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March 2010 Digest (Vol. 8, No. 6-7)

April 08, 2010
 
Amnesty: Jihad in Self-Defense is Not Antithetical to Human Rights
On February 7, 2010, the Sunday Times (UK) reported that Amnesty International suspended Gita Sahgal, head of its Gender Unit, for criticizing Amnesty’s alliance with Moazzam Begg, an alleged supporter of the Taliban. Amnesty’s response was widely condemned, including by author Salman Rushdie and columnist Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens called the “degeneration and politicization” of Amnesty “a moral crisis that has global implications,” and urged Amnesty members to withhold their funding. Amnesty promised an “internal inquiry” into the Sahgal suspension.
 
In an official response (February 28, 2010) to the “Global Petition to Amnesty International: Restoring the Integrity of Human Rights,” (750,012 signatures), Amnesty’s (interim) Secretary General Claudio Cordone defended Begg, stating that “jihad in self-defence” is not “antithetical to human rights.” The organization previously claimed it had collaborated with Begg because he is a “compelling speaker” and because of its commitment to “upholding the universality of human rights.”
 
Begg was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay following his arrest in Pakistan in 2002. Begg’s past activities include Islamist activism and alleged support for the Taliban government. His organization Cageprisoners is associated with radical Islamist figures and thought.
 
Amnesty’s total rejection of criticism and its affiliations that oppose human rights values are reminiscent of Human Rights Watch’s response to the Garlasco affair, its controversial fundraising dinner in Saudi Arabia, and other scandals. 
 
Amnesty vs. Israel on World Water Day  
Amnesty International devoted its World Water Day (March 22, 2010) press release to condemning Israel for “discriminatory practices against Palestinians... that violate their right to adequate water supplies.”  Israel was the only country mentioned by the NGO.  The focus on Israel ignored of water-related issues around the world and highlighted Amnesty’s disproportionate lobbying against Israel. The release referenced Amnesty’s October 2009 report, “Troubled Waters – Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water,” whose numerous inaccuracies have been detailed by the Israel Water Authority and CAMERA, and documented by NGO Monitor. 
 
NGOs Continue Goldstone Campaign  
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon “declared himself satisfied” with Israel’s 46-page response to the Goldstone report, which was released on February 2, 2010. The paper discusses the credibility of Israel’s due process, as well as civilian oversight of the IDF’s investigations into 150 separate incidents. The report also challenges four of the Goldstone report’s 36 specific allegations. 
 
In contrast, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized Ban’s lack of an “evaluative assessment.” HRW, which released 34 documents endorsing the Goldstone report in 2009, issued a standard condemnation of Israel’s “inadequate” investigations. Amnesty and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) made similar claims against the credibility of Israel’s report. 
 
Moreover, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that strongly endorsed the Goldstone report rejected the credibility of Israel’s response even before its release. For instance, Adalah published a 17-page paper claiming that Israel’s military investigations do not comply with international standards or guarantee accountability for victims. This is another example of Adalah’s international campaign to discredit the Israeli justice system, while simultaneously benefiting from direct and repeated access to Israeli courts. 
 
EU’s Ashton Echoes NGO Language on Gaza 
In advance of her trip to Israel, a coalition of European NGOs – including Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Cordaid, Diakonia, Defence for Children International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and International Federation for Human Rightsurged European Commission Vice President Catherine Ashton to visit Gaza. Janet Symes, Head of Middle East Region, Christian Aid, stated that “the EU cannot accept Israel’s ban on its senior representatives visiting Gaza to see how the millions of Euros from European taxpayers are spent on vital humanitarian projects there.”
 
Ashton, also the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, echoed Symes in her New York Times op-ed (Lessons From a Gaza Trip, March 21, 2010) published after the visit: “I went to Gaza to see whether European assistance money has an effect on the ground.” Ashton’s op-ed made no reference to Hamas and its role in the conflict, and the European-funded delegitimization and demonization of Israel were ignored. 
 
EU-funded ICAHD Renews Call for BDS 
On January 5, 2010, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) renewed its call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) “against Israeli occupation and discrimination.” This NGO is funded by the European Commission’s EIDHR program (€169,661 in 2010-11). ICAHD boasted its status as one of the first Israeli NGOs to endorse a BDS campaign in the international community, and continues to be instrumental in the BDS movement. 
 
ICAHD supports BDS as an “instrument of Palestinian liberation” and “ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.” ICAHD routinely refers to Israel as an “apartheid” state, and director Jeff Halper spoke at several Israeli Apartheid Week 2010 events.  The organization promotes a “one-state” solution in direct contradiction to the EU’s official policy promoting a two-state solution. 
 
 
Ir Amim Tour Removed from Jerusalem Municipality Website 
In March 2010, information about Ir Amim’s Jerusalem tours was removed from the Jerusalem Municipality website.  A municipality spokesperson explained that Jerusalem “does not publicize political tours, whether they are organized by right-wing movements or left-wing movements.”
 
Ir Amim claimed that the decision was made following a request from City Council member Yair Gabai: “This is a severe step by councilman Gabai and the municipality director-general, who are exploiting their authority for the scandalous purpose of silencing voices that are different from theirs.” 
 
The Jerusalem Post reported that Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yosef Alalu and City Council member Meir Margalit, both associated with the Israel Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), also protested the municipality’s decision.
 
Ir Amim funders include: Ford Foundation, European Union, New Israel Fund, Sweden, Norway, and Oxfam-NOVIB.
 
EU-funded NGOs at Russell Tribunal on Palestine 
On March 1-3, 2010, a group of anti-Israel activists and NGO officials participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. The Tribunal, with roots in Marxist and anti-Western ideology, is a mock court putting Israel and its allies “on trial”. The framework, in keeping with the “Durban strategy,” calls for “existing legal actions [“lawfare”] and campaigns in the context of BDS to be stepped up and widened within the EU and globally” against Israel.
 
The Tribunal’s “Support Committee” includes anti-Israel activists Jean Ziegler, John Dugard, and Richard Falk; representatives from the NGOs PCHR and ICAHD; and Goldstone Mission member Hila Jilani. Tribunal “witnesses” included Goldstone Mission member Desmond Travers; Phil Shiner, attorney for Al Haq in its lawfare cases against the UK government; and Michael Sfard, legal advisor for NIF- and EU-funded grantees Yesh Din and Breaking the Silence
 
The tribunal was supported by a €56,000 grant from the Barcelona municipality. Its next session in London later this year is to “focus on corporations profiting from the occupation but also on labour rights in Palestine-Israel and the role third party States play in letting those violations take place.”
 
PCHR: Jerusalem Synagogue Rededication a “War Crime” 
On March 15, 2010, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the rededication of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem as a “war crime,” and called on EU member states to boycott Israeli goods in protest. PCHR also accused the “Israeli Occupation Forces” of “impos[ing] a tightened closure on the old city in East Jerusalem” in response to the violence. PCHR did not condemn Hamas’ violent “Day of Rage” and the Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem. 
 
The Hurva Synagogue, built during the 1700s, was destroyed by Jordanian forces after the Jewish population of the Old City was expelled in 1948. 
 
NGO Monitor in the Media 
 
 


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