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December 2008 Digest (Vol. 7, No. 4)

January 06, 2009

NGOs Publish Flood of Condemnations on Gaza Fighting


Following the resumption of rocket attacks from Gaza and the Israeli military response beginning December 27, human rights and humanitarian NGOs have issued dozens of statements.  

  • Many reflect bias and double standards, which ignore or give little attention to Israeli human rights and casualties, and do not mention Hamas´ use of human shields.
  • Oxfam charges that "Israeli leaders . . . commit massive and disproportionate violence against Gazan civilians in violation of international law," and repeat the standard claim of "humanitarian catastrophe if Gaza is attacked."
  • Gisha and others exploit legal terminology, including terms such as "war crimes," "collective punishment," "indiscriminate attacks," and parrot the PLO "legal" opinion of 2005 , which claims that Israel still "occupies" Gaza, and is solely responsible for the welfare of the residents there.
  • Many NGOs use the fighting in Gaza to repeat calls for boycotts and sanctions as part of the Durban strategy. Miftah and Ittijah make claims of an Israeli "massacre," invoking the successful strategy used in 2002 in Jenin.
  • Many NGOs including Amnesty, PHR-I and PCHR, make unsupported factual claims, particularly on Palestinian casualty numbers.  Amnesty (and others´) claim that "civilians in Gaza are in increasingly dire need of food" is not supported by IDF reports that "the World Food Program …will not be resuming shipment of food commodities in to Gaza due to the fact that their warehouses are at full capacity."  

For NGO Monitor´s extensive coverage of the Gaza conflict, see "EU and NIF-funded NGOs Lead Condemnations in Gaza Conflict"

NGO Monitor´s Annual Conference

On December 9-10, 2008, NGO Monitor hosted its annual conference marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Genocide Convention.  Co-sponsored with Bar Ilan University´s Faculty of Law and Department of Political Studies, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs´ Global Law Forum and Legacy Heritage Fund, the conference brought together academics, ambassadors and experts in international relations, international law and human rights to analyze the impact of the UDHR and the role of the human rights movement today.  

The keynote address by Canada´s former Justice Minister and Attorney General Prof. Irwin Cotler focused on the international initiative to prosecute Iran’s President Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide. NGO Monitor Executive Director, Gerald Steinberg presented the results of NGO Monitor´s poll on attitudes to NGOs, politics, and human rights in Israel, including support for transparency on foreign government funding.

In sessions on December 10 at Bar Ilan University, academics and NGO officials examined the record of human rights implementation over the past 60 years, and the implications of this record.  Jessica Montell of B´Tselem joined a lively debate on one of the panels alongside Daniel Taub of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the role of B´Tselem and other NGOs was analyzed.       

For media coverage see:

Gisha Engages in Legal Acrobatics to Support its Gaza Position

At NGO Monitor´s December conference, Gisha´s Legal Advisor, Prof. Kenneth Mann, argued that debates on international law should take place among experts within the confines of court proceedings.  In sharp contrast, Gisha issued a twelve page "position paper" crafted as a pseudo-legal brief entitled, "Gaza Closure Defined: Collective Punishment, Position Paper on the International Law Definition of Israeli Restrictions," in December 2008.  In the pamphlet, Gisha continues to promote the false claims that Israel is responsible for "occupied" Gaza under international law; and that Israel is under a legal obligation to grant "freedom of movement" to Gaza residents. Its legal acrobatics also argue that responses to Hamas attacks aimed at civilians lack a "concrete military objective."  The organization discounts the tons of humanitarian aid provided by Israel to Gaza and ignores Israel´s legal obligations under international anti-terror treaties.  And bizarrely, several of the legal sources cited, when examined closely do not support Gisha’s claims.  A report issued by Israeli lawyers, Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell, details the fallacies in Gisha´s legal arguments.


Durban Review Update: NGOs lobby governments on participation in DRC; Palestinian NGOs endorse "Lawfare"

The "Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper Towards the UN Durban Review Conference" was published on November 28, 2008.  It accuses Israel of “apartheid, colonization and occupation” and identifies the Durban Review Conference (DRC) as the successor to the 2001 Conference, to promote the coordinated demonization of Israel.   The paper also calls on NGOs to "explore new legal strategies whereby Zionist organizations, foreign companies, and governments that collaborate with the Israel´s regime can be held accountable in court, including the European Human Rights Court."

In contrast, several NGOs issued statements arguing that the European Union, Australia and the United States should not attend the Durban Review Conference, while other NGOs have expressed the opposite view, encouraging these same countries to remain engaged in the Durban Review Process. Likewise, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published an article, accusing writers for the Wall Street Journal, The Australian, Forbes and New York Sun of "factual distortions," in order to erode the DRC´s legitimacy.

On December 16, 2008, the Dutch Foreign Minister announced that the Netherlands would boycott the DRC if it becomes a "propaganda circus," is "misused for attacks on Israel," and "degenerates, as the last one did, into an anti-Semitic witch-hunt." The Italian Parliament passed a resolution on December 4, acknowledging that Durban 2001 "used racism as a pretext for reviving a campaign of moral, political and religious lynching against the Jewish people and the State of Israel," and pledging to "exert the greatest vigilance and to concretely act so that the Conference will effectively aim at promoting the fight against racism and against every kind of discrimination, rather than being a fictitious stage for incitement to hatred towards specific people, states or ethnic and religious minorities."

