NGOs Against Peace in the Middle East
On September 15, 2020, Israel signed separate historic agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, establishing formal diplomatic relations and recognition between the countries. With the agreements, these Arab countries join Egypt and Jordan in establishing formal ties and normalizing relations with the Jewish State.
Following the announcement of the UAE agreement in August, a number of NGOs, which purport to promote universal human rights, have decried and condemned the contribution to peace. Parroting Palestinian rejectionist ideology, the NGOs argue that no normalization should take place with Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved.
In this extremist view of Middle East peace, there is no inherent value in dialogue or mutual respect between Israel and other states in the region.
This NGO rejectionism is directly linked to the BDS agenda advanced by these organizations. Unsurprisingly, groups that demonize the Jewish state and campaign against business relationships and cultural and academic ties also demand that Arab countries maintain a diplomatic siege.
NGO Opposition to the Peace Agreements
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- On August 31, HRW Executive Director Ken Roth tweeted, “All the kvelling about the Israeli-UAE flight does nothing to change the oppressive, discriminatory ‘one-state reality’ for occupied Palestinians. Only equal rights will do that. https://trib.al/qx2OxL0.”
- On August 19, Roth tweeted, “Netanyahu claims that the United Arab Emirates is a democracy, even though it crushes dissent and doesn’t hold elections. But then again, Israel trumpets its democracy but holds millions of Palestinians in a discriminatory, oppressive ‘one-state reality.’”
- On August 14, Amnesty posted on Twitter, “Make no mistake: As reported, the #UAEIsrael deal does not include Israel completely abandoning plans for further illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank, and comes while Israel continues to build illegal settlements and systematically abuse Palestinian human rights there.” Amnesty also tweeted that “No diplomatic deal can change the legal obligations of Israel as the occupying power under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, nor deprive Palestinians of their rights and protections guaranteed under international law,” as well as stating that “Any process aimed at a just and sustainable peace in Israel/Palestine must include dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements, an end to systematic human rights abuses, and justice and reparation for victims of crimes under international law.”
(Donors include the European Union, Norway, Ireland, Italy, France, and Spain)
- On September 15, Shawan Jabarin wrote an article stating that “The decision of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalise relations with Israel lay bare what has been clear to Palestinians for decades: Israel’s illegal acts of annexation and apartheid will not deter those in power from the pursuit of their own interests, to the detriment, if not damnation, of justice, accountability, and human rights in Palestine….It is now time, for the international community and the Palestinian people to collectively rise up and resist this egregious regional normalisation, to ensure the realisation of our people to self-determination and permenant (sic) sovereignty, and to prevent Israeli and regional measures towards the erasure of our people, culture, lands and home.”
(Donors and funding sources are unavailable, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability)
- CODEPINK was listed as a co-sponsor of the September 15 “NO to Normalization with Israel! Free Palestine!” White House protest.
- On September 11, CODEPINK published an article titled “Bahrain Announces Normalization Deal with Israel; Becomes Another Arab Country to Throw Palestinians Under the Bus.” According to Ariel Gold, CODEPINK national co-director, “We are not fooled by this second act of fake diplomacy, which places Bahrain, alongside the UAE, as a maintainer of Israel’s status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses of Palestinian rights…The UAE-Israel deal with Israel was as much about U.S. weapons sales as it was about maintaining Israeli apartheid and it is likely that Bahrain’s deal with is similar.”
(Donors include European Union, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), Norway, the Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, DanChurchAid (Denmark), Trocaire (Ireland), Catholic Relief Services (US), Christian Aid Ireland, Diakonia (Sweden), Bread for the World- EED (Germany), ZIVIK (Germany), the Ford Foundation, the New Israel Fund, UNICEF, and UNDP.)
- On August 18, Hagai El-Ad wrote an article in Haaretz stating that “Netanyahu simply announced his preferred alternative for continuing the existing situation – without formal annexation (for now), but with the UAE. Yet under any possible scenario, anyone who wakes up tomorrow morning in Ramallah or in Khan Yunis will wake up to the same reality, one in which they are subjects with no rights and in which almost every aspect of their lives is controlled by Israel.”
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
(Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Tides Foundation, Firedoll Foundation, Schwab Charitable Foundation, and the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust.)
- JVP was listed as a co-sponsor of the September 15 “NO to Normalization with Israel! Free Palestine!” White House protest.
