On December 9, 2010, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs marked International Human Rights Day with a press conference hosted by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, and Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor legal advisor, were invited to discuss the abuse of human rights values by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to present an updated monograph, Lawfare – Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
The publication includes groundbreaking research on the central role of NGOs, many of which are funded from the European Union, European governments, and major foundations, for the specific purpose of bringing war crimes cases against Israeli officials. Lawfare also discusses NGO involvement in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the expansion of the concept of universal jurisdiction – two developments that have been keys in the NGO strategy of de-legitimizing Israel.
After being presented with the monograph, Deputy FM Ayalon said that the Ministry would study the publication “very, very carefully.” He also noted that “human rights organizations have been mostly manipulated and have been used either by terror organizations or other elements for two things for two things: first of all, to cover their own atrocities; and, secondly, to actually try and strip the right of self-defense from democracies.”
To read the Lawfare Executive Summary in English, click here. [PDF]
To read the Lawfare Executive Summary in Hebrew, click here. [PDF]
To read the PDF of the full report, click here.
See NGO Monitor’s Lawfare Essentials page, with more information and updates on NGO lawfare.
Transcript from Press Conference
by the Israeli MFA
Moderator: Welcome. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Foreign Ministry. We’re gathered today to mark International Human Rights Day, which actually takes place tomorrow, on Friday. At this press conference, NGO Monitor will be presenting the Deputy Foreign Minister with the latest study, Lawfare. First of all, we’ll invite NGO Monitor’s two representatives, Professor Gerald Steinberg and Ms. Anne Herzberg, to deliver short introductions. And then we will allow the deputy foreign minister to give an overview of the diplomatic consequences of lawfare and its implications for peace. So I’d like to ask Professor Steinberg to start the proceedings.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg: Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon, ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow marks International Human Rights Day. It is supposed to be the celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, on December 10, 1948. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written and adopted in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was part of what we thought at the time was an international resolve not to allow the immorality that took place in those dark years to be repeated. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights included solemn pledges by the signatories, the members of the international community, to promote and respect and enforce human rights, and to act with force, if necessary, to prevent abuses, discrimination, racism and other acts of xenophobia.
However, 62 years later, we see that this moral and universal document has been distorted and exploited entirely beyond recognition. For many of us, this is not a day of celebration but a day of tragedy to mark the failure of the international community in many areas to implement these noble words and intentions of 1948.
Many of the same organizations that claim to act in the name of human rights and claim their mandates from the Universal Declaration are precisely those that are doing the greatest damage. United Nations Human Rights Council, which was reformed to replace the Commission on Human Rights five years ago, continues to display in every one of its sessions a built-in bias against not only Israel but against democratic societies. The inherent strength, the control exerted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other countries which are precisely those that lack democratic freedoms and implementing of human rights are the ones that control the agenda, and they are supported in many of these activities by a wide range of non-governmental organizations that have taken on the claims and the language and the rhetoric of human rights, unfortunately without the substance.
It is this combination of the Islamic Conference-controlled Human Rights Council and the non-governmental organizations that have consistently used analogies comparing Israeli response to terrorism to Nazi-like behavior. They use abuse terms like "apartheid", "ethnic cleansing", "war crimes", "collective punishment" for partisan political purposes* that are the exact antithesis of the goals of the Human Rights Declaration. This immoral inversion was recently denounced by Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, who called his own organization to task for allowing itself to be part of these abuses and particularly for helping turn Israel into a pariah state through the false claims of human rights abuses and the abuse of the language of international law.
In 2001, we saw 1,500 organizations claiming to promote human rights, gathering under a United Nations flag and banner in Durban, South Africa, to use that framework to focus and to target Israel with this kind of language, again showing the close connection between the organizations, non-governmental organizations, groups that claim to be supporting human rights and the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms. Their goal, in many cases clearly proclaimed, is the dismantling of the State of Israel, clearly in itself a racist and discriminatory objective entirely inconsistent with the moral aspirations of the Human Rights Declaration. Their reports are often based on false claims, on double standards, on exploitation of… [missing audio]. We’ll see some members of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and many other organizations out there in solidarity. That’s where they should be if they really care about human rights.
A powerful NGO community supported by hundreds of millions of dollars and euros from European governments and from private foundations, many of which sincerely think they are promoting human rights, has failed to promote these important values and instead has been diverted into, in many cases, doing the opposite work in this area.
