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October 2008 Digest (Vol. 7, No. 2)

November 06, 2008

Focus: Reports expose more questions on B´Tselem´s credibility

A series of reports by Yehonatan D´choach-Halevy have challenged the credibility of B´Tselem´s statistics regarding Palestinians killed by the Israeli army. According to his October 26, 2008 analysis, focusing on 2007 and based on a 67-page detailed research summary of B´Tselem´s list, the figures contain omissions, distortions and errors, including incomplete information on affiliation with terrorist organizations, participation in terrorist attacks, and other suspicious activities.

He also published a second report on 38 individuals that are listed as "Name unknown to B´Tselem," some even six years after their deaths. According to D´choach-Halevy, this belies B´Tselem´s claims of rigorous field research. In another report, he notes discrepancies and contradictions between testimonials taken from "witnesses" by B´Tselem, and versions of events published in newspapers and other media sources.

This follows CAMERA criticism of B´Tselem´s statistics as "deceptive" and "untrustworthy."


Durban 2009 NGO Update: Pressing for another disastrous NGO Forum

The second substantive Preparatory Session for the Durban Review Conference was held in Geneva from October 6-17, 2008. Government delegates and NGO representatives debated the draft outcome document, the possibility of another NGO Forum, and other issues.

A number of NGO officials spoke at the formal PrepCom sessions. Some, such as BADIL and the Paris-based Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP), continued the previous anti-Israel demonization. A group calling itself Independent Jewish Voices, which was not accredited but spoke in place of EAFORD, made the absurd claim that the first NGO Forum was not marked by antisemitism. In contrast, other NGOs, such as Magenta, Human Rights First, and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism provided a counterweight to these attacks.

The discussion of whether to hold an NGO Forum did not result in a decision on this issue. On October 14, 2008, NGO Monitor sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calling on him to "avoid providing official sponsorship or funding for another NGO Forum that is likely to be a venue used to promote hatred and antisemitism" and "would further undermine universal human rights principles in the framework of the 2009 Review Conference. " Similar letters were published by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee. At the Prepcom, unofficial meetings of a few NGOs promoting the Forum included antisemitic and anti-Israel attacks against Jewish representatives. Charles Graves (Interfaith International) chaired the meeting, repeating the myth that the 2001 NGO event was antisemitic. Claiming that the UN would provide them with facilities, they appointed regional coordinating committees to advance the prospects of an NGO Forum.


NGO Lawfare update: PCHR and Al-Haq

Following the publication of NGO Monitor´s monograph NGO "Lawfare" : Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, anti-Israel NGOs showed that they will continue to use the courts to pursue political and military objectives in Europe.

  • According to a news report, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) created a "diplomatic mess" between Israel and Spain after filing a June 2008 suit in the National Court of Spain against seven former senior Israeli military officials.  Using "war crimes" claims, PCHR focused on allegations related to a July 2002 IDF air strike against Sheik Salah Shehadah, a founder of Hamas´ military wing and a major terrorist. Similarly, in October 2008, PCHR joined Dutch lawyers to appeal the decision not to arrest Minister Ami Ayalon on arriving in the Netherlands in May 2008. PCHR pressured Dutch authorities for an "application for [Ayalon´s] arrest" for the alleged torture of a Palestinian prisoner in 1999 and 2000, when Ayalon was head of Israel´s General Security Service.
  • On October 21, 2008, a British appellate court heard arguments in a suit initiated by Al-Haq regarding "arms-related licensing agreements with Israel. " Moreover, on October 27, John Reynolds, who works for Al Haq, spoke at Harvard in support of a case filed in Quebec against corporations involved in housing construction in the West Bank. These cases are part of Al-Haq´s strategy of preparing "ready-to-be-used case files. . .to be activated in the courts of a number of third party states. " Al-Haq is funded by the Ford Foundation, Christian Aid, European governments, and others.
  • In October, Adalah, an Arab-Israeli NGO funded by the New Israel Fund (NIF), among others, publicized preparations for "lawfare" cases in Spain against Israeli police officers involved in the deaths of 13 Israeli-Arabs in the October 2000 riots "in solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada. " This follows the Israeli Attorney General´s decision not to indict the officers, citing evidentiary problems and "the fact that the incident involved the use of operational judgment in an emergency situation. "


