Table of Contents

FocusNGOs on Gaza Violence Blame Israel

News in Brief

NGO Monitor Publications This Month

NGO Monitor in the Media

Recommended Articles



Focus:  NGOs on Gaza Violence Blame Israel

Many NGOs issued belated statements in response to the Palestinian civil war in Gaza and Hamas’ takeover. Some have called Hamas and Fatah to account for international human rights and legal violations, though many continue to blame Israel for this as well. Major NGOs operating in the region have called on the Israeli government, but not Egypt, to open Gaza border crossings.  These NGOs have pointedly not issued calls for Hamas to respect the rights of the Christian minority in Gaza, despite attacks on these groups and their institutions.


Hamas Seizes Control
Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007 after defeating PA security forces dominated by the rival Fatah group. The fighting saw arrests and killing of Palestinians by Hamas, including summary executions in the street, attacks on hospitals, victims hurled from an 18-story building, and shootings of civilians trying to escape via the border crossings.  At least 140 people were killed, with hundreds wounded. This includes dozens of civilians. 

In the days following the takeover, hundreds of Palestinians collected near the Erez crossing in an attempt to leave Gaza and cross into Israel. The Israeli Government (as of June 20) authorized evacuation of all Palestinians from the border terminal in need of urgent medical care, and  those needing treatment were taken to Israeli hospitals. The Israeli Supreme Court also declared, in response to petitions by human rights organizations, that Israeli government agencies should do "everything Israel can do to save human life." The Israeli government has expressed great concern that some of the Palestinians seeking to leave Gaza may pose a security risk because of their involvement with terrorist organizations.

In addition to violence, arrests and executions of civilians by Hamas and Fatah, there have been increasing reports of threats and violence directed against Christians and Christian organizations. A Christian School was attacked in Gaza, and Islamic fundamentalist leaders in Gaza have issued calls that "Christians must accept Islamic Rule in Gaza."  In addition to this internal violence, rocket attacks from Gaza targeting civilian areas in Israel, including the town of Sderot, have continued.

NGO Responses
After delays of a week or more, major international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Oxfam and Christian Aid, as well as a number of local NGOs, issued statements concerning these events. The responses have focused on three issues: Hamas and Fatah violence; Israel’s closing of Gaza border crossings in response; and calls for an end to the international boycott of the Palestinian Authority in light of the crisis. 

Condemnation of Palestinian Internal Violence, Rights Abuses, "War Crimes"
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights condemned the violence and human rights abuses by Palestinian factions.  HRW, for example, condemned “armed Palestinian groups” for committing “war crimes” and violating “international humanitarian law.  Amnesty International, stated that “Fatah and Hamas security forces and armed groups have shown utter disregard for fundamental principles of international law and have committed grave human rights abuses.”  B’tselem (June 17) also accused Hamas of committing “war crimes” and “severe violations” such as “summary executions”.  PCHR and Al-Mezan called upon Hamas to “respect the rule of law” and “human rights” and protect civilians.  (These statements reflect an important if belated change in the NGO community, which had claimed that human rights obligations were only binding on states, and they exempted terror groups and non-state actors, including the various Palestinian groups, from analysis.)

Border Crossings
NGOs have also issued a number of statements calling on Israel to immediately open border crossings into and out of Gaza in order to prevent a “humanitarian crisis”.  Notably, NGOs have made no such call upon Egypt, which also shares a border with Gaza. The NGO statements also ignore Israel’s legitimate security concerns as terrorist groups continue to attack and attempt to infiltrate the crossings.  Moreover, these statements remain silent regarding the daily Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

Amnesty International, for example, issued a statement on June 18 claiming that "both Israel and Palestinian factions must behave in a manner that would not hinder access to humanitarian relief and medical assistance for the civilian population." Amnesty made no reference to the security concerns Israel faces in opening the crossings, nor does it make the same demands of Egypt. Oxfam’s statements regarding border crossings take a position similar to Amnesty’s. Oxfam, in a June 18 press release, says that "EU Foreign Ministers must ensure Israel ends its blockade of Gaza." Other political NGOs, including Christian Aid, CARE, and B’tselem also issued statements demanding Israel open all border crossings and allow full access into and out of Gaza. Gisha issued a press release June 18, addressed to the Israeli Defense Minister, urging Israel to open Gaza border crossings to avoid a humanitarian crisis. The statement was released in conjunction with B’Tselem, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Center for the Defence of the Individual, Yesh Din, and Rabbis for Human Rights.  Again there was no mention of Israel’s security concerns, nor a call upon Egypt to also open its border.

Calls to end "International Boycott" of the Palestinian Government
Some NGOs, including Christian Aid and its local partner Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR) have called for end to international boycott of Hamas government. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) has called upon UN Security Council to send an armed international force to the Gaza strip to end the fighting. 

