June 2006 Digest (Vol.4 No.10)

Table of Contents:

Focus: NGOs denounce Israel for Gaza beach explosion without all the facts

NGO Activity in Brief:

International NGO Activity

Palestinian NGO Activity

NGOs and Boycott Movement

NGO Monitor Publications and Conference


Relevant Articles


NGO Monitor In the Media




Focus: NGOs denounce Israel for Gaza beach explosion without all the facts

On Friday 9 June, eight Palestinian civilians were killed in disputed circumstances by an explosion on a Gaza beach. Despite the contentious nature of the incident, and while the facts remained unclear, a number of NGOs immediately adopted Palestinian claims holding the Israeli army responsible, and used the opportunity to attack Israel politically. Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release on the alleged findings" of Marc Galasco, a former "battle damage expert", who held a widely broadcast press conference in Gaza. Galasco was also the author of HRW’s "Razing Rafah" report of 2004 which contained many unverifiable and disputed claims. Ignoring evidence presented by the IDF that concluded that the deaths were not caused by an Israeli shell, HRW claimed that "the evidence overwhelmingly supports the allegations that the civilians were killed by artillery shells fired by the IDF." (Forensic evidence taken by the IDF from casualties of the explosion, now being treated in Israel was inconsistent with this claim.) Galasco’s report included unverifiable Palestinian claims as well as testimony and "evidence" brought by the Palestinian police – an organization whose credibility is extremely low. While not questioning the Palestinian police claims, HRW rejected the information provided by the IDF, reflecting the HRW’s inherent bias. Similarly, it should be noted that no such investigation was undertaken on the source of more than 3000 rockets launched from Gaza at Israeli towns following the withdrawal in August 2005.

The political power of HRW and other NGOs ("the halo effect") is also underlined by this episode. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan accused Israel of causing this incident on the basis of media reports, which in turn repeated the claims made by HRW. But Annan then retracted the accusation, stating "I responded to speculations in the press. The answer was given before Israel published its findings. We need to wait for Israel to publish its final report."

Other NGOs also cited the incident in political attacks. In a press release of 12 June, the U.S. branch of Amnesty International (AI) accused Israel of responsibility for the incident, alleging that the casualties were caused when "Israeli forces fired several artillery shells at a beach in the North of the Gaza Strip." AI has not updated their position to include the evidence that contradicts these allegations. AI’s statement continued by denouncing IDF military practice saying, "many killings of Palestinians in reckless shootings, tank shelling and air strikes by Israeli forces have been unlawful." This position follows numerous other examples in which this powerful NGO has used a narrow interpretation of international law to promote a highly biased political agenda.

The Palestinian NGO known as Miftah (headed by Hanan Ashrawi) also issued a press release on 10 June calling on the international community to stop "Israel’s state-terrorism" and stated that the casualties were caused "when an Israeli navy vessel fired 3 shells at them." This doubtful claim reiterated the assertions in the highly controversial video distributed by Palestinian Authority TV, which Palestinian Media Watch reported to be falsified. According to PMW, the video was constructed from unrelated clips of an Israeli gunboat firing at the Gaza shore earlier in the day and then edited with images of the beach scene.

It is now widely accepted that Israeli ships were not responsible for the explosion). Using the standard language of the Durban strategy, Miftah, which received a $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in 2005, called the incident a "brutal massacre" and called on the international community to "hold Israel accountable for its war crimes against the Palestinians."

Al-Mezan, which is also funded by the Ford Foundation as well as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and International Commission of Jurists among others, released a press statement on 11 June which called the incident a "savage massacre." Al Mezan also accused Israel of responsibility for the attack based on evidence gathered by "TV channels [which] reported that shells were fired from a naval ship located close to Beit Lahia beach." Al Mezan added that the incident "highlight[s] Israel’s organized killing of Palestinian civilians."

Similarly, PCHR based its claims that Israel was responsible for the incident on the falsified video, when it stated in a press release of 10 June that "the family was hit by artillery fired from an Israeli naval boat."


NGO Activity in Brief:

International NGO Activity

Amnesty International 2006 Annual Report again includes politicized condemnations of IsraelAmnesty International’s
(AI) 2006 Annual Report accused Israel of a long list of violations, including "war crimes", "crimes against humanity", "collective punishment", "unlawful killings", impunity for soldiers and "other measures that violate international law." In keeping with AI’s routine political attacks against Israel, the report failed to take into account the context of mass terrorism in which Israeli policy is formulated.

AI, Oxfam International and nine other NGOs adopt "Accountability Charter"
A group of eleven international NGOs, including Amnesty International (AI) and Oxfam International have endorsed an "International Non-Governmental Organizations Accountability Charter." AI stated that by adopting the charter these NGOs wish to demonstrate their "internal desire to be transparent and accountable." Irene Kahn, Secretary-General of AI noted that "NGOs are playing an increasingly prominent role in setting the agenda in today’s globalised world. This places a clear responsibility on us to act with transparency and accountability." The "core values" which the charter sets for NGOs include "good governance and management; fundraising and multi-stakeholder engagement… independence, responsible advocacy, effective programmes, non-discrimination, transparency and ethical fundraising." NGO Monitor will examine and report on the degree to which this new and important commitment is implemented. 

