Summary: The International Progress Organization is an NGO that claims to promote tolerance towards all nationalities and cultures, as well as meaningful dialogue between nations. However, the strong consistent anti-Israel bias displayed in IPO publications and in statements made by IPO President Hans Koechler, as well as its tendency to erase the context of terrorism runs counter to IPO’s stated mission. Additionally, IPO’s participation in and dedicated support of the 2001 Durban Conference damages its credibility and reveals its highly political agenda.
Founded in 1972 in Innsbruck, Austria by students from Austria, India, and Egypt, IPO is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-partisan group that claims to promote
"cultural and academic exchange between all nations; all aspirations that aim at cultural self-realization of national cultures; tolerance towards other cultures that are not yet included in cultural exchanges; realization of political, social and economic human rights; establishment of a new international economic order; development of international law."
Currently based in Vienna, IPO
sponsors international conferences and research seminars on democracy, human rights, conflict resolution, international law, and economic development; monitors elections and human rights situations in various countries, co-operates with academic institutions and international NGOs on all continents, and publishes the series ‘Studies in International Relations.’"
Enjoying consultative status with UNESCO and association with the United Nations Department of Public Information, IPO has permanent representation at the UN in New York City, Vienna, and Geneva as well as at UNESCO in Paris and in Beirut, at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Additionally, IPO serves as the Secretariat of the NGO Committee on Development, a collection of different NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC) in the fields of development and North-South relations.
IPO claims to have "a regular budget based solely upon contributions from its members and from individual donors," but does not practice transparency and its sources of funding are not listed on its website.
IPO is one of the primary NGOs supporting the "Durban strategy" to delegitimize Israel, based on the NGO Forum Declaration that was adopted at the 2001 Durban Conference. It continues to support this agenda through its activities, including its website, which features the inflammatory speech by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi at Durban. In this speech, Ashrawi describes the "domination, subjugation, and enslavement" of the Palestinians, and "state terrorism…by both military and settler perpetrators;" while using rhetoric of "ethnic cleansing" and "apartheid."
Since it was founded, the IPO has been headed by Dr. Hans Koechler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Innsbruck who espouses consistently extremist anti-Israel views. Dr. Koechler also serves as coordinator for the International Committee for Palestinian Human Rights, a division of the IPO. Koechler’s political and ideological views are reflected in activities such as participation in a conference at the Zayed Center for Coordination & Follow-up in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates entitled "War Victims and International Law" in July 2002. Koechler appeared with Mr. Rony Brauman, Founder of Médecins sans Frontiers (MSF). The Zayed Center was closed in August 2003 after increased international attention focused on its extremist agenda and speakers. ADL reported that
"[t]he Center regularly publishes anti-Semitic and conspiracy theory literature and promulgating anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism through its speakers and official publications. The center promotes an extreme, anti-Israel agenda, including efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State…"
Koechler also appeared at The International Ecumenical Conference on "Terrorism in a Globalized World" in the Philipines in September 2002. He spoke on the "War on Terror, its Impact on the Sovereignty of States and its Implications for Human Rights and Civil Liberties." There was no mention of Palestinian terrorism yet the conference declaration descibed how "[t]he Israeli state terrorism against Palestine forms part of the U.S. agenda in the Middle East. It must end now." Koechler addressed the UN General Assembly, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on 29 November 2005, the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People." He speech was dedicated to attacking Israel, including demands for an international investigation into Arafat’s "mysterious" death.
In its reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, IPO consistently erases the context of terror and exploits human rights rhetoric to delegitimize Israel. In a 2002 statement, IPO "strongly condemned the massacres, war crimes and grave violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Israeli occupation forces in Palestine." By using highly charged language to describe Israeli military actions, IPO’s lack of context implies that Israel’s actions reflect gratuitous violence.
Contrary to its stated mission of exploring complicated international issues with objectivity, IPO consistently promotes a highly biased view of the conflict, absolving the Palestinians of accountability and responsibility. In a 2002 statement entitled "War In Palestine: A Declaration of the International Progress Organization," Koechler demonizes Israel and seems to justify violence, asserting that
"the problem of terrorism can only be solved if the root causes of the suicidal attacks are addressed: namely the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land … and the permanent subjugation of the entire people of Palestine to Israeli rule."
Such blatant propaganda is consistent with IPO’s efforts to advance a radical pro-Palestinian political agenda.
In a 2002 report, IPO promoted the myth of the Jenin "massacre," stating that "the atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers in Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah are beyond description. The Declaration of the IPO stated that these war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be dealt with fairly in the judicial system of the occupying power." There is no mention of terrorism in this report or any reference to the challenges posed when terrorists operate in civilian areas.
In its mission statement, the IPO "aims to encourage cultural exchange between all nations, attempts to promote tolerance towards all nationalities and cultures." However, its record of consistent anti-Israel bias, its promotion of the Durban strategy of demonization, and its tendency to absolve the Palestinians from responsibility or accountability, are counter to its stated aim of creating productive dialogue to resolve conflict.