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Focus: Amnesty USA Exploits Passover, Ignores Kidnapped Israelis

David Simonds, The Economist, March 22, 2007

Articles/ Events of Interest

NGO Monitor Publications this month


Amnesty USA Exploits Passover, Ignores Kidnapped Israelis

Amnesty International USA posted what it termed a “Passover Action for Human Rights” that entirely ignored the central human rights concerns of Israelis and Jews.  There was no mention of the Israeli soldiers that were kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah during the past year.  Amnesty was also silent on the fact that, in violation of all humanitarian norms, their captors have refused to allow Red Cross visits or provided any information on their condition, or whether they are alive.  Instead, Amnesty USA’s so-called “Passover action” urged members to campaign on behalf of two opposition figures held in prison by China and Belarus.  And the headline cause promoted in this effort focused on Tove Johannsson, a Swedish pro-Palestinian activist in the radical International Solidarity Movement, injured in a scuffle in Hebron in November 2006.  (The circumstances of her injury and the role of ISM in provoking the violence are disputed.)  Amnesty repeated the claims made by biased political groups such as Electronic Intifada and ISM blaming “Israeli settlers”, and urged members to write letters on her behalf.  Ms. Johannsson has fully recovered and returned home, in contrast to the Israeli soldiers that are held captive, and the victims of Palestinian and Hezbollah terror.  

Amnesty USA also ignored key security factors in its March 2007 report entitled "Right to family life denied."  Despite Amnesty’s claim that it "knows of no case in which a woman within this category [Jordanian women of Palestinian origin who are married to Palestinian men] has been responsible for or involved in any important security incident," no definition is given for "important" and the context that 38 out of 272 suicide attacks conducted in Israel were by Palestinians holding Israeli identity cards, is erased.

In contrast, and in accordance with its mandate to promote universal human rights, Amnesty International published a report entitled "Egypt: Planned anti-terror law could intensify abuses."  This report addresses Egypt’s "long and well-publicized record of … serious human rights violations" and the possible effect of them of new legislation to combat terrorism."

See also: "Many rights, some wrong: The world’s biggest human-rights organization stretches its brand" The Economist print edition, March 22, 2007.

"[A]n organization which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters’ scrutiny."

Durban Conference 2009
On November 22, 2006, the UN General Assembly (“GA”) adopted a resolution to convene a 2009 follow-up to the World Conference Against Racism.  The NGO Forum of the 2001 conference (“Durban Conference”) was used to promote virulent anti-Israel demonization.  The follow-up event will yet again take place in Durban.  The 2009 conference is intended to focus on implementation of the 2001 resolution, which provided the blue print for the NGO "Durban Strategy."  Over the next two years, NGO Monitor will follow NGO involvement with the 2009 Conference and will provide periodic updates on this activity.

European Commission outlines new guidelines for 2007 NGO funding
On March 29, 2007, European Commission representatives presented a workshop in Tel Aviv  to NGO representatives regarding its new NGO funding mechanisms EIDHR II, and the “Non-State Actors” program.  These mechanisms replace the previous EIDHR program.  Under the new initiative more than 60% of funding (over €200 million) will go directly to NGOs.   Under EIDHR II, there will be an emphasis on “support to human rights defenders.”  Available funding to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs for 2007 is expected to be in excess of €3 million.  Attendees at the workshop included representatives of B’tselem, Yesh Din, PCATI, HRA, Mossawa, and Bimkom

At the workshop, an NGO Monitor representative asked how the Commission plans to ensure that EU funds distributed via EIDHR II will not be utilized to fund politicized NGOs, such as ICAHD, who undermine EU policies.  In response, officials present at the meeting stated that the EU “funds projects, not organizations” and that “NGO Independence” is a key component of EIDHR II.  NGO Monitor will continue to report on implementation.

Arab NGOs increase political efforts to undermine State of Israel
NGO Monitor has documented the recent intensification of the campaign by Israeli Arab NGOs, led by Adalah and Mossawa, to undermine the existence of the State of Israel.  We noted Mossowa’s legal paper, "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel" published in December 2006 and Adalah’s proposed new constitution in March 2007. This trend is now increasingly recognised, as is the need to reconsider the status of such NGOs claiming to promote universal human rights for Arab citizens, but actually working to deconstruct fundamental elements of the state.  One of the major donors, the New Israel Fund, has belatedly come to review its policies.