See "NGOs to practice what they preach,"  Terra Viva UN Journal, June 12, 2006.

Israel appointed to serve on United Nations committee on Non-Governmental Organizations
Israel has been appointed to serve on the United Nations Committee on Non-governmental Organizations for four years. The committee’s responsibilities include consideration of NGO applications for consultative status with the UN as well as considering the quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs with consultative status. Other members of the committee include the UK, US, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and Cuba. Orli Gil, the head of the NGO Unit of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said "we know about their [NGOs] activities and we help in any way we can, especially when it’s humanitarian and legal. What we do have problems with are lawbreakers like [the International Solidarity Movement] and those who publish reports with incorrect facts… I’m sorry to say that quite a few of them are publishing things that are out of context or even not true."

Christian Aid and Pax Christi help organize Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s demonstration in London.
Christian Aid and Pax Christi helped organize Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s demonstration "against the Israeli occupation of Palestine" in London on 22 May. Baroness Jenny Tonge of the House of Lords and British MP Jeremy Corbyn were among those who addressed the rally of an estimated 20,000 people. A mock-up of the security barrier and a large banner with the words "Stop Starving Palestinians, End Israel’s Occupation and Recognize Palestinian Democracy" was the backdrop for the speakers.

Christian Aid has also updated its webpage for "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories." The information alleges that Israeli policy and "expansion and consolidation of settlements" has caused Palestinian hardship but fails to mention the corruption in the PA and the unwillingness to renounce terrorism which has been a major factor in the economic downturn in the Palestinian territories. In its summary, CA declares "both peoples must end the violence."

EMHRN issues biased press release: "Should the Palestinians be Punished?"
On 12 April 2006 the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), which is funded by the EU and the Ford Foundation issued a press release which stated that by freezing aid to the Palestinian Authority the international community has displayed "a permanent double reasoning as, at the same time, it tolerates the multiple violations of Human Rights which the Israeli government is guilty of committing." The statement also urged "the European Union [to] re-establish its financial aid" to the PA. This clearly political statement that repeats the Palestinian position is consistent with those made by many pro-Palestinian NGOs.


Palestinian NGO Activity

Miftah labels top terrorist "Freedom Fighter"
In an editorial of June 9, Miftah condemned the killing of Jamal Abu Samhadana the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) by the IDF on 8 June and called him a "Palestinian freedom-fighter." PRC is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including missile attacks aimed at Israeli cities, and is suspected of having carried out an attack on a US convoy in Gaza in October 2003 which killed three security guards and severely wounded a US diplomat.

 Sabeel’s Naim Ateek to receive "peace award", promoting radical agenda
Naim Ateek, the head of Sabeel, received the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s 2006 John Nevin Sayre Award at the 75th Annual General Convention of the Episcopal Church on 17 June. Sabeel frequently attacks Israel as "an apartheid state" and is a leader in the international campaign for divestment from Israel. In September 2005, Ateek refused to abandon his position that Israel has no right to exist. The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, dated 15 May, which said that "Ateek has repeatedly diminished, not enhanced, the cause of peace and justice in the Middle East" and called on the Episcopal Church in America to "reconsider this unfortunate move."

Al Mezan calls for halt to spread of small arms in PA territories and condemns killing of two Palestinian terrorists
In anticipation of a UN conference on small weapons starting on 26 June, Al-Mezan released a press statement on 29 May, calling for a halt to the spread of small arms in the Palestinian territories and further called on the PNA to "take serious procedures to impose the law, punish those who illegally use weapons, and halt the phenomenon of carrying weapons illegally." The organization also said that the material capacities of the community are being wasted which is preventing investment in the Palestinian economy.

In another press release of 5 June, Al Mezan condemned the killing of two Palestinians, neglecting to mention that both fatalities were members of the terrorist group the Popular Resistance Committees, responsible for numerous terrorist attacks including the launching of Qassam rockets at Israel. One of the fatalities, Majdi Hamed, played a central role in the attempt on 26 April to bomb the Karni goods crossing, which is the main conduit for the crossing of goods between Israel and Gaza. Al Mezan’s statement said that the attack "constitute[s] grave violations of International Law" and said that international community should "intervene to provide protection to civilians and properties and punish those who commanded the military actions and committed war crimes against Palestinians."

NGOs and Boycott Movement

Wiesenthal Center Calls for UK Government action against Academic Boycott, noting PNGO’s central role
In the wake of the motion passed by Britain’s largest teachers’ union, NATFHE, to boycott Israeli academics and institutions, the Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to British Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson and Universities UK President Drummond Bone calling for their action against this boycott. The Wiesenthal Center said that the boycott was "a propaganda instrument of the PNGO – a network of Palestinian NGOs that includes groups associated with the European Union blacklisted terrorist organization Hamas, and those which glorify suicide terrorism, as perpetrated last July in London." PNGO is an umbrella organization for ninety-two Palestinian NGOs which has indeed been very active in promoting an academic boycott of Israel as can be seen by this list of organizations advocating the boycott of Israeli academia.

