitor’s December 28, 2006 report illustrated Amnesty's highly flawed research and distortion of international law to undermine Israel's defensive actions in the Lebanon war.

 

Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) condemns the "Durban Strategy" tactics of its USA branch

A leading member of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) criticized members of RHR USA over their decision to honor the New-York based Center for Constitutional Rights(CCR) with the Raphael Lemkin Award “for its work combating purported torture and abuse of suspected terrorists held by the US authorities on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The CCR led legal actions against Avi Dichter, former director of Israel’s General Security Service and Moshe Ya alon, former IDF Chief of Staff for perpetrating war crimes.

RHR also protested the demolition of nine houses in East Jerusalem, but unlike ICAHD, does not use apartheid rhetoric or attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the State: "No one disputes that those homes were built against the law. The argument is over whether the law is fair."

 

‘Enough’, a new "anti-occupation" coalition of radical NGOs in the UK

Enough’, a new coalition consisting of UK based NGOs, charities, trade unions and religious groups, was formed on January 30, 2007, to call for "an end to the occupation" and "justice for the Palestinians." Members include Interpal, the Israel Committee against House Demolitions-UK (ICAHD), Jews for Justice for Palestinians, War on Want, Medical Aid for Palestinians and Pax Christi.

The coalition professes to “want peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike but at their launch rally on January 30, 2007, speakers called for sanctions against Israel, condemned the "collective punishment" of the Palestinian and erased the context of ongoing terror attacks. The ‘Enough’ website lists future activities such as a national rally on June 9, 2007 and the annual lobby of parliament on Palestine in November 2007.

 

US based "Scholars for Peace in the Middle East" Report on Western New York Peace Center's Role in Promoting Conflict

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East–Buffalo Chapter which describes itself as a “not-for-profit grassroots community of scholars” whose mission is to “develop effective responses to the ideological distortions, including anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist slanders, that poison debate and work against peace”, published a report on the Western New York Peace Center's virulently, sometimes militantly, anti-Israel views and their "ignoring the context of terrorist war against Israel," in addition to extending invitations to speakers whose promotion of a highly biased and distorted narrative does not contribute to peace.

 

South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) hosts PNGO members

The South African National NGO Coalition (Sangoco) hosted 5 members of the Steering Committee from the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) during February- March 2006. The purpose of the visit was to "take lessons from the South African struggle during the apartheid regime and how to constructively negotiate a peaceful, amicable agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis." Sangoco and PNGO were very active in the 2001 Durban conference and in promoting demonization of Israel, including the "apartheid" label. 

 

NGO sponsored Israeli Apartheid Week in New York City

Adalah-NY joined with the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (CJME), Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and others to host “Israeli Apartheid Week” in New York City, February 12- 18, 2007. The program aimed to strategize our role in visioning and implementing a just and equitable process for ending Israeli apartheid.    Activities included lectures on “Israel and the Apartheid Analogy” and Contesting Israeli Apartheid: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in Context .

 

BADIL, PNGO, Ittijah and others join a "United Palestinian delegation" to the World Social Forum in Nairobi

A united Palestinian NGO delegation including Badil, PNGO, Ittijah and others, attended the World Social Forum 2007 (WSF) in Nairobi between January 20 –25, 2007. The WSF was created as a forum for "cultural resistance and celebration" and to express opposition to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Badil's January 18, 2007 press release stated the aims of the delegation: to      “buil[d] the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it ends its apartheid-like regime of discrimination, occupation and colonization, and respects the right of Palestinian refugees….”  The delegation's "political statement" repeats the discredited accusations of "atrocities in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002."  (This statement was publicized by Alternatives (Canada), another example of its radical pro-Palestinian agenda, despite its claim to "promote justice and equality.")

 

Israel Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) invites former Pinochet judge to Israel

ICAHD  invited Judge Guzman, the judge who indicted Chile's Pinochet, to visit Israel during the week of February 7, 2007. ICAHD solicited his legal opinion, and that of others as it works to build an international legal case against Israelis involved in the demolition of Palestinian homes”. Guzman stated “that he had not formally agreed to work for ICAHD, nor was it clear to him that there was a basis for … a case." 

 

NGO Monitor Publications This Month

 

NGO Monitor in the Media 

  • "UK MP study opposes Hamas boycott", Jonny Paul, The Jerusalem Post, January 31, 2007
    • "Commenting on the report, Professor Gerald Steinberg, executive director of the NGO Monitor, said: "The report is more of an ideologically motivated attack on Israel that repeats tired slogans, rather than a serious analysis of the impact, if any, of massive British aid to the Palestinians. The text relies heavily on false allegations made by highly politicized NGOs, many of whom are funded by DFID, thereby undermining the objectivity and credibility of the committee´s investigation. For example, War on Want is quoted as calling for suspending Israel´s Association Agreement with the EU, using false human rights accusations in which the context of massive Palestinian terror is erased. Similarly, the report gives legitimacy to BADIL, an NGO that promotes extremist Palestinian refugee claims that extend the conflict and prevent compromise. And Christian Aid, whose campaigns with Sabeel promote boycotts, divestment and demonization, repeats the slogans that blame Israel for Palestinian poverty, ignoring the corruption and internal violence."

  • "U.S. court dismisses Palestinian suit", JTA, January 24, 2007
    • "A Texas federal court dismissed as frivolous a Palestinian group’s defamation suit against the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and other groups. Riad el-Solh Hamad, head of Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, filed suit in September against NGO Monitor, Frontpage Jerusalem, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and others. Hamad charged the organizations had defamed him, and violated his constitutional and civil rights by linking him and his charity in newspaper and Internet articles to Islamic terrorism."
  • Why are SDC activities in the Palestinian territories facing criticism again?" Valérie de Graffenried, Le Temps, January 17, 2007 (French). In response: "The SDC in Israel," Gerald Steinberg, Le Temps, January 23, 2007 (French and English), Gerald Steinberg, Le Temps, January 23, 2007

  • "Interview with Sarah Mandel on NGO Monitor's report on Norwegian Government NGO funding," (Norwegian) Avidar Norberg, Karmel February 01, 2007

  • “The Myth of Morality”, Michael Segal, The Harvard Crimson, February 6, 2007
    • "Africa is another success story, where for years massive human rights abuses went effectively unchallenged while the world arbitrarily decided to monitor other issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with eagle eyes. A bit of data from the [NGO Monitor] in Jerusalem: Between the years 2000 to 2003, Amnesty International released 52 reports on Sudan, where, even before Darfur, a heavily civilian-targeting civil war was killing hundreds of thousands. In the same interval, 190 were released about Israel."

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