Focus:  Spanish NGOs Join Palestinians and AIC in Boycott conference

On October 29-30, 2008, The Bilboa Initiative - a "civil society assembly" organized by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Ittijah, the Alternative Information Center (AIC), and MEWANDO (supported by the Basque government) - held a conference in Spain to discuss "effective coordination tool[s] for practical campaigning in solidarity for Palestine and for a just peace. " Speakers included representatives from: the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Coalition (PGAAWC), Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott to Israel (PACBI), Zochrot, AIC, BADIL, Addameer, and NIF-funded Ahali Center for Community Development (combined grants of $280,000 in 2006-7).  The agenda included implementing boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns; and lectures on "Israel: Between colonialism and institutionalized racism," and the "right of return. "

MEWANDO (Middle East Without Wars and Oppression Network) is a coalition of Spanish NGOs, which recognizes "the return of all [Palestinian] refugees" and "the liberation of all prisoners. "  It accuses Israel of a "Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing in Palestine [which] has evolved and perfected itself without interruption since 1948" and promotes the "boycott of the Israeli apartheid state. " MEWANDO is supported by the Department of Housing and Social Affairs of the Basque Government.


HRW representative laments UNHRC´s "disproportionate focus on Israel"

Human Rights Watch´s Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Nossel, in remarks about the need for the United States to join the UN Human Rights Council, noted the UNHRC´s "disproportionate focus on Israel and relative inattention to grave human rights abuses in Burma, Zimbabwe and elsewhere. " This deviates from HRW support for the HRC during its creation, and the comments from HRW representatives in June and July 2007 about the value of the Human Rights Council. Nossel´s statement also contrasts with the well-documented bias of HRW´s Middle East and North Africa Division, which hires employees with a history of pro-Palestinian campaigning and is itself guilty of double standards with respect to Israel. 

HRF publishes hate crime and antisemitism surveys

Human Rights First (HRF), a New York-based NGO, released its 2008 Hate Crime Survey "examining bias-driven violence in 2007 and 2008" throughout North America and Europe.  It concluded that "European and North American governments are failing to keep pace with a wave of violent hate crime that continues to rise across the region. "

HRF also published a survey of Antisemitic Violence, noting that "in 2007, overall levels of violent antisemitic attacks against persons increased in Canada, Germany, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom," but decreased in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States.


Amnesty-UK´s tendentious accusations against the Israeli army

Amnesty´s campaign to delegitimize Israeli defensive actions in Gaza is continuing. In an October 7, 2008 press release, Amnesty International-UK´s Director Kate Allen stated, "The shocking truth is that Israeli soldiers kill civilians in Gaza with near-total impunity, week in week out. " Yet, as even B´Tselem acknowledges, no Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli security forces in the months of August and September 2008. 

In the same statement, AIUK referred to the April 2008 accidental death of a Reuters´ cameraman during an IDF operation, claiming that he could be "clearly" identified as a non-combatant. As NGO Monitor has demonstrated, Amnesty´s comments on this incident reflect minimal research and the primacy of its political agenda: AI rejected the findings of the Israeli army investigation without having access to the complete report.


PCHR Exploits Human Rights

On October 21, 2008, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) - a major Gaza-based NGO whose funders include the EU, Christian Aid, Ireland, and Norway, and a leader of the NGO-lawfare movement - published a report entitled "Blood on Their Hands: Child Killings by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip. " The 64-page document claims that the Israeli army killed a number of children between June 2007 and July 2008. According to a PCHR press release, these deaths "are the direct result of IOF policy of targeting unarmed civilians in the OPT, and especially the Gaza Strip, as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians. "

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Marcus Sheff, Executive Director of the Israel Project, pointed to discrepancies between PCHR´s claims and B´Tselem´s statistics.  Sheff found that at least two of the "victims" were killed while participating in hostilities against Israel, and at least one of the "children" was 18 years old (given the credibility deficits in B´Tselem´s research, these are minimal figures). In the Al Jazeera report, a PCHR representative erased the context of terrorism and condemned Israel´s "patterns of deliberate killing and deliberate targeting of children. "


ACRI vs. Ittijah on Umm al-Fahm

On October 29, 2008, the Israeli High Court of Justice approved a Jewish march through the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm.  The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) "welcome[d]" the court´s decision, since "freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, and its most genuine test is in the facilitation of its most outrageous, extreme, and controversial forms. "  However Ittijah, a network of highly political Palestinian NGOs in Israel, released a statement condemning the High Court´s ruling as "it [serves as tacit] approval for the [raw] aggression and the ethnic cleansing movement that we saw in Acco [during the Yom Kippur riots]. " Ittijah also "called upon our nation´s public. . .to be on high alert for any aggression in al-Fahm, and to defend our existence in our homeland" (translations from the original Arabic).


NGO Monitor in the Media – Lawfare coverage

NGO Monitor´s publication and press conference - NGO "Lawfare" : Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict - generated considerable media attention.

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