Badil and Defense of Children International call for Boycott and Sanctions of Israel at International Conference
Badil, an extremist Palestinian NGO focusing on refugee issues, and Defense of Children International participated in a conference of the European Coordination Committee of Associations for Palestine from 26-29 May. At the end of the conference the participants called for a boycott of Israel including sanctions and halting of investments.


NGO Monitor Publications 

  • Ford Foundation Update, May 22, 2006 (see news stories, opeds and letters related to this report in the "In the Media" section)
  • Op-ed: Human rights’ groups such as Amnesty International are part of the problem, not the solution by Israel Kasnett, May 30, 2006
  • Op-ed: Human-Rights Schizophrenia: Human Rights Watch shows a disturbing disparity in its treatment of Israel and China by Gerald M. Steinberg, June 5, 2006
  • NGOs Condemn Court Ruling on "Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law", June 12 , 2006

NGO Monitor Conference

The NGO Monitor conference on 14 June focused on "Ethical Norms in a Political World: NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israeli Conflict." The conference included panels on Human Rights and Political Power, NGOs, the Media and the "Halo Effect", Government Funding for NGOs and the Hamas Dilemma and NGOs, Human Rights and International Law. Speakers included Natan Sharansky, M.K, who gave the keynote address, Dr. Michael Ehrlich, former chair of Amnesty International’s Israel section, Dr. Gershon Baskin Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, Gideon Meir, Director General for Media and Public Affairs of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor Editor.

Presentations from the conference can be found on the NGO Monitor site; summaries and audio recordings of sessions will be available soon.

Relevant Articles

  • Anne Bayefsky on the "UN-NGO nexus" and how NGOs have been empowered by U.N.-accreditation "to spread anti-Semitism, hate, and encourage terrorism from a U.N. platform."

  • Malcolm Lowe discusses how the divestment campaign propagated by Sabeel and others could backfire on the Palestinians. He stated that "the Sabeel Center of Rev Naim Ateek, an Anglican Palestinian, continues to propagate divestment worldwide, oblivious to how it has rebounded upon his own people."

  • Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times discusses the comments of HRW’s Marc Garlasco on Israel’s targeted killings policy in the context of human rights and civilian casualties. The article also quoted Ariel Cohen of the Heritage foundation who stated "I think these people (at B’Tselem) are wrong because they do not recognize the deadly nature of Islamist terrorism, they do not recognize the hateful religious incitement and propaganda that brainwashes Palestinians."

NGO Monitor In the Media 

NGO Monitor’s Editor Gerald Steinberg appeared in numerous international newspapers with his critique of the interpretation of Human Rights Watch’s military investigator, Marc Garlasco, on the Gaza beach explosion controversy.

Garlasco, whose previous work for HRW includes the discredited Razing Rafah report, investigated the incident and concluded that Israel was responsible. His findings, along with Steinberg’s response, appeared in an Associated Press story picked up by over 30 newspapers, including the USA Today

"Israeli analyst Gerald Steinberg, who heads a watchdog group called NGO Monitor, charged that Garlasco is not a credible expert, and Human Rights Watch officials have "a long and carefully documented history of exploiting human rights claims to promote a clear anti-Israel political and ideological bias,"" the article states. 

NGO Monitor’s report on the Ford Foundation was also cited in numerous publications over the past month, extending the impact of NGO Monitor’s research and reporting. New Israel Fund and Human Rights Watch also drew media attention.

Ike Seamans based his Miami Herald story, "Why help enemies of the Jewish state?" on the Ford Foundation report. "The foundation continues to bankroll numerous Palestinian NGOs with nefarious goals," he wrote, listing PCHR, Miftah, and Al Mezan as examples.

Shlomo Greenwald cited the Ford report in a story in the New York Sun entitled, "Ford Foundation Is Criticized on Mideast Funding." He notes that NGO Monitor identified 11 grants to NGOs that demonize Israel, even after Ford "adopted new standards against promoting violence, terrorism, or bigotry."

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also cited the Ford report in an editorial called " Same old Ford" about the foundation’s failure to change its ways since promising to stop funding politicized NGOs that exploit human rights rhetoric. 

The Jewish Exponent ran a story about the New Israel Fund, including a reference to NGO Monitor and its assessment that NIF funds "groups with ‘highly politicized’ agendas, including the Arab Association for Human Rights, which the Monitor said promoted the anti-Israel divestment campaign." 

Finally, NGO Monitor editor Gerald Steinberg published a piece on the National Review Online website titled, "Human-Rights Schizophrenia," which compares Human Rights Watch’s approach to Israel with its approach to China. Steinberg wrote that unlike HRW’s work on Israel, its reports on China are "focused, credible, and do not reflect personal and agendas and emotions." However, he adds, HRW’s excessive emphasis on Israel and its anti-Israel orientation makes it "questionable whether HRW’s reports on and activities concerning China and elsewhere can be considered credible."