JERUSALEM – In response to a new Knesset initiative (MK Israel Hasson – Kadima) that would end the assignment of National Service civilian volunteers to Israeli political advocacy organizations that provided false claims to the Goldstone Commission, Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor today released the following statement:
Numerous NGOs, across the political spectrum, benefit from National Service volunteers. As it is National Service, the NGOs that receive volunteers should contribute to the greater national cause and should not actively work to harm the State, such as contributing to the delegitimization campaign against Israel. Some political advocacy NGOs publish principles or missions that are inconsistent with their actual activities and rhetoric.
This debate again highlights the power, influence and accountability issues of NGOs in Israeli society, as demonstrated in their central role in the Goldstone Report. These NGOs often conduct political advocacy campaigns under the façade of human rights, with funding from foreign governments.
The following NGOs, which receive National Service volunteers, contributed to the Goldstone Report and would be affected by the initiative.
Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI)
ACRI, with other NGOs, submitted a joint statement (June 30, 2009) to the Goldstone Commission, which contributed to the Report’s focus on issues unrelated to the conflict in Gaza, seeking to brand Israeli democracy as “repressive,” and to widen the scope of the condemnations and the resulting political campaigns. ACRI has a wide agenda in Israel, but frequently employs rhetoric that contributes to demonization and delegitimization. For example, its 2008 annual report labeled Israel’s policies in the West Bank “Apartheid,” and ACRI representatives have referred to “institutional racism” in Palestinian forums. Many legal claims in its reports are distortions or selective interpretations of international humanitarian law.
- Goldstone Report excerpt: “In a report reviewed by the Mission, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel stated that, in Jerusalem “discrimination in planning and building, expropriation of lands, and minimal investment in physical infrastructure and government and municipal services – these are concrete expressions of an Israeli policy designed to secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and push Palestinian residents outside the city’s borders.”” (para. 1536)
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
After the commission was established, PCATI participated in a May 2009 NGO “town hall meeting” in Geneva that helped shape the course of the ”investigation”. In July 2009, a PCATI official testified before the UN’s Goldstone inquiry, referring to Israel’s “unacceptable collective punishment” and to Palestinian “martyrs.” In a 2009 report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture, PCATI accused Israel of attacks on “civilians and civilian objects” during the Gaza fighting. In November 2009, PCATI met with officials from the International Criminal Court to lobby for the opening of an investigation against Israel. The group appears to have participated in only one statement in support of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006 and consistently denied his rights under the Geneva Conventions.
- Goldstone Report excerpt: “A PCATI lawyer representing detainees, Mr. Bader, who spoke at the Mission’s public hearings in Geneva, interviewed a number of the detainees in Israeli prisons and relayed their testimonies. These include stories from prisoners who said they were used as human shields or held in sandpits.” (para. 1110)
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I)
PHR-I participated in the May 2009 NGO “town hall meeting” in Geneva that helped shape the course of the “investigation.” PHR-I lobbied Israeli and foreign governments to support Goldstone’s report and its recommendations, specifically appearing before the prejudiced UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and lobbying the European Union to support condemnations of Israel.
PHR-I also joined other NGOs (including ACRI and PCATI) in submitting a one-sided written statement to the Goldstone Commission (June 30, 2009) that does not address alleged Hamas war crimes, “but rather offers our own distinct perspective – human rights violations for which Israel must be held accountable.” This NGO document makes entirely speculative and unfounded assertions about the motivation for the IDF operation against Hamas.
The submission accuses the IDF of having “deliberately and knowingly shelled civilian institutions,” supporting the NGOs’ incorrect legal claim that “Israel deviated from the principle that allows harm only to military objectives, and carried out strikes against civilian sites in an effort to achieve political ends.” Sources and evidence are missing for many accusations, such as the allegation that “[m]any prisoners … were held in pits in the ground … apparently dug by the army”; details are sourced to “information in our possession.”
- Goldstone Report excerpt: “The Mission also investigated and confirmed allegations about the use of weapons whose potential long-term impact on individual victims’ health raises concern. They include allegations of the use of weapons containing chemical pollutants such as tungsten and white phosphorus.” (para. 1258)