On January 4, 2017, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly released a report titled “The humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” The document claims to provide “the historical context of the crisis in Gaza, makes an assessment of the current humanitarian situation and proposes some practical recommendations to improve the situation” In a fundamental omission, the author fails to acknowledge the Hamas terrorist government and its siphoning of aid as the significant factor in causing the crisis, and instead accuses Israel of “collective punishment in flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law” (14), and of “excessive and intentional force without justification against Palestinian civilians,” amounting to “an appalling pattern of apparently systematic unlawful killings” (11). The report’s author, Rapporteur Eva-Lena Jansson, is a Swedish MP and member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Throughout the report, Jansson relies on unverifiable claims made by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as sources of information.

The report advances a narrative with little connection to the reality on the ground and the history of the region. It bizarrely asserts that “the cessation of the construction of new settlements and of the extension of old ones on the Palestinian territory can create the necessary framework for the normalisation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza” (3) – omitting the context of Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the removal of all Israeli settlements, the geographical split between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as continuous war crimes and human rights violations committed by Hamas. Similarly, the document ignores previous failed attempts of Europe and the international community to address security concerns and Hamas aggression, such as EUBAM Rafah. Instead, Jansson simplistically claims: “The lifting of the blockade by Israel and Egypt is a vital precondition for the resolution of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and should be facilitated by the international community through the creation of security conditions necessary for the free movement of people and goods” (3).

Jansson also fails to support her claims with verifiable sources, often referring to unnamed “NGOs” with no proper citation. For example she states, “As I was told by Palestinian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during my visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah, those who do manage to cross the borders are sometimes arrested by the Israeli authorities or incited to collaborate with them” (8). She further fails to provide a source for the claim, “According to Palestinian NGOs, 51% of children in Gaza are suffering from physical and mental traumas” (12).

In one place, Jansson names and cites a severe and unverifiable allegation from the Palestinian political NGO known as the  Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, regarding “a massive and exceptional escalation in Israel’s attacks and harassment of Palestinian fishermen, including use of live fire, arbitrary arrest employing humiliating and degrading practices and use of physical violence and verbal abuse” (11). Al-Mezan regularly describes Israel’s policies as “apartheid,” accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “war crimes,” and promotes the “Nakba” narrative, and these allegations should be seen in that context.

Jansson’s report further cites The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) extensively (5, 7-12). OCHA also repeatedly publishes reports, factsheets, and informational databases that rely on and repeat NGO claims, thereby lending credence and credibility to highly misleading accusations. For example, on December 29, 2015, OCHA published a “2016 Syrian Arab Republic Humanitarian Response Plan.” According to media reports, after consulting the Syrian government, OCHA “altered dozens of passages and omitted pertinent information to paint the government of Bashar al-Assad in a more favorable light.” (For more on OCHA bias and politicization, see NGO Monitor’s report UNOCHA-oPt: Politicized Activities and Funding in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.)

The Council of Europe document highlights the lack of credibility resulting from reliance on claims of political NGOs, without independent verification. The Council of Europe and other organizations repeatedly overlook the abuse of human rights rhetoric by groups that disperse misinformation in the service of radical political agendas. Thus, instead of suggesting “practical recommendations to improve the situation” in Gaza, this publication simply restates the biases and unfounded claims of NGOs, fueling the conflict and doing nothing to address the humanitarian concerns.

In the Media

Rights groups provide jihad with free services, Ben-Dror Yemini, January 30, 2017