Summary: In conflict with its goal to “support and publicize the universal principles of human rights,” the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) is continuing to fund and publicise the work of NGOs that selectively exploit human rights terminology for partisan political objectives. Members such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan still use EMHRN to demonize Israel, at the expense of genuine campaigns to protect Palestinian human rights. This biased approach brings EMHRN into conflict with the policies of the EU as expressed by the Quartet.
EMHRN is a “network of more than 60 human rights organizations from over 20 countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region”. It was formed in 1997 to “contribute to the protection and promotion of the human rights principles embodied in the Barcelona Declaration of November 1995.” Although not strictly speaking an NGO, EMHRN is essentially a funding and development arm of the European Union. It shares many features of a typical NGO – non-profit and non-affiliated, claiming to serve the public interest with apolitical humanitarian goals. It also funds and promotes the work of local NGOs through its decentralized structure and “its principle task is to facilitate the work of its members.” EMHRN is heavily funded by the EU commission and also receives money from SIDA (The Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation) and the Ford Foundation.
It uses these funds to promote a partial and inaccurate view of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and to support highly politicised NGOs that exploit universal human rights language for partisan objectives. For example, despite claiming to "concern itself with the whole of the Euro-Mediterranean region”, EMHRN has not published any reports on human rights abuses in the Palestinian Authority or terrorist groups. Its country reports concentrate on criticism of Israel, including “Tightened spaces for Human Rights – Palestinian NGO work” in March 2004 and “Migrant Workers in Israel – A Contemporary Form of Slavery" in August 2003.
Previous NGO-Monitor analyses have documented the politicized approach and bias present in EMHRN reports. Their latest 21st October press release describes the findings of a delegation sent by EMHRN to the Gaza strip in October 2005. The mission was hosted by EMHRN member PCHR, an NGO with an almost exclusively political and politicized sphere of activity (even extending to support for the boycott and prosecution of Caterpillar Inc. in early 2005 ) despite its claim to be an “independent Palestinian human rights organization.” Co-sponsored by the Interchurch Organisation for Development Co-operation (ICCO) in the Netherlands, the mission included representatives of the International Commission of Jurists – Sweden (ICJ-Sweden) (whose bias is well documented), the Bruno Kreisky Foundation, Austria and EMHRN Denmark. All of these organisations were part of the working group that contributed to the condemnatory report by EMHRN on “A Human Rights Review on the EU and Israel 2003-2004” which accused Israel of “systematic human rights violations” and violation of “international humanitarian law,” and the EU of “actually facilitat[ing] Israel’s violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.
Entitled “The Gaza Strip is still occupied,” this press release erases the universal human rights principles that the EMHRN claims to uphold, and is further evidence of the NGO’s bias approach. It presents a few facts entirely out of context to portray a highly biased and inaccurate picture of the post-disengagement situation. This EMHRN document also attacks Israel for “separating families that live on different sides of borders” but omits any mention of the continued Kassam rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. It implies that Israel is to blame for “the investment environment [being] highly risky”, whilst ignoring the PA’s responsibility for the security deficit. The press release also includes a statement by PCHR director Raji Sourani about “the illegal wall” and the “siege imposed on the OPT”, but makes no mention of the terrorist attacks that continue to threaten Israeli citizens and motivate such policies.
In its support of NGOs like PCHR and Al Mezan, EMHRN is also directly contradicting EU policy. For example, the Quartet of Russia, UN, EU and USA state that “those who want to be part of the political process should not engage in armed group or militia activities, for there is a fundamental contradiction between such activities and the building of a democratic State”. EMHRN members give tacit support to terrorism when they label it “resistance”, and encourage attacks on Israel, for example by only condemning them when they cause Palestinian casualties. The EU’s support of these organisations, via the EMHRN is inconsistent with the claim of encouraging peace. (For more information on EU funding of the Palestinians, see www.eufunding.org).
The press release described above is another example of EMHRN disregarding EU policy and abusing its status as a human rights organisation to promote political attacks against Israel. There is no attempt at balance, and the result is an inaccurate and one-sided portrayal of the current situation without credibility. Furthermore, the selective application of human rights principles, ignoring even the possibility of Palestinian violations, indicates that human rights rhetoric is still being manipulated to demonize Israel.