- On August 14, JVP Executive Director Stefanie Fox stated that “Until Israel is no longer oppressing Palestinians and violating their rights, building illegal settlements, maintaining an apartheid regime and attacking human rights defenders – Trump and Netanyahu’s latest ploy, aided and abetted by the UAE, is nothing more than theatrics.”
- On August 13, JVP published an article arguing that “The current claim of suspending Israel’s attempt to annex Palestinian land, through Israel’s new trade agreement with the UAE, does nothing to halt its on-going creeping annexation or the apartheid regime it imposes on Palestinians.” JVP furthered that “The U.S. brokered trade deal between Israel and the UAE is merely the latest example of governments trading away Palestinian rights.”
- On August 13, Phyllis Bennis, JVP Board Member, stated that “Netanyahu lies when he claims the Israel-UAE agreement is somehow about ‘peace for peace,’ as if the UAE was at war with Israel. In fact, the UAE has been at peace, indeed has been normalizing relations with Israel with U.S. support, for years – at the expense of Palestinian rights and those of the UAE’s own people. Israel’s de facto annexation of illegally-occupied Palestinian land continues, and while it does, no new Israel-Arab treaty has any chance of bringing peace.”
(Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.)
- On August 14, IfNotNow stated that “After months of mounting pressure against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s annexation plans from around the world, this treaty – recognising the informal ties that have existed between Israel and the UAE for years – gives Netanyahu diplomatic cover to say that he stopped formal annexation of the West Bank.” IfNotNow furthered “Meanwhile, the Israeli government can continue doing exactly what it has already been doing for decades – removing Palestinians from their land and stripping them of their rights. Once again, Palestinians, who are not mentioned in this document, are treated as political pawns and excluded from decision-making about their own future.”
- On August 13, IfNotNow tweeted, “There is nothing to celebrate about Trump & Netanyahu’s latest sleight of hand, which once again, seeks to distract from their failures in leadership as they face an ongoing pandemic, economic crisis, civil unrest, & plummeting support from the public.”
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
(Donors are unavailable, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability)
- AMP was listed as a co-sponsor of the September 15 “NO to Normalization with Israel! Free Palestine!” White House protest.
(Samidoun does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability.)
- On August 13, Samidoun published an article titled “No to normalization, escalate the boycott: Confronting the US-Israel-UAE agreement,” expressing a “clear rejection of yet another sham of injustice, repression and capitalist exploitation, the so-called “diplomatic breakthrough” between the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”Samidoun added that “This announcement further makes clear our responsibility to take action and intensify the boycott campaign against Israeli products, cultural institutions, academic institutions and complicit corporations. Normalization of colonialism must be met – and can be defeated – with popular anti-normalization, boycott and confrontation, and the international isolation of Israel.”
(Donors include include Switzerland, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Foundation, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Heinrich Boell Stiftung, and the Hassib J. Sabbagh Foundation.)
- On September 16, Al-Shabaka is hosting a webinar titled “Arab Normalization with Israel: Current Status and Potential Consequences” to discuss “the historical understanding of normalization, implications of the UAE-Israel agreement and other normalization developments across the region, and ways forward for Palestinians in light of these changing dynamics.”
- On September 8, Marwa Fatafta, Al-Shabaka policy member, stated that “geopolitical interests ‘trump the rights of Palestinians.’ Many Gulf states have keen interest in formalising ties with Israel and the UAE-Israel was the ice-breaker…Normalisation between Israel and Gulf states has already been in the making, and now it is just a matter of timing. What would probably come out from the Arab League is the usual recycled lip-service to the Palestinians.”
- On September 8, Kairos Palestine sent a letter to Reverend David Malloy, Bishop of Rockford, Illinois, and Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, stating that “People who think that any mutual recognition between an Arab country and the state of Israel is a step forward towards peace are mistaken. It would be a step towards peace if this accord were accompanied by the resolution of the core of the conflict: the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian land.”
- On September 15, the BDS Movement published a statement accusing “UAE and Bahrain’s dictators” of “selling out the Palestinian people.” According to the statement, “Tuesday’s White House photo-op won’t lead to peace or justice. It’s a cynical deal by corrupt, fanatic Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini and US rulers to sustain their brutal repression and rights violations. Our response: intensify pressure for a military embargo on apartheid Israel.”