This article was posted in The Jewish Advocate Online on January 7, 2008
Read Amnesty International representative Joshua Rubenstein‘s letter to the editor regarding this article and NGO Monitor’s response.

Planning for the 2009 World Conference on Racism is well underway. It is the successor to the infamous 2001 Durban conference – a shocking anti-Israel hate fest. Defenders of Israel, and anyone interested in human rights, had better pay attention.

At the Durban conference, Israel’s enemies organized a takeover in which every other item was pushed aside in favor of demonizing Israel. The strategy of Israel’s enemies – using international organizations – isn’t new, but the degree to which this was orchestrated by non-governmental organizations, mostly Palestinian, and facilitated by the biggest of them – like Amnesty International – was.

At the first Durban conference, only the United States stood with Israel as she was called a Nazi apartheid state: the two delegations walked out. One of the consequences of Durban was that the apartheid accusation exploded across the world after it had been given the UN’s seal of approval. NGOs have now taken the lead in attacking Israel at every level.
But the backlash to Durban has also been important. The lack of transparency of NGO funding and operation has been dragged into public view, literally, for the first time. It turns out that many NGOs are not “non-governmental” at all but are partially or fully funded by governments. The European community in particular funds Palestinian NGOs dedicated simply to destroying Israel.

The U.S. Congress held hearings on how the Ford Foundation funded NGOs that orchestrated the Durban fiasco. Ford was forced to adopt guidelines against funding groups that don’t explicitly denounce terrorism. And at least some Jewish funders have not been happy with how their money has been spent. The horrendous NGO coverage of Hezbollah’s war against Israel in 2006, in which Israel was condemned for attacking terrorists but the terrorists were not criticized for firing missiles at civilians in Israel, has also not passed unnoticed.
The NGOs resent demands for openness and the increased skepticism about their virtue. They whine about negative publicity, but even they are taken aback by the absurdity of the UN process, which increasingly ignores all human rights issues in favor of attacking Israel.

This time around, the preparatory, chaired by Libya, included such human rights paragons as Cuba and Iran. Even the most cynical human rights professionals have been forced to express a tiny bit of concern about this. And as the new UN Human Rights Council has imploded – dropping investigations of abuses by China and other states in order to focus all its attention on Israel and the U.S. – even the UN Secretary General has been forced to utter some mild words of concern.

Now is the time for Jewish activists to lead a campaign pressing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch so that the radical Palestinian agenda does not dominate the 2009 conference. Jewish donors must send a clear message to these organizations that they, and the larger human rights agenda, will suffer if Israel is targeted. Jews and others who believe in human rights must be relentless in exposing this hijacking of the human rights agenda.