Ford Foundation hosts "NGO Accountability Debate"
The Ford Foundation, in conjunction with Hivos (a Dutch development organization that focuses on civil society) and the Institute of Social Sciences ran a seminar on "The NGO Accountability Debate" on April 11, 2007 at The Hague. Issues discussed included "Who do NGOs represent?" to "address the often voiced criticism that NGOs are not accountable because they do not represent anyone but themselves," and "more accountability – better results?" to explore "examples of accountability pressure and NGO responses."  Speakers included  Michael Edwards, Director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Unit in New York. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) dismisses critics but broadens Middle East focus beyond condemnations of Israel
Despite HRW‘s quick dismissal of substantive criticism (including from NGO Monitor) as the "usual suspects," a number of recent statements indicate a broader Middle East focus. In March and April 2007, HRW called for Hamas to "End Military Group Attacks Against Civilians" and documented human rights abuses in Iran, Egypt, UAE, and Syria.

UN Human Rights Council and its NGO supporters widely criticized
NGOs continue to try to exploit the discredited UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and wrangle over its status.  On 15 March, 11 NGOs including Al Haq and BADIL signed a joint statement  to the Council which condemned Israel for "one of the longest-standing yet urgent cases of denial of internationally recognized human rights" and called for intervention of the International Court of Justice, economic sanctions and a diplomatic boycott of Israel.

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch delivered a scathing attack on the Council on March 23, 2007. He criticised "the dictators who run this Council [who] couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights….They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people.  They also seek something else:  to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights." Neuer’s arguments were dismissed by President Luis Alfonso De Alba but received wide media attention

Harris O. Schoenberg, honorary chairman of the U.N. NGO Human Rights Committee and adjunct professor of human rights at New York University also criticised the UNHRC and its NGO supporters in an April 16, 2007 article.  He described the "flawed mandate" of the UNHRC which

"was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in March 2006 with the support of then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Annan and these human-rights groups supported the mandate even though the General Assembly had thrown out the safeguards that Annan and some non-governmental organizations had proposed for keeping human-rights violators off the council.

As a result, 21 of the 47 members elected last May are rated by Freedom House as human-rights violators. Some are rated the worst of the worst."

Oxfam poll blames Palestinian poverty on western donors and Israel
An Oxfam commissioned poll, conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion, was published on April 15, 2007. It concluded that the "Financial Boycott Pushes Palestinians into poverty and essential services to meltdown," by interviewing 667 Palestinians families about their income levels before and after Hamas’ electoral success.  The poll ignores Palestinian corruption, factional in-fighting, and terrorism as cause of Palestinian poverty and neglects to mention that international aid to the Palestinians has actually increased since the election of Hamas.

Mennonite Central Committee continues to mix politics and religion to attack Israel
The Mennonite Central Committee, which has joined initiatives to have cluster bombs banned in the United States, used the religious themes of Passover to demonize Israeli security measures in an April 6, 2007 release: "This is the time of Pesach or Passover, when Jews remember their liberation from slavery and oppression in Egypt. But in this place, the celebration of liberation from oppression for Jews becomes a time of increased restrictions imposed on Palestinians."(see also “Amnesty USA Exploits Passover, Ignores Kidnapped Israelis")  

Christian Aid continues its biased approach
Christian Aid‘s (CA) partner the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) demonstrated its humanitarian actions in a relief operation following the Gaza sewage flood.  However, the primacy of CA’s political campaigning is demonstrated in a March 19, 2007 press release, in which only one line addresses humanitarian issues. CA calls on international support for the Palestinian national unity government but ignores Hamas’ continued terrorist activity, and places the blame for continued conflict and poverty entirely on Israel: "Gaza is a prison – 1.4 million people are trapped and the result is violence. Sanctions, closure and isolation are killing us."

Adalah, PCHR and Al Haq use discredited HRW "research" to petition Supreme Court
Adalah joined with PCHR and Al Haq in a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the opening of criminal investigations into the civilian deaths and property damage which resulted from two military operations in Gaza – “Operation Rainbow” and “Operation Days of Penitence” (May and October 2004). 

