Special Edition: 04 July 2004 Al Mezan (Madison/Rafah
"Sister City" Proposal)
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Editor's Note: The Madison, Wisconsin city council is debating a proposal to "adopt" the Palestinian city of Rafah in Gaza. If approved, the Al Mezan Palestinian NGO would represent Rafah in this process. The following report provides information and analysis on Al Mezan and its activities.
Gerald M. Steinberg, Editor, NGO Monitor
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, based in the refugee camp of Jabalia
in the Gaza Strip, claims to be a Palestinian non-partisan organization.
In its mission statement, it claims "to promote, protect and prevent
violations of human rights in general and economic, social and cultural
(ESC) rights in particular, to provide effective aid to those victims
of such violations...The mission of the Mezan Center for Human
Rights is to provide a secure and long-lasting foundation for the
enjoyment of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
(OPT). While, given the current international situation Al Mezan
must confront the increasing amount of daily violations of civil
and political rights, its' long term aim is to encourage and develop
economic, social, and cultural rights. In this view, it acts as
a monitoring and documentation center...which constitutes an essential
basis for the work of local and international organizations. The
Center is also a vehicle through which to provide legal aid and
advocacy ...on such fundamental issues such as basic human rights,
Al Mezan is particularly active in pursuing a virulently anti-Israel
political agenda, while entirely ignoring Palestinian terrorism.
Its website reflects a deep-seated hostility towards Israel, packed
with incitement, including pictures and reports, with no hint of
support for compromise or human rights for Israelis, including the
right to be free from terrorism. A May 19 2004 press release ("IOF
perpetrate a massacre in Rafah, Shelling a demonstration with missiles
and artillery; dozens killed and wounded," May 19, 2004) promotes
false claims of an Israeli massacre related to the fighting in Rafiah,
while frequently invoking the term "war crimes." (See also Analysis
of NGO Statements Regarding the Violence in Gaza). Additional
press releases also highlight this organization's primary focus
on political attacks against Israel and virulent demonization through
exploitation of the rhetoric of human rights. The language of demonization
and the false allegations regarding Israeli military action speak
for themselves. ("A
Condemnation of the Bush-Sharon Agreement on the so-called "Unilateral
Withdrawal" from the Gaza Strip and its Implications for the Future
of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Regional Stability," April
18, 2004; "Joint
Press Release issued by The Democracy and Workers' Rights Center
and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights IDF continue to humiliate Palestinian
Workers; One Worker Killed at Checkpoint," March 16, 2004).
In addition, Al Mezan is closely linked to the PLO's intense lobbying
efforts in the press and in international frameworks that seek to
isolate Israel. (See
"Letter to EU Presidency, Calling for Immediate Intervention to
Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip," May 22, 2004, and
to United Nation Secretary-General Calling for Immediate Intervention
to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip," May 18, 2004).
This political emphasis under the guise of human rights is not
new, and reflect a long standing pattern. In 2003, Al
Mezan used a $100,000 donation from the Ford Foundation to promote
the notion of Israeli "war crimes." Mezan is partnered with
groups such as the International
Commission of Jurists, whose anti-Israel agenda is well documented.
In 2003, Al Mezan claimed that: "the
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have systematically violated Palestinians
human rights and perpetrated war crimes on an unprecedented level
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The absence of effective
intervention on the part of the international community has allowed
these crimes to continue unchecked. The situation in the OPTs has
grown even more dangerous since the US and Britain initiated the
war on Iraq in March 2003. Palestinian and international human rights
organizations were accordingly obliged to intensify their efforts
to monitor and reveal Israel's practices especially as all eyes
focused on Iraq."
Networks and Committees
- Mertz Gilmore Foundation
- The French Consulate (funded the library in 2002-2003)
Additional Sources, References, and Links
Monitor Info-File summary on Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
- Joel Fishman, "Madison,
Wisconsin, Etats-Unis : un champ de bataille pour la légitimité
d'Israël ," Objectif Information, July 20, 2004.
- Judith Davidoff, "Rafah
Debate Anguished, Bruising Council Delays Sister City Vote After
Panel's OK," Capital Times, July 7, 2004.
NGO Monitor report cited in Madison, WI decision on Al Mezan
(July 8 2004) "The new draft takes out all references
to Al Mezan, a human rights organization that sister city members
have used to establish contacts in Rafah but which the Madison
Jewish Community Council says has engaged in anti-Semitic activities."
This decision was based on the NGO Monitor reports and correspondence
- Leon Cohen, "Madison
Debates Linkage to Rafah, with Madison Jews Take Both Sides,"
Madison Jewish Chronicle, June 9, 2004.