First Part of Report Defends IDF Actions, Refutes NGO Allegations

JERUSALEM – The Turkel Commission, established to investigate the “Free Gaza Flotilla” incident of May 2010, today released the first part of its findings, concluding that the IDF acted in self-defense and within the parameters of international law.  Notably, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I), which engage primarily in political advocacy and provided information to the Commission, were unable to influence the Commission’s findings, says NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution.

“The Commission’s initial report shows that testimony from B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) was not accepted at face value,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “The Commission showed a sophisticated understanding of the lack of credibility in NGO claims, and recognition that these are political advocacy organizations. Commission members challenged and cross-examined NGO officials during testimony in October, and this report affirms that NGOs provided biased and unverifiable allegations regarding the flotilla incident and humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

These groups were part of the NGO-led campaign to condemn Israeli actions of self-defense during the flotilla incident. They have also promoted the campaign falsely accusing Israel of “an illegal blockade” and “collective punishment” in Gaza, erasing the context of terror. These accusations were directly refuted in the Commission’s report.

NGO Monitor also notes that the flotilla was endorsed by EU-funded Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), EU- and European-funded Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), NIF-funded Coalition of Women for Peace, European-funded Alternative Information Center (AIC), and Israeli groups New Profile, Bat Shalom, Yesh Gvul, and Zochrot. Jeff Halper, executive director of ICAHD, is on the Free Gaza board of advisors.

“Clearly, the Commission recognized that these NGOs manipulate facts and misrepresent international law,” Steinberg added.  “This report is a significant and welcome change from the tendency towards blind acceptance of NGO reports in the media, among academics, in the judiciary and elsewhere.  International institutions and the international community also need to challenge and question NGO allegations and reports.”

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.

“NGOs are responsible for repeating and amplifying false claims of Israeli ‘crimes,’ without credible evidence,” adds Steinberg. “In 2002, an Amnesty International representative gave credence to the ‘Jenin massacre‘ lie, and in 2006, Human Rights Watch did the same in the tragic Gaza Beach incident.  In this instance, the videos disprove the version put forth by the Free Gaza Movement, and this was reflected in the Turkel Commission report.”

For more information on NGO Monitor reports regarding NGOs involved in the flotilla incident:
IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi) – Turkey
International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
Lost at Sea: NGO Legal Distortions in the Wake of the Flotilla Incident
NGO Campaigns and the “Free Gaza Flotilla”
NGO Involvement in the Gaza Boat Flotilla