- The IHL Secretariat describes its objective as attempting to “influence the behavioural change of the Palestinian and Israeli duty bearers.” In sharp contrast, the NGOs funded by the IHL Secretariat, as well as the activities described in the Annual Report, target Israel almost exclusively. The IHL Secretariat refers to the 2014 Gaza War as the “War on Gaza” claiming that it “outstands as the most infamous, significant, and intensive set of HR and IHL violations in terms of scale, destruction and brutality….the worst war in recent years against Palestinian civilians and properties.” (sic, emphasis added)
- “Achievements” of IHL Secretariat-funded NGOs, referring to Breaking the Silence, include a reported “small but significant shift in the opinion of liberal Jewish communities in the U.S. regarding the Israeli army’s policies in Gaza and the occupation as a whole.” (emphasis added)
- The IHL Secretariat repeats extreme NGO demonizing rhetoric against Israel. There are also glaring factual errors and discrepancies in the document.
- The Annual Report also reflects a lack of transparency: some financial information on grants is hidden, as are the identities of those involved in setting priorities and funding decisions. Despite the very large amounts of taxpayer funds from the four donor countries, potential biases and conflicts of interest are impossible to check.
The Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (“IHL Secretariat”) posted its 2014 Annual Report on August 2, 2015. Four governments – Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands – have budgeted over $13 million (2013-2016) to numerous Israeli and Palestinian political advocacy NGOs via this framework, which is based at the Institute of Law of Birzeit University in Ramallah.
Information provided in the Annual Report highlights fundamental problems with the IHL Secretariat funding mechanism, including support for political warfare against Israel, adoption of extreme NGO demonization rhetoric, the singling out and targeting of Jewish communities abroad, and very limited focus on Palestinian human rights and alleged violations.
The Annual Report shows the major dissonance between the activities of the IHL Secretariat and the declared foreign policies principles of the four donor governments.
Analysis of IHL Secretariat 2014 Annual Report and NGO Funding
(emphasis added throughout)
- The IHL Secretariat describes its objective as attempting to “influence the behavioural change of the Palestinian and Israeli duty bearers.” However, with the exception of women’s rights issues, the NGOs funded by the IHL Secretariat, as well as the activities described in the Annual Report, target Israel almost exclusively.
- There is limited focus on PA and Hamas violations. Of the over 40 NGOs funded by the IHL Secretariat and discussed in the Annual Report, only 3 provide services or assistance relating to Palestinian violations.
- With regards to Israel, NGO grantees engage in international advocacy and legal warfare against Israeli officials and companies that do business with Israel, promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, advance a “1948 agenda,” exploit the false “apartheid” analogy to demonize Israel, and even promote antisemitic propaganda.
- In sharp contrast, the NGOs that deal with intra-Palestinian violations are described as interacting constructively with the Palestinian Authority and other institutions. There is no evidence of international advocacy or demonization in these NGO campaigns.
- “The War on Gaza”
- Reflecting the anti-Israel bias of the IHL Secretariat, the Annual Report refers to the 2014 Gaza War between Israel and terror groups (recognized as such by the European Union) as “The War on Gaza.”
- There is no mention of Hamas, other armed groups, rockets, or tunnels. The Israeli military is referred to as the “Israeli occupation army.” The IHL Secretariat cites “2,203 deaths amongst Palestinians,” failing to note that hundreds of these were combatants exploiting civilian areas to shield their military operations (61).
- Demonizes Israel, alleging that “The war on Gaza (8 July – 26 August 2014) outstands as the most infamous, significant, and intensive set of HR and IHL violations in terms of scale, destruction and brutality. It constitutes the third war on Gaza within the past six years, and is widely marred as the worst war in recent years against Palestinian civilians and properties, and even against IHL principles and rules of engagement in time of war” (79).
- Encouraged “all partner CSOs [to] exercise a level of coordination to avoid redundancy, or worse, contradictions. Therefore partner CSOs were requested to actively cooperate, cross check data, and avoid negative overlap” (81). It is unclear how many omissions or changes were made due to this directive, or how this affected NGO “fact-finding” publications.
- Breaking the Silence (BtS)
- BtS received emergency funding during the 2014 Gaza war, even though BtS officials “were not even sure they would be able to interview soldiers or even feel safe to issue testimonies. The Secretariat was ready to accept even one testimony” (84).
- One of BtS’ “achievements” was the self-reported “small but significant shift in the opinion of liberal Jewish communities in the U.S. regarding the Israeli army’s policies in Gaza and the occupation as a whole” (85).
- Further impact was seen in “References to the work of Breaking the Silence in a U.S. State Department Report and in the British Parliament before the vote on recognition of Palestine” (47-48).
- Errors, Discrepancies, and Demonization
- Alleges that “the Israeli forces carried out attacks on at least three UNWRA schools killing hundreds of civilians” (80). Contradicting this claim, the UN report on the topic found “Israel was responsible for striking seven United Nations sites used as civilian shelters during the 2014 Gaza war in which 44 Palestinians died and 227 others were injured.”
- Refers to stone throwing and other criminal behaviors as “politically charged actions” and prisoners in Israeli facilities (ostensibly including those convicted of murder and other violent crimes) as “Palestinian political detainees” (56).
- Claims that the West Bank is “divided into multiple ‘blocks’ or ‘Bantustan’-like units.” (75). This use of “apartheid”-related rhetoric follows a 2014 reference by IHL Secretariat Manager Mustafa Mari to “apartheid-like realities.”
