Powerful NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) have long abandoned their commitment to universal human rights, in favor of promoting post-colonial ideology and opposing U.S. foreign policy. Nowhere is this shift more apparent than NGO approaches to terrorism directed against Western victims. In contrast to the hundreds of publications, videos, and PR campaigns against U.S. and Israeli counter-terror activities, there relatively little attention is paid to those who carry out terror attacks and their victims. Similarly, conflicts that do not involve Western powers receive scant coverage, if any. (For more see NGO Monitor’s monograph, Second Class Rights.)
The NGO response to the 9/11 atrocity is reflective of this phenomenon. Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and murdered 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. Unprecedented physical and economic destruction was unleashed on lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.
Yet, HRW’s sole statement on this catastrophic event consisted of three short paragraphs, two of which warned the Bush administration not to engage in the “logic of terrorism” in its response. There were no publications with in-depth emotional stories from the victims, subsequent examination of the perpetrators, press conferences or PR blitzes, campaigns for UN investigations or arms embargoes on those who assisted in the attacks. No high profile advocacy was undertaken to nane and shame the terrorist organizations and their backers.
This pattern continued through the 15-year anniversary of the attacks. HRW did not issue any statement on its website or Twitter feed, and Executive Director Ken Roth wrote a bland tweet focused on the absence of the inanimate Twin Towers while only mentioning the victims and perpetrators in a flat, passive voice:
The most egregious NGO statement on the anniversary, however, was issued by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). On September 12, CCR sent out a mass email with the subject line “15 years of resistance” (full text below – an adaptation of a blog post by Executive Director Vincent Warren). Resistance is a term commonly used as a euphemism for terrorism, raising serious questions as to why CCR would employ this language in its email. A section, “Countering all the harm in the wake of 9/11,” did not mention the victims or efforts to end terrorist impunity and to achieve accountability, but rather, catalogued CCR’s activities to counter the “repressive and discriminatory fallout unleashed.” These undertakings include the filing of universal jurisdiction cases against U.S. officials throughout Europe.
CCR closes its statement with highly offensive comments regarding the U.S., reflective of CCR’s radical ideology:
“Politicians were able to use 9/11 to re-orient the politics of this era in part because what seems so ‘exceptional’ about those politics – prejudice, violence, repressive state policy – is in truth written into the DNA of America from 1492 to the present. It’s why, whatever comes in the next 50 years, we will need CCR to fight the abuses that will inevitably continue to be part of our history.”
It is not surprising that in addition to its abhorrent statements regarding the U.S., CCR is a leader in discriminatory BDS and anti-Israel lawfare campaigns. CCR has filed numerous lawsuits harassing Israeli officials and companies doing business with Israel (all dismissed at preliminary stages). CCR has been instrumental in establishing and supporting Palestine Legal, an initiative advising students on implementing BDS campaigns and other harassing activities on campus, such as mock eviction notices, as well as providing cover for BDS activists engaging in disruptions of pro-Israel speakers. In April 2016, CCR sponsored a roadshow for Raji Sourani of Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Shawan Jabarin of Al-Haq at US law schools to promote BDS. The talks included numerous false allegations against Israel and anti-human rights “resistance” rhetoric1.
As these 9/11 statements reveal, NGOs that do little to campaign for the rights of terror victims cannot claim the mantle of universal human rights. Instead, they are merely political organizations advancing agendas that exploit the language of human rights for their own aims.
Complete Text of Email from CCR
CCR at 50: Countering all the harm in the wake of 9/11
As New Yorkers, CCR staff, some of our board members, and thousands of you, we all have our personal stories of that horrific day. As an organization, our 9/11 story is about how we sprang into action and how we have continued to respond to the political exploitation of 9/11. On this 15th anniversary, we take a quick look at some of the many cases that grew out of that response.
We were the first organization to challenge illegal indefinite detention at Guantánamo. Rasul v. Bush – the Supreme Court case that established habeas corpus rights for the detainees and allowed lawyers access to GITMO – was filed just five months after 9/11, when no other organization was willing to speak up. We organized hundreds of lawyers to represent the men held there, and as CCR supporters know well, have represented many clients ourselves.
We filed Turkmen v. Ashcroft only two months later, in April 2002, challenging the indiscriminate round up, detention, and abuse or Muslim immigrants.
It turned out to be the first of many ways in which we fought the ever-increasing apparatus of Muslim surveillance and discrimination. We’ve challenged the NYPD’s blanket surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, the FBI’s effort to use the No Fly List to coerce Muslims into spying and informing on their communities, the Bureau of Prison’s targeting of Muslim prisoners in its punitive Communications Management Units, and more.
We have also worked through every available avenue to hold those who designed, implemented, and provided the legal justification for the torture that followed 9/11. We’ve pursued cases in multiple countries – Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, among others – seeking to prosecute torture architects under the principle of universal jurisdiction. We challenged extraordinary rendition. We’ve sued private military contractors for their role in the torture at Abu Ghraib (twice, actually).
The list of repressive and discriminatory fallout unleashed by 9/11 is longer still. It also includes NSA surveillance, including surveillance of lawyers, political prosecutions of “material support,” and more.
Politicians were able to use 9/11 to re-orient the politics of this era in part because what seems so “exceptional” about those politics – prejudice, violence, repressive state policy – is in truth written into the DNA of America from 1492 to the present. It’s why, whatever comes in the next 50 years, we will need CCR to fight the abuses that will inevitably continue to be part of our history.
- CCR’s 2015 total revenue was $8.3 million. According to its 2015 990 form, CCR received contributions from the Ford Foundation ($342,500), The Atlantic Philanthropies ($661,393), Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund ($729,450), the Bertha Foundation ($1,000,000), Warsh-Mott Legacy ($345,000), the Open Society Foundation (founded by George Soros – $495,000), the Oak Foundation ($250,000), and the Tides Foundation ($245,641).