NGO Monitor Monograph

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Background on lawfare

Lawfare is the exploitation of courts in democratic countries in order to harass Israeli officials with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations for “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and other alleged violations of international law.  While NGOs claim these cases are about obtaining “justice” for Palestinian victims, they are actually part of the larger political war against Israel. The tactic of lawfare was adopted at the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, and is an integral part of the Durban Strategy which seeks to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

Although Israel is not the only country that has been subject to lawfare (the US and England have also been subject to suits arising out of the Iraq war), Israel is a primary target. NGOs exploit universal jurisdiction statutes in Europe and North America to bring these cases.  These statutes allow courts to preside even though the parties and events at issue are entirely foreign.  In some countries, such as the UK, an NGO can apply to a court directly for an arrest warrant or to launch a criminal investigation without the knowledge or approval of the government.

The NGOs leading anti-Israel lawfare are the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, FIDH, the Center for Constitutional Rights (New York), Al-Haq, and Adalah. These organizations are funded by the EU, European governments (Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark), and prominent foundations such as the New Israel Fund, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute.

For more information on lawfare, see:

Overview of lawfare cases involving Israel

 Case Name  Year   Country  NGO Initiator  Disposition
 Al Haq v. Riwal
 2010  Netherlands  Al-Haq  Pending (October 2010)
 Case against Ehud Barak
 2009  UK  Al-Haq, Al-Mezan  Court refused to issue arrest warrant (September 2009)
 Al Haq v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs, et al
 2009  UK  Al-Haq, Gaza Legal Aid Fund  Dismissed (July 2009); dismissal affirmed by appellate court (February 2010)
 Bil’in Village Council v. Green Park Int’l Inc., et al  2008  Canada  Al-Haq, Adalah-NY, Michael Sfard Dismissed (September 2009); appeal dismissed (August 2010)
 Case  against Benjamin  Ben Eliezer, et al.  2008  Spain  PCHR  Dismissed (June 2009)
 Case  against Ami Ayalon  2008  Netherlands  PCHR  Lower court refused to issue arrest warrant (May 2008); dismissal affirmed by appellate court (October 2009)
 Case against  Moshe Ya’alon  2006  New Zealand  PCHR Attorney General ordered stay  of prosecution; case dismissed  (November 2006)
 Saleh Hasan v.  Secretary of  State & Industry  2006  UK  Al-Haq  Dismissed by lower court  (November 2007); dismissal  affirmed by appellate court  (November 2008)
 Matar v. Dichter  2005  US           (New York)  CCR, PCHR  Case dismissed by District  Court  (2006); dismissal affirmed by appellate court (April 2009)
 Belhas v. Ya’alon  2005  US  (Washington,  D.C.)  CCR  Dismissed by lower court  (December 2006); dismissal  affirmed by appellate court  (February 2008)
 Corrie v.  Caterpillar  2005  US  (Washington  State)  CCR  Dismissed by lower court  (November 2005); dismissal  affirmed by appellate court  (September 2007)
 Case against  Doron Almog  2005  UK  PCHR, Yesh Gvul  Arrest warrant cancelled  (September 2005)
 Case against  Shaul Mofaz  2004  UK  PCHR  Court refused to issue warrant
 Case against  Benjamin Ben  Eliezer, et al.  2003  Switzerland  PCHR  Case dismissed
 Case against  Ariel Sharon, et  al.  2001  Belgium  Sabra & Shatilla  Committee; help  from LAW, Badil,  CODIP  Case dismissed (June 2003)

Image of EU-funded lawfare conference