August 2010 Digest (Vol. 8, No. 12)
September 16, 2010
USAID funding for “Geneva Initiative” ad campaign
In advance of U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in September, the U.S. government, via USAID, helped finance a $250,000 ad campaign run by an NGO known as the Geneva Initiative. The campaign includes billboards, newspaper ads, and video clips of various Palestinian officials stressing the current window of opportunity to reach a peace deal. A Jerusalem Post article indicated that USAID was funding a parallel campaign in the Palestinian Authority. (According to media reports, both Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad did not agree to participate in the campaign.)
According to a USAID official, the funding for the campaign came from one of several conflict resolution grants that USAID distributes. But it was unclear whether the decision to support this particular project was made locally or in the Washington, D.C. offices, and whether USAID had ever sponsored a similar political advertisement campaign in another democratic society.
The original version of the Geneva Initiative press release announcing the campaign stated that “The campaign is supported with the generous support of the American people through USAID,” and featured the USAID logo. The statement and logo were subsequently removed. In correspondence with NGO Monitor, Geneva Initiative General Director Gadi Baltiansky declined to explain this development. (Click here to read Baltiansky’s letter.)
The USAID funding for the Geneva Initiative campaign is another example of foreign governments using Israeli political NGOs as part of efforts to manipulate Israeli democracy.
(Note: NGO Monitor requested information from USAID on this project, but did not receive a response at publication time. Click here to read NGO Monitor’s request.)
Moral selectivity: NGO silence following fatal terror attacks
Following two terror attacks carried out by Hamas on August 31 and September 1, in which four Israeli civilians were murdered, human rights organizations remained largely silent. Aside from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and Rabbis for Human Rights, none of the many other NGOs active in the region issued statements regarding the murders. This is further evidence of their ideological bias and moral selectivity, which undermines the universal principles of human rights.
In their statements, B'Tselem and HRW referred to the attacks on civilians as “war crimes,” while Amnesty said that targeting civilians is “prohibited absolutely under international law.”
Only B’Tselem, however, focused exclusively on the attacks against Israelis. HRW’s statement used the attack to engage in further condemnations of the Israeli government and gratuitously cautioned Israeli security forces against using “excessive” force when trying to apprehend the perpetrators. In addition, the organization called for an investigation into recent attacks against Palestinians carried out by Jews, and noted the “unlawful” status of Israeli settlements under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Although Amnesty condemned the attack, it also referred to a nonexistent right to “engage in armed struggle for self-determination” by “people under occupation.” It also condemned “reprisal attacks” carried out by Jewish civilians following the murders, yet offered no specific information, making its claims impossible to verify.
In an email “whose primary intent was to recruit volunteers... to protect Palestinians who were being attacked,” Arik Ascherman of Rabbis For Human Rights wrote, “May God comfort the families of those murdered tonight, and also protect Palestinian families from attempts at revenge.”
European government funded Palestinian NGOs Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued condemnations of the subsequent arrest of Hamas members, without condemning the murders. Both organizations frequently refer to attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.”
Amnesty Refuses to dismiss Finland director for calling Israel a “scum state”
On August 23, 2010, executive director of Amnesty-Finland, Frank Johansson, referred to Israel as “a scum state” on his blog. Although Johansson’s title as “director of the Finnish branch of Amnesty International” appears on his blog, Amnesty maintained that “We do not consider that this instance provides grounds to call into question either Amnesty International’s integrity and commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights...” Following publication of the story, Johansson removed the blog post and apologized to the Israeli ambassador to Finland.
NGO Monitor’s International Board of Advisors condemned Johansson’s remarks, called on Amnesty to suspend their Finnish branch until Johansson resigns, and called for an “independent evaluation of biases in Amnesty's activities and publications, particularly related to Israel.”
Amnesty International’s spokesperson responded that “There is no question of Amnesty International in Finland being asked to suspend its international human rights work because of this matter.”
