Turkel Commission to Hear Unreliable NGO Testimony
NGO Monitor Notes Previous Biased Analysis of Groups Scheduled to Testify
Jerusalem – The Turkel Commission, established to investigate the “Free Gaza Flotilla” incident earlier this year, is scheduled to hear testimony October 13 from NGOs B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I), all of which have a record of political bias and often unsubstantiated allegations directed at Israel’s Gaza policy. NGO Monitor notes that 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 “collective punishment” in Gaza, and erased the context of terror.
“Our concern is that the NGOs invited by the Turkel Commission to testify are not credible. Following the flotilla incident, they published misinformation and false allegations against Israel,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “These groups engage primarily in political advocacy, and often issue distorted claims regarding the situation in Gaza. They should not be seen as sources of expertise. We also urge the commission to refer to guidelines on NGO fact finding in evaluating the NGO presentations.”
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.”
“These NGOs have the right to testify, but the Commission and the public should recognize that these groups place primary emphasis on their political agendas,” Steinberg continues. “Their analysis is not reliable, objective, and should not be taken at face value. The Commission should approach this testimony with a critical ear, and cross-examine the NGO representatives regarding the reliability of their allegations.”
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.”