NGO Monitor was founded after the Durban Conference of 2001 to report on these activities, to provide a different voice, to provide the missing guidelines, checks and balances, accountability, to point out where there are double standards, to ask whether the information and the legal framework that they choose, that they quote, are in fact accurate, are in fact sourced, in fact reflect the information at hand. Unfortunately, in many of our research reports we find that that is not the case.
My colleague Anne Herzberg will soon present the results of her detailed report on the abuse of the language of international law in cases that are called "lawfare," a form of political warfare directed against Israeli officials under false pretenses and false claims in the international legal framework funded by these powerful organizations. And we will also see that this is not something directed against Israel. American and European NATO officials are also targeted through this process. And it’s important, as we come to International Human Rights Day, to also note the abuses of the language and the failure to implement the moral frameworks which were adopted and which were so strongly proclaimed in 1948.
Deputy Minister Ayalon, I have the honor of presenting you with our report on the issue of lawfare.
DFM Ayalon: Thank you.
Anne Herzberg: Thank you, Minister Ayalon, for giving me the opportunity today to share the results of my research. I’ve been detailing lawfare for several years now, and the study that we’re issuing today is actually an update from one that I had published a couple years ago. It details several ways in which legal frameworks have been exploited in the Arab-Israeli conflict, including at the UN, most notably the Human Rights Council, the Goldstone process that we’re all familiar with, the International Criminal Court, and war crimes lawsuits that have been filed against Israelis in countries such as Spain and the U.K. which have been so prominent in the news.
These strategies have actually been around for decades, most notably used by states at UN bodies. Today, however, we see these strategies have been adopted by several organizations that claim the mantle of human rights and humanitarian objectives. The study documents how these campaigns are being funded, perhaps unwittingly, and in some cases intentionally, by the European Union, several European governments, church organizations, and prominent foundations like George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation.
And I’m going to speak now a little bit about the war crimes cases that have been filed against Israelis, which comprise about half of the report. These cases have been filed throughout Europe and North America, also in New Zealand, and they generally fall within two categories: the attempts to arrest or impose civil liability on Israeli officials for alleged war crimes, and cases against corporations and governments that have diplomatic relations with Israel, to suggest judicially imposed arms embargos or trade sanctions against Israel.
As Gerald Steinberg mentioned, it’s important to note that Israel is not the only country that has been targeted by these lawsuits. U.S. and U.K. officials have also been victims. So a lot of the information I’m about to relate to you is also relevant for the cases against those officials.
It’s also important to note that these cases are generally filed in courts where there was no connection between the country in which the court sits and the events and the individuals at issue. So these cases are asking foreign courts to rule on cases that are wholly foreign. The primary actors involved in these cases are the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Ramallah-based Al Haq, and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. You may have heard of the Center for Constitutional Rights because they also recently filed a case in the U.S. to block the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, and that case was actually dismissed a couple days ago by the U.S. court. CCR has also been involved in filing cases against U.S. officials in France and Germany over the Iraq war. These organizations are aided in their efforts by large NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation of Human Rights from France.
To date, all of the cases that I documented in the study have been dismissed, but they are followed more for their PR and associative impacts to link Israel or other Western countries with the concept of war crimes.
Now I’m going to turn to one prime example of the strategy that’s detailed in the study. So the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has filed numerous jurisdiction cases against several Israeli officials over the July 2002 targeted killing of Hamas leader Salah Shahadeh, who had orchestrated terror attacks that killed and wounded many hundreds of people. PCHR has tried to have Israeli leaders arrested in the U.K., in Spain, in New Zealand, and in the U.S. has tried to impose civil liability, including punitive damages against Avi Dichter in the U.S. Many of the plaintiffs that have been recruited for these cases have also filed suit in Israel but chose to abandon their cases here.
Although it labels itself as a human rights organization, PCHR frequently calls attacks on Israeli civilians to be legal forms of resistance. What was perhaps most surprising about my research in these cases was that PCHR was able to file these cases thanks to a 300,000 euro grant from the European Union that was channeled to PCHR from the organization Oxfam Novib. No information relating to the distribution of this funding to PCHR is available on publicly available EU documents. The grant was given under the EU’s Abolition for the Death Penalty project, and the objective of the grant, and I’m quoting here, was "to contribute to the eradication of the death penalty applied by the Palestinian Authority and extrajudicial executions by the Israeli military". None of the other 28 projects funded under this program dealt with military operations or targeted killings.