Situation Blamed on Israel
In addition to calling upon Israel to open the borders, many NGOs assigned overall responsibility for the current situation to Israel. Thus, for example, Al-Mezan (based in Gaza) claims in a June 18 statement that "the only party that benefits from the continuation of the current crisis is Israel and its occupation forces, which continue to create new facts on the ground, especially in the West Bank through the construction of the Annexation Wall and settlements, which undermine any possibility of establishing a viable, independent Palestinian state." B’Tselem, in a statement dated June 17, "reminds the Israeli government, which has effective control in the West Bank, that it bears overarching responsibility for the human rights of all people in the West Bank, including for acts committed by agencies operating with Israel’s agreement, including the Palestinian Authority." Oxfam continues to assert that Israel is “occupying” the Palestinian Authority, despite international legal analyses to the contrary, and that only Israel (not Hamas nor Fatah) is responsible for the welfare of Palestinians: "As Occupying Power Israel is responsible for the welfare of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank."


NGO News in Brief

Only B’tselem Notes One-Year Anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s Captivity

The one-year anniversary (June 25, 2007) of the kidnapping by Hamas of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit has largely gone unnoticed by NGOs.  As of June 30, 2007, the only NGO to mark the anniversary is Israeli NGO B’tselem.  B’tselem’s press release calls for Shalit’s immediate release by Hamas and states that holding Shalit as a hostage is a “war crime”.  The organization also calls denial of access by the International Red Cross “a blatant violation of international law.”  In response to the NGO silence, the Anti-Defamation League sent letters to “the directors of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Human Rights First” and “called on those groups to speak out and demand the release of the soldiers one year after their capture.”


Durban 2009: Libya Set to Head UN Anti-Racism Conference.

As NGO Monitor has reported, in November, 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to convene a 2009 follow-up to the World Conference Against Racism. The follow-up event will yet again take place in Durban. On June 21, 2007, Libya was designated as chair of the preparatory meetings in the lead-up to the conference and may be selected as overall Chair in Durban. Iran, Cuba, and Russia will also be among the 20-member bureau directing the preparatory meetings. A number of international NGOs are expected to participate in the meetings set for the end of July.  NGO Monitor will report on any NGO activity at the meetings.


HRW and Amnesty Still in Denial about the “Reformed” Human Rights Council

NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International argued that the new UN Human Rights Council would be different from the discredited Commission on Human Rights.  They were wrong.  On June 19, the UN Human Rights Council adopted new procedures for its second year in operation, including making Israel a permanent item on the Council’s agenda (the only country with this status).  In response to these measures that belie any notion of promoting universal human rights, Amnesty praised the HRC for reaching consensus on the new procedures (even though it did not), and HRW’s Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks, claimed the HRC still can be more effective than the old Commission and that the inclusion of Israel on the permanent agenda should not be viewed negatively because “in principle, at least, the council can scrutinize both Israeli and Palestinian behavior.” 
Read more about this issue on NGO Monitor’s Blog.


New UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Calls for Greater NGO Accountability

Dr. Michael Williams, former Head of Asia Research for Amnesty International, has been named as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.  NGO Monitor is encouraged by Dr. Williams’ appointment. His 2003 Introductory Paper, Global Civil Society: Expectations, Capacities and the Accountability of International NGOs, stresses the importance of trustworthiness and accountability on the part of NGOs.
Read more about this issue on NGO Monitor’s Blog.


French League of Human Rights (FIDH) equates the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with Darfur

On May 25, the French League of Human Rights (FIDH) released a press statement expressing great concern “about the situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Gaza Strip in particular.” Consistent with past approaches, FIDH focuses on condemnations of Israeli actions while barely acknowledging ongoing Palestinian violence. FIDH erases Palestinian violence and corruption — after “firmly condemning…the rocket firing from Palestinian armed groups,” only Israeli self-defensive measures are deemed a “flagrant and serious violation of international law” and constitute “war crimes.” This is another example of FIDH’s abuse of international human rights law to promote a radical political agenda.

In other activity, on June 4, 2007, FIDH presented a position paper to the 5th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. FIDH’s paper equates the on-going genocide in Sudan with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  FIDH calls on “the Council to condemn inter alia the massive human rights violations that have occurred in Darfur and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The position paper’s “Occupied Palestinian Territories” section ignores Palestinian terror and the on-going rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians. Additionally, the position paper labels Israel’s separation barrier as the “annexation wall” and omits evidence on the sharp reduction in terror attacks since the barrier’s construction.


Human Rights First Report: Further evidence of universality and balance

In contrast to many human rights advocacy groups active in the Middle East, Human Rights First (HRF) presents a balanced and unpoliticized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  In June 2007, HRF released a comprehensive survey on hate crimes including attacks on Jews.  The report noted, “ in Europe and North America, authors of antisemitic threats and attacks frequently invoke Israel and Israeli policies as justification even while employing the language and symbols of Nazi Germany.”
Read more about this issue on NGO Monitor’s Blog.


ACRI and Adalah: Civil behavior?

