October 2009 Digest (Vol. 8, No. 2)
November 26, 2009
Al Quds Underground: EU funds go to arts festival in Jerusalem that bars Israelis
Al-Quds Underground (AQU), a program which claims “to create a secret space for artistic expression,” is funded by Cordaid (Holland, EU), the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, and SICA. The Anna Lindh Foundation received €7 million over three years from the EU, earmarked for projects such as Al Quds Underground. AQU’s website states that the group’s vision is “[n]ot conflict and segregation, but contact and curiosity.”
In contrast, on October 30, 2009 the group refused to allow Israelis to attend one of its events. According to a Jerusalem Post report:
“Al-Quds Underground’s artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven of Amsterdam then told me, along with some Israeli peace activists who had arrived, that we were not welcome...‘The local people told [Twaalfhoven] months ago that Israelis cannot go. Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come.’”
In correspondence with NGO Monitor, Cordaid officials attributed the exclusion to disruptions by Israeli participants, claiming that
“a number of Israeli visitors disturbed a performance in one of the private houses in which the festival took place. Out of fear of further incidents and out of respects for the hosts who opened their private homes for the performances, the organizers of the festival felt forced to decide the next day to ask Israeli participants to withdraw from the tour...Both the organizers and Cordaid regret that this course of events took place.”
Cordaid also asserted that “the Jerusalem Post misquoted Merlijn Twaalfhoven unfortunately” regarding the exclusion of Israelis before the first event. However, the author of the Jerusalem Post article stood behind the accuracy of the quote.
In separate correspondence with SICA, deputy director Beate Gerlings stated that its funding was based on the “artistic merits of the proposal,” and these were “achieved.”
Adalah conferences: Torture and “The Absence of Justice”
In January 2009, the European Commission began funding a three-year, €800,000 project, entitled “Combating and Preventing Torture and Ill-Treatment of Palestinian Prisoners held in Israel Prisons and Palestinian Civilians in the OPT” (p. 18). The project is a joint effort by Adalah, Al Mezan, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), and will be managed by Adalah. As part of this initiative, Adalah has organized a five week “training course for lawyers on representing detainees and detention procedures,” which started on November 6, 2009. Topics in the series range from technical-procedural issues to “[t]he effect of torture and isolation on the physical and psychological state of the detainee and the need for Israel’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the CAT.”
Additionally, on October 6-8 2009, Adalah hosted its 4th Annual Arab Law Students’ Conference on “The Absence of Justice and State Accountability.” Sessions at the conference included “State Accountability, War Crimes and Remedies for the Victims” and “Inaccessibility to Land and Methods of Expropriating Palestinian Refugees’ Properties.” Representatives from Shatil, Gisha, Yesh Din, Addameer, Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) spoke at the conference.
This theme of “Israeli legal and judicial systems fail[ure] in providing any legal remedies to the Palestinian people” was central to Adalah’s statement to the UNHRC’s Special Session on the Goldstone report, in which Adalah lobbied the UN to “put an end to the culture of impunity and the lack of justice in the region.”
1. PCHR loses another case, presses on with conferences
On 26 October 2009, the Netherlands Court of Appeal rejected a complaint brought by Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Daniel Machover against Ami Ayalon, former head of the Israeli Security Services, for alleged “torture.” The dismissal of the case marks yet another failure by PCHR to carry out its strategy of harassing Israeli officials by exploiting universal jurisdiction statutes in Europe and elsewhere. Courts in England, Spain, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the US have all dismissed similar cases filed by PCHR, finding them to be without merit.
PCHR is funded by the European Union, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Holland, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and Christian Aid.
Despite the repeated rejection of PCHR’s tactics, the NGO continues to promote allegations of Israeli violations of human rights. On October 8, 2009, PCHR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) hosted a conference that dealt with “extra-judicial executions committed by Israeli Occupation Forces against Palestinians as a form of execution without trial.” As evident from a November 2008 conference in Cairo, PCHR uses this issue to promote the “prosecution of Israelis suspected of committing war crimes.” (The 2008 event was funded by the European Commission, as part of a €349,000 grant to PCHR and Oxfam Novib.)
2. Spanish Parliament amends law, curbing NGO exploitation
On October 15, 2009, the Spanish Parliament approved (319-5) an amendment to Spain’s universal jurisdiction law, limiting such cases to those involving Spanish nationals or where the alleged perpetrators are located in Spain. The new law will prevent NGOs from initiating criminal investigations against officials from foreign governments regarding events having no connection to Spain and without the knowledge or approval of Spanish officials.
Pro-Palestinian organizations had exploited the Spanish legislation to pursue “war crimes” charges against Israeli officials. In June 2008, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) filed suit against several Israelis for the death of Salah Shehade, leader of Hamas’ military wing and responsible for attacks that killed and wounded hundreds of Israeli civilians.
In 2009, NGOs also initiated cases against several officials in the Bush administration. While NGOs such as PCHR claim such suits are to obtain “justice” for victims, these cases are filed primarily for the propaganda impact.
For more on anti-Israel lawfare, see
J Street’s NGO connections
J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group, hosted their first conference on October 25-28, 2009. The speakers’ list reflected executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami’s close connections with New Israel Fund (NIF) and Israeli NGOs. The two speakers in the opening session were Ben-Ami and Daniel Sokatch, incoming CEO of NIF.
Other participants in the conference included Didi Remez, a senior partner at Ben-Or Strategic Communications and Consulting - a firm founded by Ben-Ami - and representatives from NGOs represented by Ben-Or and funded by NIF: ACRI, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), and the Geneva Initiative group. These NGOs presented at sessions such as “Human Rights in Israel” and “Setting the Stage for Peace: The Fight for Democratic Values.”
Christian Aid-Liberal Judaism (UK) partnership: More criticism
On October 28, 2009, the controversy surrounding Liberal Judaism’s partnership with the powerful Christian Aid organization resurfaced on the Harry’s Place blog. Members of the Liberal Judaism movement “are unhappy that the movement is linking up with Christian Aid to campaign on climate change. They’re not against the link in principle, but they do think Christian Aid should clean up its Middle East campaigning act first.”
In June 2008, Christian Aid announced that it was “join[ing] forces” with Liberal Judaism “to press for a climate change bill.” Members of the Jewish movement strongly criticized the partnership because of “Christian Aid’s biased attitude towards Israel.” But Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, defended both the affiliation with Christian Aid on the “worthy cause” of climate change, as well as the NGO’s position on the Middle East: “there is little to argue with about Christian Aid’s views concerning the conflict in the Middle East.”
As NGO Monitor has documented, Christian Aid has been participated actively in political attacks against Israel, including allegations of human rights “violations,” and CA partners include some of the most radical NGOs in Israel.
NGO Monitor in the Media
- Call for NGO review, Members of NGO Monitor International Advisory Board, The Guardian, October 29, 2009
- Far from watertight, Editorial, Jerusalem Post, October 29, 2009
- Human Rights Watch Debates Its Mission With a Founding Critic, Gal Beckerman, The Forward, October 28, 2009
- Amnesty International: Israel curbing water to Palestinians, Cnaan Liphshiz and Reuters, Haaretz, October 27, 2009
- Water Authority blasts Amnesty on report, Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post, October 27, 2009
- What ails Human Rights Watch?, Anne Herzberg, Jerusalem Post, October 21, 2009
- NGOs disguise a hatred of Israel, Dan Kosky, The Australian, October 21, 2009
- Crossfire: A Rights Group and Israel, Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and other members of NGO Monitor International Advisory Board, The New York Times, October 20, 2009
- Jerusalem: ´We win, you lose´, Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2009