PCHR and Oxfam used this funding to hold strategy conferences with their lawyers in Spain, in Egypt and the U.K., and afterwards were involved in filing lawsuits in some of those places. Banners displayed at the conferences (they were often called "Impunity for Israeli War Criminals", and there’s an example in your packets) clearly show the logos of Oxfam and the EU prominently displayed.
When an independent evaluation was conducted of these 28 projects funded under the death penalty program, the auditors noted that it was impossible to make any useful comment on the Oxfam-PCHR program, because they found that there were few substantive documents in the file. This was the only program out of the 28 that had no information available, and therefore there is no oversight over this program or what PCHR was doing with the money. In 2010, Oxfam and PCHR received a second grant for close to a million euro. Again, no information was publicly available regarding this grant, and it is unclear whether PCHR will continue to use this funding to bring its lawsuits.
And I just want to highlight several of the damaging and lasting impacts that these lawsuits have. They cause serious interference with diplomatic relations, and embarrassment for the countries involved. They often are filed without the knowledge of any government officials, and allow radical political actors to interfere in foreign relations without any sort of democratic check. So in the U.K., for instance, and this is the bill that’s being amended right now, any private individual could go to a magistrate judge and seek an arrest warrant of any foreign official.
These campaigns not only target Israel, but they also attack mutually beneficial relations between Israel and its allies. For instance, many of these cases seek to judicially impose sanctions or trade embargos, as I mentioned, and they call for the suspension of mutually beneficial trade agreements, like the EU-Israel Association Agreement. So by these actions they’re not only harming Israelis, but they’re also harming the citizens of the countries where these lawsuits are being filed.
These campaigns serve to radicalize both sides of the conflict, they discourage cooperation and coexistence initiatives, and they ultimately make a negotiated solution to the conflict more difficult to achieve. The EU funding for Israel’s targeted killings policy actually is an attack on international law that may very well undermine NATO’s own targeted killing operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, finally, these cases bolster asymmetric warfare and may in the future actually lead to greater civilian casualties.
The cases detailed in the study highlight the need for oversight of public funding for these campaigns. It is important to ensure that further funding that is channeled to these organizations is not used for purposes that inflame the conflict. Thank you.
DFM Ayalon: Shalom. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Ministry here in Jerusalem. I want to thank the NGO Monitor organization. I want to thank Professor Steinberg and Anne Herzberg for this work that has been done and which we will study very, very carefully. But I can tell you that, without looking into the details of the report, which we have just received – so, naturally we cannot make any reference to any specific organization or any specific country that funds those organizations. As I said, these details will be studied very carefully by us.
I would say that even before this document, Dr. Steinberg – which I regard very highly, and it’s a very important one – it was quite clear that the entire NGO system, and especially the human rights organizations, have been mostly manipulated and have been used either by terror organizations or other elements for two things: first of all, to cover their own atrocities; and, secondly, to actually try and strip the right of self-defense from democracies.
The Goldstone Report is a case in point, whereby we have seen a terror organization like Hamas (which is in no way different from Al-Qaeda or many other terror organizations in the world) not only perpetrating the most heinous criminal activities and war crimes by embedding themselves in and among civil populations; they also attacked Israeli civilian populations, almost exclusively attacking civilian populations. And then, of course, whether it’s terror organizations or with the aid of the Palestinian Authority and other enemies of Israeli and peace, they try to actually turn the tables and depict the entire picture backwards and put the blame on Israel as the war criminal.
So I think that, today, as we are on the eve of this International Human Rights Day and we realize that there are many, many good bona fide human rights organizations and NGOs which were created with good reason and which are really working in good faith, but they have to ask themselves: Are they really fulfilling the purpose for which they were created? Are they not being manipulated and being used as a tool or as pawns in this political warfare, judicial lawfare that is being waged against Israel here or in other areas of conflict in the world, as we see, whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan and other areas of the world.
So, really, they have to ask themselves the moral questions: Are they really fulfilling their mission of human rights? Are they checking the real abuse of human rights in closed societies, in societies which are not democracies, democracies that are very much able and committed to self-criticism, transparency, and accountability? And of course there are cases all over the world, but the strength and power of democracy is that these cases can be flushed out and taken care of.
But what happens to the real problems and abuse of women’s rights, of teenagers’ or children’s rights or minority rights, in so many countries of the world which do not even allow entrance to bona fide human rights organizations or delegations, emissaries, or representatives, to go and check; where their lives are threatened if they even try to make a report in such countries – Iran is a case in point, Libya, and many, many others, which I will not mention?
