Correspondence between Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha and Keren Preiskel, Senior Researcher NGO Monitor following publication of NGO Monitor report Gisha, Access for All
From Keren Preiskel
March 6, 2007
We appreciate the effort you made to respond to NGO Monitor’s analysis of Gisha’s activities- such exchanges are essential for the public debate on these important issues. Your response, however, fails to address many of the key issues, particularly the degree to which your reports, court submissions, and response erase the context of the ongoing conflict and terror. These are the reasons for Israeli policies that restrict access for Palestinians, and while you may disagree with the policies that are chosen, ignoring the context and rationale is clearly unacceptable. Similarly, your failure to address the human rights of Israelis, including the right to life and self-determination, constitutes a basic denial of the universality of human rights.
Furthermore, NGO Monitor’s report cited specific instances in which Gisha uses the term ‘apartheid’ and "collective punishment" to refer to legitimate Israeli responses to terror. Such terms constitute demonization, and promote the strategy adopted in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference. Readers might conclude that your failure to address this issue is an endorsement of and contribution to such demonization, which is the antithesis of claiming to support universal human rights.
Similarly, your reply failed to address the absence of key issues in Gisha’s "Disengaged Occupiers" report. These include the internal Palestinian violence in Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal in September 2005, and the failure of the Palestinian leadership to prevent rockets being fired against Israel. Any common-sense definition of human rights would consider such attacks to be unacceptable, and justify self-defense measures, such as those taken by the IDF. Instead, Chapter 2 of your report chooses to focus on a narrow legalistic debate, while promoting Palestinian victimization.
We would urge you to reconsider your response to NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of Gisha’s activity, in the hope that you will address the substance of the damage done to human rights issues by politically biased reports.
Unless you have objections, we plan to place this exchange on the NGO Monitor website, as well as any further responses that you have as part of NGO Monitor’s commitment to promoting critical debate on these important issues.
From Sari Bashi
February 27, 2007
We are in receipt of your e-mail forwarding the Feb. 14 issue of the NGO Monitor profiling Gisha and requesting a response. No information was requested from Gisha prior to publication of the profile.
Gisha is an Israeli NGO whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents and to promote rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.
Gisha’s position paper, Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza, is a detailed legal analysis of the status of Gaza post-disengagement and the obligations owed to its residents under international humanitarian law. We devote an entire chapter, Chapter 2, to presenting the Government of Israel’s position on the status of
Gaza, quoting extensively from briefings by the state to the Israeli Supreme Court.
Gisha was one of seven human rights organizations to join a court petition challenging a ban on Israelis and foreigners driving Palestinian passengers in the West Bank, which was expertly initiated and submitted by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din. Paragraphs 9-10 of the petition are explicitly devoted to the context of the driving ban.
Gisha’s court petition asking that Sawsan Salameh, an outstanding Palestinian doctoral student, be permitted to reach her studies at the Hebrew University, is grounded in international and Israeli law, the tools used before Israel’s High Court of Justice. We note that the heads of Israel’s universities and major institutions of higher learning, with the exception of Bar Ilan University, have joined Gisha’s call that Ms. Salameh and other Palestinian students be permitted to study, as have the Israeli National Academy of Sciences, Israel’s Education and Science Ministers, the Knesset Committee on Education, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Indeed, the Executive Director of NGO Monitor, Professor Gerald Steinberg, wrote an Oct. 21, 2006 Jerusalem Post op-ed piece in which he noted that Ms. Salameh should be permitted to reach her studies in Israel.
Gisha proudly cooperates with the human rights NGOs listed in your report, each of whom conducts excellent work protecting human rights. We are grateful for the generous support of our donors and their unwavering commitment to promoting human rights.
From Keren Preiskel to Sari Bashi
February 26, 2007
I enclose a link to a report that NGO Monitor published on Gisha and her activities and sources of funding.
I would be grateful for any comments that you may have regarding our