The Amnesty-Finland incident is yet another example of the organization’s bias and false use of human rights claims. In March 2010, Amnesty senior staff member Gita Saghal was suspended after she condemned Amnesty’s alliance with an alleged Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg. Amnesty’s (interim) Secretary General Claudio Cordone defended Begg, stating that “jihad in self-defence” is not “antithetical to human rights.”
For more information, see:
- ‘Israel is a scum state’ removed from Finnish paper's site, Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, August 26, 2010
- Amnesty Int'l Finland: Israel scum state, Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, August 25, 2010
- Amnesty head calls Israel 'scum state', Jennifer Lipman, Jewish Chronicle, August 25, 2010
Goldstone follow-up committee meets with NGOs
In August 2010, members of a committee chosen by the UN Human Rights Council to follow up on the September 2009 Goldstone Report met with NGOs in Gaza, including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan. PCHR prepared a report “Genuinely Unwilling: An Update, The Failure of Israel’s Investigative and Judicial System to Comply with the Requirements of International Law, with particular regard to the Crimes Committed during the Offensive on the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009)” in advance of the UN committee’s visit. The report contained numerous factual and legal errors, including an inaccurate and misleading translation of Israeli case law. 
Al Mezan “presented the Centre’s experiences and observations regarding the Israeli investigations into suspected war crimes” and volunteered to arrange meetings for the Committee with “victims and eyewitnesses.” PCHR provided the committee with an explanation of the “inherent flaws within the Israeli system which render the pursuit of justice for Palestinian victims impossible” and emphasized the need to turn to “mechanisms of international criminal justice.” These presentations further illustrate the close links between the political NGOs and the UNHRC, which is dominated by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
 On page 38 of its report, PCHR purports to quote from Israeli High Court of Justice case “5699/07, Jane Doe (A) v. The Attorney General (decision delivered on 26 February 2008), para. 10”. Yet, PCHR’s translation differs significantly from the original text.
NGO Lawfare update: Canadian court dismisses appeal of Al Haq’s Bil’in case
On August 11, 2010, the Quebec Court of Appeals affirmed the September 2009 dismissal of Al Haq’s Bil’in-Canada lawfare case by a lower court. The lawsuit was one of a series initiated by Al Haq as part of its strategy to exploit Western courts for political goals. Al Haq – whose funders include Ford Foundation, Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, and Diakonia – was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
The Bil’in Village Council and individuals from the village, with the assistance of the Al Haq and Israeli attorney, Michael Sfard (legal advisor to Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, and Peace Now), filed suit on July 8, 2008 in Quebec against three Canadian corporations involved in construction projects in the town of Kiryat Sefer (Modi’in Ilit) close to the Israeli security barrier. The village council and Al Haq claimed that the corporations were “aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with Israel, the Occupying Power in the West Bank, in carrying out an illegal act” and acting in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
In affirming the dismissal, the Quebec Court of Appeals noted that the “Courts of the State of Israel, and particularly the High Court of Justice…is clearly the most appropriate forum for the issues raised by these proceedings... It requires a great deal of imagination to claim that the action has a serious connection with Quebec.”
NGO Monitor in the media
Changes at the New Israel Fund, Jacob Berkman, The Fundermentalist, August 30, 2010
NGO transparency will protect democracy, Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2010
New Israel Fund Considering Red Lines, Nathan Guttman, The Forward, August 19, 2010
Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam, Jennifer Rubin, Contentions blog, August 16, 2010
What the West Tells Its Soldiers, Asher Fredman, The Jerusalem Report, August 16, 2010
The war on de-legitimization, Gerald M. Steinberg, Ynetnews.com, August 12, 2010
The confrontational politics of conversion, Gerald Steinberg, Canadian Jewish News, August 12, 2010
Times ‘Expose’ On West Bank Left Out Half The Story, Gerald M. Steinberg, The New York Jewish Week, August 10, 2010
The real danger to Israel's civic society, Gerald Steinberg and Asher Fredman, Haaretz, August 6, 2010
Isolation as political warfare, Gerald M. Steinberg, bitterlemons-international.org, August 5, 2010
Prof. Steinberg radio interview about Mada al-Carmel, "Ma Bo´er" program, Galei Zahal radio, August 3, 2010