So these real, bona fide human rights organizations have to ask themselves the moral questions: are they really true to their mandate; are they true to their cause; are they true to the values; are they true to the interests of humanity? This is the most important thing. Of course there are some organizations – whether they’re NGO, human rights organizations – which are rogue organizations. And I think it would be very interesting to learn in this report where they get their funding.
But it’s not just a day of reckoning for human rights organizations and NGOs. Tomorrow I think it’s also a day for countries, respectable countries, which fund many of these organizations, and they have to ask the political questions: Are they doing the right thing? Any nation that funds NGOs that attack, whether it’s Israel or other democracies, and support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel in this case, is simply against peace.
No nation can dismiss their role when they give one dollar or one euro to an organization which viciously delegitimizes Israel. The leaders of the BDS campaign have said openly that they do not see a two-state solution for two peoples. Omar Barghouti, the leader and the founder of the BDS movement (by the way, he is also a student of Tel Aviv University), says openly that he is against a two-state solution and peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews/Israelis and Palestinians. He says, and I quote, "If the occupation ends, would that mean an end to my call for BDS? No, it will not," end of quote.
So here I say again: Any nation funding an organization involved in the BDS campaign is against peace, regardless of the amount of funding or declarations of ignorance. We say to every nation involved with such an organization quite simply "You paid for it, you own it, and there are no excuses." BDS doesn’t just work against Israel; it is an enemy of peace. Unfortunately, it is a part of a Palestinian cycle of evasion and rejectionism, and allows them to hope that their maximalistic demands are met, without having to concede or negotiate in good faith on a single issue.
If I can kind of deviate to the current state of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, it is obvious that they are at an impasse. Not that we will give up. We will continue to follow and look up to American leadership and involvement. And I believe that some ways will be found to overcome this impasse. But every nation around the world, as I mentioned, has to ask a simple question: Are they working towards peace or assisting in the continuation of this conflict? And there are really no other options here.
The artificial and unilateral declaration of a new state of Palestine, which is now being promulgated by the Palestinian leadership, this will not bring peace but could conceivably make the conflict far, far more serious. The only way to peace is a negotiated solution agreed to by both parties on two-state solutions for two peoples. Every other way, whether it is unilateral declarations of statehood or an imposed peace, will only lead to more bloodshed and pain. For 17 years, Israel has never hesitated to meet with the Palestinians any time, anywhere, to discuss anything. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have perpetuated a cycle of evasion, intransigence and rejectionism. Their strategy is all too familiar and has repeated itself for many years.
And we see a strategy. Firstly, the Palestinians look for any excuse to avoid negotiations, creating excuse after excuse. They purposefully and, I think, very callously, evaded negotiations after the very generous and difficult concession by Israel, of a moratorium of 10 months on settlement activities. It didn’t help. They still did not come to the table. Secondly, while running away from the negotiation table, they attempt to place the onus and blame on Israel. The third part of this strategy, as we see, is that they threaten Israel and the international community with unilateralism.
And, finally, the Palestinians attempt to smear and attack Israel in any and every forum, and this is the main relevance of this very dangerous strategy of the Palestinians to the issue today on international rights and negotiations. They manipulate. They use it to not move forward. And actually, these NGOs, this human rights community, whether by default or by design, give a cover to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians to continue with this evasion, rejectionism and with trying to put the onus on Israel so they do not have to come and discuss among themselves and make the decisions that they have to make.
Israel has made its own painful decisions. We have compromised throughout the last 17 years, not only in the sense that we have agreed on a two-state solution, an independent Palestinian state, which is not something that was automatic or inevitable or something that had not needed some discussion here, and many, many other issues.
So, lastly, on this important day as we mark International Human Rights Day, I also would like to mention the one person in our region that has no human rights at all, and this is Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit should be the most burning issue on the international agenda. Here is a young man caged like an animal by terrorists, without the right to see the light of day or to receive communications from loved ones or even receive a visit by the Red Cross or any other human rights organizations, which I am not sure have made any attempt to come and visit and see him or report about his conditions. If the continued imprisonment of Gilad Shalit is not made a major issue by every human rights organization around the world on International Human Rights Day tomorrow, then it will make this entire day a mockery. Thank you very much.
