When I first introduced the concept of “lawfare” against Israel in 2008, focusing on attempts by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to have Israeli officials arrested abroad for alleged war crimes, people would frequently ask why I did not include the myriad of litigation brought by NGOs in Israeli courts. My typical response was that it was legitimate for NGOs to challenge government policy in domestic courts, and this did not constitute anti-Israel lawfare.
However, I am rethinking this position.
NGO Monitor has discovered massive funding provided by the UK, the EU and Norway to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which in turn is funneled to local NGOs in order to flood Israeli courts with hundreds of lawsuits.
Since 2011, these governments have provided the NRC with a staggering $20 million in taxpayer funds to wage legal warfare on Israel. This funding is directed toward the NRC’s “Information Counselling and Legal Assistance” (ICLA) project. According to documents examined by NGO Monitor from the British government, the aim of the project is to manipulate Israeli democracy to achieve “changes in Israeli policy and practice” and to provide “evidence and analysis to form the basis for international pressure on Israel.”
Moreover, statements made by those associated with the program suggest another, more nefarious goal of the NRC lawfare project – one that is consistent with the campaign to delegitimize Israel, particularly in legal frameworks. In a public presentation, an NRC-affiliated lawyer commented that the strategy behind the project is to undertake “every possible legal measure to disrupt the Israeli judicial system… to increase the workload of the courts and the Supreme Court to such an extent that there will be a blockage.”
While I continue to believe in the legitimacy of NGOs in challenging government policy in domestic courts, when this process becomes a deliberate campaign of sabotage, this becomes anti-Israel lawfare, and needs to be treated as such.