Jerusalem – In response to testimony by B’tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights–Israel (PHR-I) before the Turkel Commission today, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, released the following statement:

“Today’s commission hearing highlights issues that NGO Monitor has been tracking regarding NGO credibility. By vigorously questioning and cross-examining NGO representatives, the Turkel Commission demonstrated an understanding that NGOs – like politicians and defense officials – have their own political agendas.  Additionally, the Commission specifically challenged the NGOs when they presented information outside their areas of expertise, including political analyses of the conflict. NGO testimony was not simply taken at face value; rather, the Commission highlighted the flawed research and past records of biases that hinder NGO analyses.”

  • PHR-I’s report to the Commission regarding Gaza health and drinkable water standards is based on statistics simply copied from problematic UN reports and from Al Mezan, a highly unreliable Palestinian NGO. Al Mezan consistently refers to the IDF as the “Israel Occupation Forces (IOF)”, erasing the context of Palestinian terror and delegitimizing Israeli self-defense. Al Mezan frequently manipulates casualty statistics for Gaza, labeling hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad combatants as “civilians.” The group also has accused Israel of “slaughtering civilians” and employs Nazi terminology to attack Israel.  Hamas’ illegal rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are called “resistance.”
  • Gisha stated to the commission that the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip is illegal. As in many other cases, this NGO has converted political bias into legal allegations. Under international law, countries can close their borders and refuse trade relations.  Israel is no exception. Additionally, under the Geneva Convention, Israel has no obligation to provide any goods if it is “satisfied” that the goods will be diverted or will aid Hamas in its war effort. As credible accounts have reported, Hamas has diverted supplies from Gaza’s civilian population. Despite numerous attacks on Israeli border crossings, Israel continues to provide hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza on a weekly basis. This is above and beyond any obligation it has under international law.

In extensive analysis of NGO involvement both during the flotilla incident and in statements afterwards, NGO Monitor noted the following:

  • B’Tselem claimed that that “information [about extreme violence against soldiers] is based solely on statements of soldiers.”  This ignores the clear video evidence of violent activists attacking Israeli soldiers with knives and clubs.
  • PHR-I, which also has referred to the IDF as the “Israeli Occupation Forces,” released a joint statement after the incident referring to the flotilla as “a humanitarian aid convoy…with human rights and peace activists, journalists, and members of parliament.” Nowhere in the statement did it reference the connection to the IHH, the main flotilla organizer and a member of Union of the Good, an umbrella of 50+ Islamic organizations that was designated by the US government as “an organization created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.”
  • Gisha stated, “This incident is proof that despite claims to the contrary, Israel never ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza Strip but rather continues to control its borders – land, air and sea,” ignoring the mass weapons smuggling from Iran and Syria that necessitate such policing.

“The concern is that these groups have used their testimony as another opportunity to further distort the realities of the Middle East,” adds Steinberg. With peace talks underway, this is not the time for more demonization and false allegations targeting Israel that erase the context of Hamas-directed terror.  That does not foster an environment conducive to peace and co-existence.”