Click here to read correspondence with the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Click here to read Prof. Gerald Steinberg’s op-ed in The Australian on this topic


On September 11-12, 2013, the “Human Rights in Palestine” conference will be held at the Australian National University, with a focus on “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Despite the venue, the choice of speakers indicates that this will be a one-sided activist event dedicated to demonization of Israel – and will not include rigorous debate and differing perspectives. (This is similar to a pseudo-academic conference at York University in 2009.)

A number of the confirmed speakers are affiliated with NGOs, including activists from Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), EWASH, and Amnesty International. Hanan Ashrawi is founder and chair of the board of directors at Miftah, and a Palestinian politician and long-time spokesperson for the PLO. Richard Falk contributes to the NGO campaign to delegitimize Israel at the UN, through his work as “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” (See details below.)

The listed sponsors for this conference include three departments of the Australian National University and the British Academy (originally listed as a “Platinum Sponsor”), a “national body” that uses UK government funds to “support excellent ideas, individuals and intellectual resources in the humanities and social sciences.” In correspondence with the British Academy, NGO Monitor was informed that

“The Academy is not organising that event, was not consulted on the programme and is not directly sponsoring the event itself. The text that appears on the conference website claiming that the British Academy is a ‘platinum sponsor’ for the event, is therefore misleading, and appeared without authorisation from us. The Academy has been assured by the organiser that the text will shortly be revised to clarify the relationship of the Academy’s funding to the event.”

In fact, any relationship to the British Academy is the result of a “research grant” provided in 2009 to Dr. Victoria Mason, the apparent organizer of the conference, which “included a contribution towards the cost of dissemination of her research findings.” As such, the disclaimer on the conference website, referring to a generic project on “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’ funded by the British Academy,” is misleading.

NGO Participants

Jeff Halper, founder and director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). ICAHD repeatedly demonizes Israel by employing rhetoric such as “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” “collective punishment,” and “genocide,” and is active in BDS campaigns. Halper rejects a “two-state” arrangement in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and has promoted a “one-state” formula.

Hanan Ashrawi, founder and chair of the board of directors at Miftah, a Palestinian NGO dedicated to “disseminat[ing] the Palestinian narrative and discourse globally to both official and popular bodies and decision-makers.” On March 27, 2013, Miftah published an Arabic-language article, repeating the antisemitic blood libel: “Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’… ?!  Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals…?! Much of the historical stories and tales about Jewish blood rituals in Europe are based on real rituals and are not false as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover …” (translated from the original Arabic by NGO Monitor). Following public pressure, Miftah removed the article and apologized in English (but not Arabic).

Ziyaad Lunat is advocacy coordinator for EWASH, and a spokesperson and member of the Steering Committee for the Gaza Freedom March, and a member of the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. He has written for Electronic Intifada. Excerpts from Lunat’s writings:

*Pushing for “normalization” of Israeli apartheid, June 2, 2009
“After all, why would Israel rush to define its borders and give away parts of Jerusalem to a future Palestinian “state,” when the Arab governments inadvertently gave legitimacy and comfort to Israel’s ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing inside Palestine?
“The mere offer signified a de facto acceptance of the Zionist colonial implant in the region as well as submission to its military dominance.”

*Israel’s democratic facade erodes, October 14, 2008
“Historically, the Zionist state has been in the forefront of the efforts to suppress its Palestinian citizens, through a complex legal framework that circumspectly discriminates against them, but allows for Israel to sustain a ‘democratic’ facade. One example of state discrimination is Israel’s policy of expropriating land from Palestinians and reserving it for ‘the Jewish people in perpetuity’ and allowing the Jewish National Fund to administer these properties.”

Sandra Nasr is a professor at Notre Dame University Western Australia and an Amnesty International activist. Excerpt from her writings:

* Tactical Terror:  Israel in the Palestinian Territories, ISA Annual Convention, February 2010
“Israel’s conduct during the 2008/2009 Gaza incursion, together with its in-practice refusal to be accountable to internationally-accepted standards of human rights and lawful conduct of conflict indicates that the intention of its tactics in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is to instill fear in the wider population through violence and threats of violence in order to subjugate Palestinians. This is state terrorism.”

Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) is scheduled to speak on “Right to Health issues in the OPT.” PHR-I is a political advocacy group, whose openly partisan activity includes “solidarity” events in support of often violent Palestinian protests. PHR-I has waged a decades-long campaign alleging the complicity of Israeli medical professionals in the torture of Palestinian prisoners.

(The conference website claims that Litvin is “Director of the Prisoners and Detainees Department,” but PHR-I lists her as the Project Director of the “Residents of Israel & Unrecognized Negev Villages Project.” Neither states that her job is connected to PRH-I’s “Occupied Territories Project.”)