Q: Deputy Foreign Minister, could you give us your assessment of where negotiations stand at the present moment? And second question about the Turkish-Israeli relations: We’re hearing that Israel might be getting ready to compensate families and offer, if not an apology, an expression of regret. Can you tell us whether or not that’s speculation, or can you confirm?
DFM Ayalon: As to negotiations, there are none at this moment. This is not to say that we will not continue to seek other ways. We have tried. And we still believe that the best way to move forward is to have direct negotiations on a continuous basis without any preconditions, where all issues are on the table. And we are willing to trade concessions with the Palestinians. However, this was not to be. We have been waiting for the Palestinians now for over a year and a half, and at this moment I believe we will all look for other ways.
I think it is important to continue the political process. I don’t think there is any alternative or substitute to a political process. So this is why in the coming days and weeks we will all use our energy and thoughts together with our friends and allies in the international community, first and foremost the United States, to find other ways, whether it is proximity talks, or indirect talks, which ultimately will lead to direct talks. I also believe that, given the experience that we have had, maybe we should keep these contacts away from the public eye, not because there is anything to hide, but I guess it added some undue complications. And maybe we should use these channels and get some firm understandings and formats before we take it into the public eye.
As to Turkey, please allow me not to make any comments. The negotiations or the context between the Israeli representative and his counterpart from Turkey are not concluded, so I don’t think it would be useful to make any comments on that. Thank you.
Q: Two questions, the first for Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon. Can you expound on your statements about the recent declarations by Argentina and Brazil recognizing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders? And do you see this as perhaps a coordinated effort by the Palestinian Authority and sympathetic nations to go ahead and do that?
Second was a question to Professor Steinberg and Anne Herzberg. Do you see this lawfare as a coordinated attempt by what they call the Green-Red Alliance, by a combination of Islamic groups and liberal groups?
DFM Ayalon: First of all, it is deplorable, these letters that were sent by Brazil and Argentina and now, I believe, Uruguay to the Palestinians. I think that not only was it a political mistake; they really fell into a Palestinian trap here, because certainly the solution here in the Middle East will not be dictated in faraway places, whether it’s in Buenos Aires or Montevideo or anywhere else. The only solution will be found here, through negotiations between the parties in a bona fide way.
So, again, this shows the Palestinians’ way of evading the tough decisions. We have made tough decisions; we are continuing to make more tough decisions in compromises with the Palestinians. We do not see any compromise on the Palestinian side or any willingness to debate or discuss among themselves, about what are they willing to give for peace. So far they ask the maximum.
By the way, they have not changed their position one inch from 1993 until now. If you look at the Israeli position from ’93 until now, you see the evolution where we are now forthcoming towards the Palestinians. We don’t see a reciprocal approach and instead we see their attempt to create international pressure on Israel, such as these letters from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. This is not helpful; on the contrary, because this will give the Palestinians the illusion that they can forever evade the tough decisions in thinking that Israel will concede or will buckle under international pressure. That will not happen.
So Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are very good friends of Israel. They will remain very good friends of Israel. We make a distinction: complete decoupling between our bilateral relations with them, which are very good, and the conflict with the Palestinians. We will not let the Palestinians or the conflict mar or jar any of the bilateral relations that we had. But this is very deplorable. And, again, I think it could be very, very unhelpful to the effort to move forward. And, de facto, it is meaningless. It is meaningless because it does not, and will not, change the reality on the ground.
So I believe, at the end of the day, the unilateral threat by the Palestinians to declare a Palestinian state, which, by the way, if I may jog your memory, they already declared an independent Palestinian state back in 1988 in Geneva, as declared by Arafat, so it may continue to do that, and it will remain a virtual declaration without any meaning. I think it’s important for the international community to convey this message to the Palestinians and not fall into this trap again, which will just be harmful for peace. And not only will it not further peace one iota; it will take things backwards.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg: The alliance between Islamic governments, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the organizations that they are able to control, like the United Nations Human Rights Council and other frameworks like that, with organizations and frameworks that have appropriated the language of human rights and democracy and peace, that’s sometimes called the Green-Red Alliance, and I think we see it in many different examples.
Just to carry on the issue of how this links to the attempts to avoid a serious peace process, it is the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority that went initially to the International Criminal Court and claimed the status that would allow the International Criminal Court, in a very distorted manner, to open up cases against Israelis under the claims/allegations of war crimes.