Among other sources, the petition relies on "reports written by…Prof. John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied by Israel in 1967, Amnesty International, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Human Rights Watch."  NGO Monitor has noted the lack of credibility in HRW’s supposed "research" into these incidents (See "HRW´s Report on Gaza: Lacking Credibility" and "NGO Monitor letter to US State Department") and this is yet another example of Adalah’s abuse of the legal system to pursue its radical political agenda. (See "High Court to weigh probe on alleged IDF war crimes in Gaza," Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz April 15, 2007)

In contrast, and according to its remit to promote the "rights of the Arab monitory [in Israel]," Adalah also participated in a symposium on Arab poverty on March 28, 2007 at the Van Leer Institute.

Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Red Cross competition for legal analyses of Israel’s "de-Palestinization" of Hebron
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), International Review of the Red Cross and the College of Management Academic Studies are holding a competition for the best "international law paper" focusing on "legal aspects of the 40 year old Israeli occupation of Hebron." The "(il)legality" of Israel’s "de-Palestinization" policies is the "broad subject of the competition."

Palestinian NGOs continue to lobby the UN to demonize Israel
12 NGOs, including Al-Haq, Addameer, Al- Dameer, Al Mezan Center, BADIL, DCI-P and PCHR signed a "Joint Letter of Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Submitted to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Occasion of his Visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory."  The letter erased any Palestinian responsibility for the conflict, ignored terrorism, and condemned the "Israeli occupation [which] has severe and long-term repercussions on the human rights of every Palestinian, and by extension contributes to an escalation of the conflict with repercussions on the prospects for regional peace and security."

British National Union of Journalists votes to boycott Israeli goods and support radical NGOs
The British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted on April 13, 2007 to boycott Israeli goods and to instruct its national executive committee to support organisations including the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice in Palestine and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.

Palestinian NGOs launch boycott of Israeli Medical Association
A number of Palestinian NGOs, including the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, have joined a call to boycott the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) for "contribut[ing] directly to maintaining, defending, or justifying oppression and wars, or [standing] silently in the face of civilian deaths in the OPT and Lebanon." In explicit reference to the Durban Strategy, their statement links the campaign to the "struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through various forms of boycott and sanctions."

Articles / Events of interest:

  • "Human Rights Advocates Agree on Principles, Dispute Specifics," Mike O’Sullivan,Voice of America, March 21, 2007.
    "…groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch both have kind of a leftish ideological slant that puts a twist on some of their reporting, and that makes them sometimes hypercritical of the U.S., and also makes them very biased against Israel," said Joshua Muravchik."
  • "Danger to Democracy," Toby Willig letter to Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2007.
    " B’tselem has become a danger to democracy in Israel. With this publicly expressed attitude the organization has decided that the role of the IDF is to stop Jews living anywhere B’tselem feels is not Israel"
  • Captives without Human Rights´ [Translation from Hebrew], Amnon Rubinstein, Maariv, April 06, 2007
  • "Welcome to Hizbullahland," Michael Totten, Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2007
    This article refutes many of HRW and Amnesty’s claims from the 2006 Lebanon war. For example, these NGOs widely claimed that Israel bombed Lebanon indiscriminately while Totten’s interviewee confirms that, "Whenever you see something blown up from here," Henry said, "it is because it was owned by Hizbullah people or because Hizbullah had something to do with it." See also "Amnesty and HRW Claims Discredited in Detailed Report," NGO Monitor, December 28, 2006
  • "Selling Wal-Mart", Jeffrey Goldberg, the New Yorker, April 2 2007, p. 36
    "….N.G.O. (non-governmental organizations) are trusted by the public nearly two to one to ‘do what’s right’ compared with government bodies, media organizations and corporations."  The document goes on to describe Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund as "brands" that the public believes "do what’s right".
  • Prof. Marco Sassòli, Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva will speak on "Is the Global War on Terror an ‘Armed Conflict’ under International Humanitarian Law?" on April 25, 2007 at the Maiersdorf Faculty Lounge, Mt. Scopus Campus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, room 405. This event is hosted by the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  • "For State Department, reliance on NGOs saps report’s credibility," Gerald Steinberg, JTA , March 22, 2007 (reprinted as "State Department’s human rights report is flawed," St Louis Jewish Light). This follows the publication of NGO Monitor’s report "US State Department Report on Human Rights relies on politicized NGOs" March 7, 2007.

NGO Monitor Publications this month