- On June 12, 2014, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel, Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, were abducted and murdered in the West Bank. After their burial three weeks later, Mohamed Abu Khdeir was murdered by Israeli extremists. The IHL Secretariat refers to the three Israelis as “three settlers” with no mention of their names, their murderers, or their manner of death (or that only one resided in a settlement). However, they provide this information to describe “the subsequent brutal killing of Mohamed Abu Khdeir, who was burned alive by Israeli settlers” (61).
- Lack of transparency
- Financial reports are not included in the Annual Report that was posted online.
- The IHL Secretariat states that one of its funded projects was cancelled, but does not reveal details.The IHL Secretariat later removed the grant for PSCCW- Psycho Social Counselling for Center for Women from their website.
- Claims that “Lists of core funding, emergency funding and project funding partners, including their amounts and summary of interventions, are available online at the HR/IHL IHL Secretariat website” (24). However, “amounts and summary of interventions” are not publically available for emergency funding.
- A group of “5-7 independent, impartial individuals” comprise the IHL Secretariat’s Reference Group (RG), which was “’established to provide independent HR/IHL expert advice’ and to ultimately contribute to the process of IHL Secretariat programme alignment to sector needs” (17). RG members, who shape calls for proposals, help set IHL Secretariat priorities, and review and advise IHL Secretariat strategies, are anonymous.
IHL Secretariat Core and Emergency Funding Recipients (2014-2016)
Project Funding Recipients
|Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic||$25,000||Upgrading the capacity of the Human Rights Clinic, to be more independent in teaching and supervising documentation of human rights violations in Jerusalem.|
|The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ)||$50,000||To empower Palestinian civil society stakeholders in education in occupied East Jerusalem, including parents, students, school teachers and administrators, to play an effective role in combating De-Palestinization and protecting and promoting Palestinian culture and identity in East Jerusalem education.|
|Community Media Center||$65,000||To contribute to promoting and protecting youth rights in the Gaza Strip through developing youth capacity in using media and social media in advocating for and protecting their rights and developing community awareness and a culture that respects human rights.|
|Centre for Women's Legal Research & Consulting||$45,000||To contribute to promoting women's rights and gender equality in the Gaza Strip based on IHRL and IHL.|
|Hurryyat||$50,000||To strengthen the culture of respect for HR and IHL towards a torture-free Palestinian society, enhanced by the rule of law.|
|Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies- Birzeit University||$70,000||To improve political processes that underpin human rights, in particular representation, in the refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.|
|Kav LaOved||$60,000||To uphold Israeli labor law and protect and promote the rights of Palestinian workers employed by Israelis in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.|
|Land Research Center||$72,000||To provide technical and legal support to victims of land confiscation and house demolition in five villages in the Hebron governorate to access the Israeli justice system.|
|Ma'an Development Center||$68,211||To empower 140 young community leaders in the Gaza Strip to mainstream HR and IHL into their social actions and influence duty bearers to fulfill their obligations towards the rights- holders through addressing and advocating for specific human rights violations in policy dialogue.|
|Ma'an Network||$56,000||To establish a Palestinian culture that demands government accountability for and protection from human rights abuses, through raising awareness of citizens' legal rights and establishing a channel through which the public can demand transparent investigations into human rights violations and the systematic reform of government institutions abusing human rights.|
|Musawa- The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession||$45,000||The project adopts a holistic approach in working towards a justice section of the Palestinian constitution based on HR/IHL and societal consensus.|
|Muwatin- The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy||$80,000||To empower citizens to excersize accountability over the laws produced in the absence of a legitimate and functioning PLC.|
|The Palestinian Farmers Union as hosting organization of the Stop the Wall Campaign||$65,000||To contribute to a situation of accountability and respect for human rights by all duty bearers by creating mechanisms to implement the ICJ decision related to the separation Wall.|
|PARC- The Agricultural Development Association||$97,850||To contribute to protecting the agriculture farmlands and farmers' rights based on IHRL and IHL.|
|Palestinian Bar Association||$55,000||To strengthen the Palestinian Bar Association constituency and Gaza legal community engagement in civilian protection to uphold human rights and promote access of victims to justice.|
|PCS- The Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs||$65,000||To contribute to institutional and policy reforms that advance the rights of people with disabilities through documenting violations of persons with disabilities rights, advocating for the adherence to the Palestinian Disability Law and the International Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.|
|PSCCW- Psycho Social Counselling for Center for Women||$50,000||[This application was withdrawn and did not receive funding] To contribute to ending violence against women in the Palestinian society, particularly killing under the pretext of the so-called honor, through enhancing the application of human rights and international law principles.|
|Rabbis for Human Rights||$70,000||To address the ongoing human rights violations taking place in the oPt in general and in the so-called 'Gush Etzion' region specifically, by providing legal representation to enable victims of human rights violations to seek redress and ensure protection of their rights.|
|Teacher Creativity Center||$99,290||To promote the role of education in the formation of informed, responsibile and active citizenry prepared to abide by, defend and promote human rights culture, humanitarian law and the principle of respect for life and human dignity.|
|Women for Life Organization||$35,000||To contribute to reduce all kinds of violence against women and empower divorced women (before consummation) in Salfit and Qalqilya, socially and legally so that they are able to defend their rights.|