It’s the NGOs that claim to promote human rights and democracy and freedom, that have joined with the Arab League and our peace partners, the Palestinian Authority, in this process taking place in the International Criminal Court. It’s in the flotilla, the tragic clash that ended with the deaths of nine people, that had members of the IHH, a very violent group that were based in Turkey, supported by and working closely with the International Solidarity Movement – which is solidarity for the Palestinians, basically what’s called a one-state formula, which means the elimination of the State of Israel, clearly in itself a racist and discriminatory platform – and that was the basis for what was called euphemistically the Free-Gaza Flotilla, which led to that clash that was mentioned earlier, under the façade of humanitarian aid.
So, certainly that alliance is very potent. And unfortunately I think that the organizations that are supposed to be, and claim to be, the mandate of morality of human rights and democracy, in that combination, have not, at least not until now, disassociated themselves from these abuses. In fact, they have been very much part of this process in many different ways.
BDS, which the Deputy Minister mentioned, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, we also see this combination between a very powerful organization called the Electronic Intifada, and the people who are involved in that, a gentleman by the name of Ali Abunimah in particular, who appears on many, many campuses and frameworks, preaching the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions and one-state, eliminate-the-State-of-Israel solution.
So there you have, again, this combination of both the Palestinian, Arab, Islamic framework, but also joining with many of the organizations that have appropriated the language of democracy, human rights and peace, in waging this kind of political warfare through the delegitimization of Israel and, as Professor Irwin Cotler has said, use of terms like "apartheid" – Professor Cotler who was the Justice Minister of Canada one of the premier experts in human rights around the world – who said that when you appropriate the language of apartheid and the suffering of the people in South Africa under apartheid, and you abuse that to demonize the State of Israel, what you’re really doing is calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel, in itself a racist act.
Anne Herzberg: Also to just add in terms of universal jurisdiction cases, last year Hamas created an organization that was able to secure an arrest warrant against Tzipi Livni in the U.K., and that was a direct outgrowth of the cases that had been filed by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. So that is a very direct manifestation of this Red-Green Alliance, as you called it.
And I would also add that these cases also actually bolster the ability of Hamas and Hizbullah to fight asymmetrical war, because they don’t condemn Hamas and Hizbullah for their tactics of embedding within civilian areas, hiding their weapons within mosques and schools and hospitals. And by filing these cases, they’re actually encouraging that activity, which in the future can only lead to further civilian casualties. So I would say that’s the direct connection.
Q: I would like to address Deputy Minister Ayalon. I would like to ask you whether you personally think that we should apologize in to Turkey for the results of the flotilla.
DFM Ayalon: The short answer is – no.
Q: Deputy Minister Ayalon, I would like to ask a question in Hebrew: How is the Foreign Ministry going to utilize the data, the findings that were presented here, and act vis-à-vis the European governments?
Another question: How will it impact the thought teams, the teams that are working, or will work, on conducting the negotiations with the Palestinians?
One more question for Prof. Steinberg: What exactly do you think is so wrong with the activities of the non-governmental organizations. They’re working within the law and receiving funding legally. What’s so bad about that? Thank you.
DFM Ayalon: First of all, with regard to the Foreign Ministry’s activities, of course we will study the report very thoroughly. If necessary, we will also continue to investigate this matter, but even without this report, there are things that are open and aboveboard, regarding the campaign of delegitimization that the Palestinians are conducting against Israel, and I don’t want to elaborate at the moment.
There is not enough time to talk about everything, but the implications of any delegitimization campaign for the peace process are very serious. In effect, it prevents progress. It prevents progress because, on the one hand, the Palestinians are pinning all their hopes on a unilateral approach, on pushing Israel into a corner, on putting pressure on Israel, threatening Israel, instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and discussing relevant issues with us. That’s one thing.
Second, we certainly view the delegitimization campaign as a serious threat to the interests of Israel, to its integrity and security. They are also political threats and legal threats, so we are preparing and we will continue to fight to the bitter end against this entire delegitimization campaign. And part of this battle, the Israeli response, will be studying the report and reaching conclusions, if necessary, against specific organizations and, naturally, exposure is very important, so that the countries that, perhaps, don’t know exactly what they are funding, will find out and then, I hope, the funding will stop.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg: I would like to elaborate precisely on the issue of funding. Afterwards, I will continue to another issue. A public organization, which operates within the public, whether it is before the courts, organizing protests, discussions at universities, or in all kinds of other ways – primarily abroad – that receives funding in a nontransparent manner. We just heard the example of the Palestinian organization, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, that received funding indirectly from European countries under a different heading. How do these processes occur? Where are the protocols? Who sits in on these discussions conducted by European countries that decide on the distribution of the money? Do these discussions in the decision-making processes reflect the rules of proper administration?