See also:


EC celebrates (limited) transparency on NGO funding

Following NGO Monitor´s extensive reporting on EU NGO funding, on its website and in a YouTube video, the European Commission has announced that in 2008 "EU funding [became] more transparent" through the launch of the Financial Transparency System (FTS). This database, which the EC claims to provide "clear information on the use of EU funds," only accounts for the approximately 20% of the EU budget that is "managed by the Commission at a central level."  By the EC´s own admission, "[t]he vast majority of EU funds (almost 80%) are handled by the national administrations and the responsibility to publish the names of beneficiaries rests with them." Programs that finance politicized NGOs in Israel and the PA, including Partnerships for Peace (PfP – see NGO Monitor´s detailed report) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR -- which funds Adalah, Mossawa, PCATI, and others -- see NGO Monitor´s monograph Europe´s Hidden Hand) are apparently not covered by the FTS database.

The FTS lists 89 grants to Israel and 23 to the "Occupied Territories – Palestine." However, the system fails to provide any information about the titles, objectives, duration, and other specifics of the projects. Some of these details appear in a separate database for external aid, but the centralized FTS database does not identify which grants overlap between the two. Thus, while marking an improvement in transparency for NGO funding, the EC still has a long way to go to match its actions with its rhetoric.


NGOs protest Israel´s refusal to admit UN Rapporteur, Richard Falk

On December 15, 2008, the United Nation´s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, was denied entry into Israel and returned to Geneva. According to Israel´s Foreign Ministry, Falk was "not invited, nor would be welcome in Israel" because of the "particularly biased and distorted" mandate of the Special Rapporteur and "the highly politicized views of the rapporteur himself, in legitimizing Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust."
A number of highly politicized international and local NGOs condemned Israel for this policy. Human Rights Watch´s Joe Stork, who has a long history of anti-Israel bias, stated, "With this ill-considered action, Israel put itself in the company of countries like Burma and North Korea in denying entry to UN human rights experts," and B´Tselem executive director Jessica Montell called it "an act unbefitting of democracy." Adalah (funded by the EU and NIF) sent "an urgent letter" to Israeli officials "demanding that they lift the ban," and labeled the refusal "illegal." Al-Mezan (on ReliefWeb), Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (press release), and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (letter) also issued statements in protest.

See also "Double Standard Watch: Israel´s entry ban of Richard Falk," Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem Post Blog, December 21, 2008


War on Want and Amnesty oppose improved EU-Israel relations

In a December 3, 2008 press release, War on Want, a British charity that is actively involved in the anti-Israel boycott movement, "urged members of the European parliament to vote against EU moves to strengthen links with Israel over its human rights abuses."  John Hilary, War on Want´s executive director added, "it is high time the EU put real pressure on Israel to end the Palestinians’ torment." As NGO Monitor´s report demonstrates, War on Want manipulates Christmas to advance its political agenda, and in some cases, may be promoting anti-Semitic canards.

Amnesty International has also lobbied the Czech Republic, which assumes the presidency of the EU in January 2009, to deal with the "serious[] deficien[cies]" of the current EU-Israel agreement and "agree [to] a ´new generation´ Action Plan with Israel that contains not only the space to discuss human rights concerns, but also concrete benchmarks, commitments and programmes to address these concerns." This follows Amnesty and other NGO campaigns in June 2008 to derail EU-Israel diplomatic negotiations on the basis of human rights rhetoric.


PCHR:  Indiscriminate Rocket Attacks on Israeli Civilians are "Military Actions" Not War Crimes

On December 23, 2008, PCHR -- funded by the EU, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the leader of the anti-Israel lawfare movement -- issued a statement condemning the "misuse" of weapons in Gaza.  According to PCHR, Qassam rockets were "misused" when they exploded prematurely causing injuries in Gaza.  Rather than condemn the launching of these indiscriminate weapons in terror attacks against Israeli civilians, this "human rights" organization "call[ed] …upon Palestinian resistance groups to be far away from [the Palestinian] civilian populated area when conducting military actions."   


ACRI uses “apartheid” rhetoric in its annual report

In December 2008, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) -- funded by the NIF -- issued its annual "State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories" report. In the report, ACRI employs language that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel:

"This state of affairs in which all the services, budgets, and the access to natural resources are granted along discriminatory and separatist lines according to ethnic-national criteria is a blatant violation of the principle of equality, and is in many ways reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa...such a state of affairs is in total contradiction of the principles of international law: under international law, the Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories are defined as a protected civilian population in an occupied territory, and as such they are supposed to enjoy a privileged status with regard to the protection of their rights." (emphasis in original)

In addition to the radical rhetoric of these statements -- which received media attention in Israel, England, France, and other international forums -- the legal claims contained within are misrepresentations of international humanitarian law. Additional claims of Israeli institutional "racism" were made by ACRI representatives at Sabeel´s November conference.

NGO Monitor in the Media

Media coverage of NGO Monitor´s report, "´Hijacked by Hatred´: British NGOs use Christmas for anti-Israel attacks":

Media coverage of NGO Monitor´s annual conference and poll:

"Can Israel win the ´soft power´ war in Gaza?" Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, December 28, 2008; and letter in response: "Push your narrative," Louis Pinkett, Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2008

It´s time to end the impunity of Human Rights Watch, Anne Herzberg, Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2008

Norway - a paradigm for anti-Semitism, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, December 13, 2008

Shocking bias, Dan Kosky, Letter to the Editor, Jerusalem Post, December 12, 2008

Ties that blind, Anne Herzberg, Jerusalem Post, December 08, 2008

Articles of Interest

Dutch threaten to boycott ´Durban II´, Associated Press, Jerusalem Post, December 16, 2008

The anti-racism debate
Navanethem Pillay, Haaretz, December 16, 2008

Does Jewish anti-Semitism exist?, Benjamin Weinthal and Alex Feuerherdt, Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2008

Equal value of all human life?, Ilya Meyer, Jerusalem Post, December 06, 2008

Never Again?, Irwin Cotler, Jerusalem Post, December 04, 2008

Amnesty International: Subjective and Misleading, Lanka Daily News, December 02, 2008



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