Human rights organizations, or NGOs (non-governmental organizations), would have the public believe they are objective do-gooders, interested in no more than helping those in need. According to this fanciful narrative, the human rights activist wields moral authority and is uninterested in petty politics and power. On Jan. 7, it took Israel’s Channel 2 only 40 minutes to shatter this fairy tale.
Israel’s most-watched television station broadcast hidden camera footage of two “human rights activists” betraying the very values they claim to champion. Ezra Nawi of Ta’ayush and Nasser Nawaja of B’Tselem were filmed talking about handing over Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces for the supposed crime of selling land to Jews. Nawi is seen boasting about his role in these efforts, clearly stating that the PA tortures and kills those suspected of violating this dubious Palestinian law.
Contrary to the “halo” surrounding groups like B’Tselem, Amnesty, and Human Rights Watch, human rights NGOs are not infallible, moral actors. Like other powerful entities, they are concerned with reputation management, damage control, spin, and preserving their political power and funding.
Unfortunately, at the same time, this adamant refusal to respond morally to the anti-human rights elements in their midst harms the important values these NGOs should be upholding.