Ittijah – Union of Arab Community Based Associations
13 December 2004
NGO Monitor, an organ of the American pro-Israel lobby working closely with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently released a report defending discriminatory Israeli policies and condemning a number of local and international Arab non-governmental organizations for their allegedly ‘anti-Israel’ activities. It berates these NGOs for pointing out facts, never alleging that these facts are somehow incorrect or misunderstood.
The report focuses on the Special Consultative Status granted to Ittijah by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) earlier this year. The report proceeds under the assumption that UN ECOSOC is a biased, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian body, arguing Ittijah will utilize its newly acquired status ‘in directing the anti-Israel activities of Palestinian NGOs’. Finally, it condemns UN ECOSOC, stating that it ‘has further diminished its credibility by granting Ittijah a wider podium from which to pursue its anti-Israel agenda.’
The report refers to Ittijah as a ‘highly politicized’ organization because it played a role in the 2001 Durban International Conference, explaining and providing examples of Israel’s structural and institutional discrimination against Palestinians in Israel. This builds on a previous NGO Monitor report that implied Ittijah has hidden motives because it ‘has joined a number of Palestinian NGOs in rejecting anti-terror clauses in funding agreements, specifically USAID and the Ford Foundation.’ It is the very nature of civil society institutions to reject terrorism in all its forms, not only as defined by the state those institutions are struggling against by demanding respect for basic human rights. NGO Monitor chooses not to explain this to its readers, many of whom will automatically equate rejection of ‘anti-terror clauses’ with support for terrorism. It also ignores the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union recently rejected these same clauses as vague and unnecessary.
NGO Monitor has, since its inception, written similar reports on Arab organizations and associations, especially Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights), The Arab Association for Human Rights, I’lam Media Center, and others, all featured on NGO Monitor’s website. Even eminently respectable groups like Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and Oxfam have been called anti-Israel and anti-Semitic for pointing out that Israeli state practices are, in fact, discriminatory in nature. The fact that these groups happen to be correct is not mentioned in NGO Monitor’s reports.
But NGO Monitor is impartial in that it attacks Israeli-Jewish NGOs as much as all the others, and at about the same level of integrity. Thus B’Tselem is an illegitimate NGO because its objective is ‘to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories’ (NGO Monitor’s emphasis), Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch reports are ‘distorted by political bias’, HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual has a ‘highly politicized anti-Israel agenda’, the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions ‘focuses primarily on…justification of terrorism’, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel ‘exploits human rights for political ends’. Even Rabbis for Human Rights comes in for a lashing, as NGO Monitor condemns it for ‘complete disregard for violations against Israeli citizens.’ What, exactly, Rabbis for Human Rights can do about ‘violations against Israeli citizens’ is left to the imagination of the reader.
Dore Gold, a well-known right-wing extremist who served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s Foreign Policy Advisor from 1996-1997, runs NGO Monitor. Its website lists Dr. Gold as their ‘publisher’. Along with the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, NGO Monitor has taken upon itself the task of defending the policies of the state of Israel, no matter what they are or whom they hurt, by demonizing everyone who opposes those policies, no matter how they go about doing so. It consistently implies that criticism of Israel is evidence of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish intentions. It provides no explanation for why Israeli Jews themselves might be so hardheaded as to be committed ‘anti-Israel’ agitators.
NGO Monitor’s reports are designed to gain the support and sympathy of American decision-making bodies and donor foundations in order to foster its right-wing policies, and to cut off funds from international donors to Arab civil society institutions by equating defense of Palestinian rights with terrorism and violence. This is nothing but an extension of the state’s attack on Palestinian civil society. Despite NGO Monitor’s apparent wishes, the Palestinians will not simply go away. We will continue to build our society, despite demonization, attacks, and – as in the present case – nearly hysterical condemnations without even the slightest factual backing. We are not here to please Dore Gold.
NGO Monitor responds:
NGO Monitor stands by its analysis of the highly politicized activities of Ittijah, which openly takes credit for its role in the demonization of Israel at the 2001 Durban conference. Ittijah’s vitriolic attack on NGO Monitor demonstrates this organization’s failure to address the real issues raised by NGO Monitor’s analysis.