In May and June 2011, the network of political advocacy NGOs initiated a campaign on the Jordan Valley. Israeli participants included the European- and NIF-funded groups — B’Tselem, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Machsom Watch, and Adalah, while Palestinian NGO participants include Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and BADIL (all funded by European governments). At least 20 NGOs are taking part in the concerted political effort to condemn Israeli government policy on the Jordan Valley.
As demonstrated below, this NGO campaign includes numerous distortions of the complex security and diplomatic issues, and exploits the rhetoric of human rights, in order to advance the political agendas of the participants. In this and other respects, the Jordan Valley campaign is similar to and a continuation of the role played by Israeli and Palestinian political advocacy NGOs in the Goldstone report, and similar controversial efforts.
The NGO activities related to the Jordan Valley campaign include:
- In May 2011, B’Tselem initiated a campaign entitled “Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel’s Policy in the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea,” which included an 80-page report in English (also published in Hebrew), a press release (English, Hebrew, and Arabic), and an “interactive” video component.
- The B’Tselem publication, ostensibly related to human rights, is, in fact, entirely political: “successive Israeli governments have viewed the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea as areas over which Israeli control must be maintained…[and have determined that] the Jordan River marks the strategic border of the State of Israel and serves as a buffer zone between Israel” and potential threats to the east.
- On June 6, 2011, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) dedicated a “new season” of its Action-A-Day project to the Jordan Valley. (“ACRI’s Action-A-Day project provides the Israeli public with accessible, simple ways – one per day – to help promote the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.”)
- ACRI’s emphases include water supplies, freedom of movement, “and other violations of the most basic human rights of the local residents.”
- ACRI also commissioned a poll of Israeli Jews about the Jordan Valley, in order to demonstrate that “because Israelis lack basic knowledge about the status of the Jordan Valley, they are more likely to uncritically follow the line presented by Israeli authorities.”
- “The Action-A-Day campaign for the Jordan Valley is run in partnership with B’Tselem, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, and Friends of the Earth – Middle East (FoEME).” (On the ACRI website, B’Tselem is crossed out. Since a number of ACRI emails have included B’Tselem on the list of partners, it is unclear what this means.)
- On May 16, 2011, Al Haq and 17 other Palestinian NGOs, including Adalah and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), submitted a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council entitled “The Silent Annexation of the Jordan Valley.”
- The joint statement alleges that “The adverse effects of Israeli policies in the OPT on the Palestinian right to self-determination are most boldly manifested by Israel’s annexationist designs over the Jordan Valley.”
- On June 15, 2011, Al Haq, FIDH, BADIL, Al Mezan, and Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC) hosted a side event at the UN building in Geneva, including the Jordan Valley as an “area of focus.”
- Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) “is launching new tours to the Jordan Valley…based on engagement with local activists and the Palestinian community in the area.”
- In 2010, Ma’an Development Center released a report entitled “Eye on the Jordan Valley,” alleging that “Israel has continually coveted the Jordan Valley since the 1967 war” and that “the Jordan Valley is suffering from serious social, environmental and economic devastation as a consequence of Israel’s apartheid policies.”
- Ma’an’s report recommended that “It is essential that NGOs, both Palestinian and international, focus on the issues in the Jordan Valley…[and] also to work on advocacy and campaigning at local and international levels to tackle human rights abuses.”
- Another player in the campaign is Jordan Valley Solidarity, a “network of Palestinian grassroots community groups from all over the Jordan Valley and international supporters.” The organization’s main partners are Machsom Watch, Ma’an Development Center, Association France Palestine Solidarity, and Brighton Jordan Valley Solidarity group.