In the Canadian government, which published the documents and protocols, we saw that the organizations that received money did so in a manner that did not at all meet the requirements of proper administration. I can go into specific details if you want, but I’m saying that the problem of lack of transparency, when we are talking about an enormous amount of money., tens of millions of euros a year, at least, and pounds sterling and other currencies, that go to organizations in order to conduct the legal proceedings – against Tzipi Livni or ministers in the Israeli or other cabinets, or of course, IDF generals – if there is no transparency in the decision-making process, it is definitely unethical.
The main problem is the problem of ethics. I’m not saying that they are breaking the law, but you can be law-abiding and behave in an unethical manner, and I think that here we are seeing that in organizations that purport to represent, and use and exploit the heading of human rights or democracy and then act precisely the opposite. If an organization claims that it is working for universal human rights, and it does nothing to protect the rights of Gilad Shalit, in my view, it can be legal, but it is certainly not ethical.
Q: If I may, I did not receive an answer before, please, a question for Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon: We can see that some this involves organizations that are operating with a great deal of money, and they are well oiled and repaired, both legally and otherwise throughout the world, and they operate very intelligently. Does Israel, with what we have here – we have intelligence, but the question is whether there is money and the ability to provide a response, or is Israel close to giving up in this matter?
DFM Ayalon: No, certainly not. Not only is Israel not giving up, despite the fact that we know that it will be a difficult process, a very, very tough war, in which the Palestinians are also exploiting the automatic Arab majority in the international organizations primarily, and, as I said, human rights organizations and other NGOs, some of which are simply run by them. Israel is certainly not giving up.
I think that the very recognition and exposure of this network – and it is a network, a network that was established in an institutional manner, which is working in coordination – is an international network against us. The moment we expose this network – that is half the solution, and the rest will, of course, entail taking legal measures against them, if necessary, and exposing the facts, and establishing a counter network of protection for Israel, for its reputation, which will simply present the facts as they are, without embellishment. Naturally, Israel alone cannot withstand this onslaught so we are working to recruit other Western countries and other organizations, to augment our force to fight this campaign of delegitimization.
Q: If I may, one more word about Saudi Arabia and its part in the funding. [inaudible]
DFM Ayalon: The Saudi activities are very, very troubling. They are even dangerous because, on the one hand, as you say, they are definitely funding terrorist activities, even indirectly. Saudi money is arriving. Maybe not government money, but it’s reaching Hamas, unfortunately. And at the same time, they’re tight-fisted when it comes to giving money to the Palestinians, to the Palestinian Authority. The Saudis barely do their share at the donor conference, and they really give a meager amount compared to what they could give, which would really help, both the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria. They are not doing so.
But on the other hand, we see a definite flow of Saudi money to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Those are serious actions. They’re also puzzling actions. I’m not sure that they’re consistent with Saudi policy and interests, but it’s a problem that we’ve known about for a long time, and I really hope that the Saudis will pay heed to this matter, because it definitely does not serve their interests.
Q: For Mr. Steinberg: Are there any options for Israel or other countries or NGOs, pro-Israel NGOs, to file countersuits against Hamas or Hizbullah officials in Europe and other countries, to make their life harder to get around?
And for Mr. Ayalon: What options does Israel have, practically speaking, if in fact the Palestinians do declare a state and they’ve got a growing way of support internationally for it? Thank you.
Anne Herzberg: It is possible for people to bring cases against Hamas officials or Hizbullah officials. We don’t see that happening at the moment. I don’t know if that’s the best way to proceed, that we have more and more lawsuits, where we’re trying to litigate foreign relations in the courts. But I think that that could be an outgrowth. If the U.K. does not amend its law, I could definitely foresee that that’s where things will go.
DFM Ayalon: As for Israeli options, there are many. Allow me not to express them at this moment, because this is still a hypothetical question, if the Palestinians indeed will materialize their threats. So far, I see it as a threat, as part of their continuing to pressure Israel. This will not work. But I would say, if they do opt for this unilateral step, then of course Israel will be completely free of its obligations. This actually will be an abrogation of all the agreements that have been achieved so far, and certainly we will be free to take our own unilateral steps.