On June 17, 2007, NGOs Amnesty International-Israel, B’Tselem, Gisha, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Ha-Moked, Yesh Din joined ACRI and Adalah in calling for the suspension of two attorneys in Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office, based on a political agendas. The two attorneys, Gilad Sherman and Yochi Gensin were condemned for stating that “[ACRI] and Adalah are comfortable with the possibility of a prime minister, cabinet minister or MP from Hamas ordering Qassam rockets launched at Sderot, [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit not being released and as many Israeli citizens as possible killed, in the spirit of the Hamas charter, while at the same time being entitled to reside permanently in Israel and to enjoy National Insurance Institute allowances and complete freedom of movement in the country.”  Both ACRI and Adalah have been the subject of intensive criticism within Israel for the past six months over their politicized campaigning based on the rhetoric of human rights.
Read more about this issue on NGO Monitor’s blog.


>Sabeel Attacks Israel in 40th Anniversary of 1967 War Statement

On June 13, 2007, radical Palestinian NGO Sabeel issued a press release to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 War.  Consistent with Sabeel’s active role in the Durban Strategy of demonization the release opens up with verses from Old Testament Prophet Habbakuk and the inflammatory statement that, “As the prophet so eloquently notes, strife and contention are evident everywhere as we mark 40 years of the Israeli Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.  The brutal assault on Gaza continues unabated.  Israel’s army daily invades communities and kidnaps and kills Palestinians in the West Bank.”  The one-sided statement goes on to say “The reasons for the current feelings are clear.  The Israeli government and the Israeli army are implementing a long term strategy to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian government, economy, and civil society.”  Sabeel again ignored Palestinian terror and corruption and denying Palestinian responsibility for the situation. In addition to the exploitation of human rights and international legal terminology, Sabeel is a major player in the boycott, sanction, and divestment movement against Israel as well as supports a “one state solution”.

Christians for a Fair Witness on the Middle East, responded stating that it was “appalled” by Sabeel’s revision of the history of the 1967 War as well as ignoring Israeli efforts to engage in peace talks.  The group takes Sabeel to task for omitting the long campaign of Palestinian terrorism including on-going Qassam rocket attacks.

NGO Vacancies 

HaMoked advertises for Development Coordinator

Politicized Israeli NGO, HaMoked, is seeking a Development Coordinator to work in its East Jerusalem offices.  The coordinator will be responsible for all of HaMoked’s fundraising activities.  The position requirements include a “commitment to human rights” and unlike many NGO positions in Jerusalem, “a strong knowledge of Hebrew – written and verbal”.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-Israel) seeking Resource Developer

PHR-Israel is also advertising for a "Full Time Resource Developer" to coordinate the NGO’s fundraising activities.  The position requires the applicant be “committed to human rights”, have English as a “mother tongue”, “good Hebrew”, and experience with “US based foundations”.


NGO Monitor Publications This Month

NGO Monitor in the Media

"Britain´s obsessive boycotters", Gerald Steinberg, The Jerusalem Post, May 29, 2007

"While Israelis are targeted by rockets from Gaza and officials from the "elected Palestinian government" threaten attacks by female suicide bombers, calls for anti-Israeli boycotts based on human rights claims would appear to be both immoral and absurd. But the small group that controls Britain´s trade unions has managed to combine both traits, and it is escalating its political warfare in parallel with Palestinian violence. A vote on yet another anti-Israel boycott proposal is scheduled to take place at the end of May, this time by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU)……They will continue to use terms such as "apartheid" and "racist" to demonize Israel. As made clear in recent statements, it is Israel’s existence that they reject, and not specific policies."

Letter to the editor in response to Tovah Lazaroff’s, "American Jew finances campaign against demolition of Palestinian homes", Gerald Steinberg, The Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2007.  

"Watching the watchdog", Gerald Steinberg, Courier-Mail, Queensland, Australia, May 29, 2007

As Amnesty releases its annual report on human rights for 2006, amid highly choreographed public relations events and repeating the familiar condemnations of Israel and America, NGO Monitor also has published a report on Amnesty´s activities in the Middle East. The result is not a pretty picture for those clinging to the "halo effect"…  


Recommended Articles

"A Shadow on the Human Rights Movement," Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post, June 25, 2007.

“What about Western human rights groups — surely they cannot accept such a travesty of human rights advocacy? In fact, they can. While critical of the council, New York-based Human Rights Watch said its procedural decisions "lay a foundation for its future work." Global advocacy director Peggy Hicks told me that the council’s focus on Israel was in part appropriate, because of last year’s war in Lebanon, and was in part caused by Israel itself, because of its refusal to cooperate with missions the council dispatched. (Sudan also refused to cooperate but was not rebuked.) Hicks said she counted only nine condemnations, not 11.”

"The Sound of Silence", Emanuele Ottolenghi, Transatlantic Institute, June 15, 2007

“The West is host to many organizations—the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the International Solidarity Movement, and countless others—dedicated to supporting the Palestinian cause. Given mounting casualties among Palestinian civilians under fire in Lebanon and Gaza this week, one would expect these organizations to voice their shock, outrage, or simple concern at these events. Take the plight of Palestinians in the northern Lebanese camp of Nahr el Bared: according to recent news reports, more than 130 people have died during the past three weeks of fighting there. The escalating violence in Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 70.”

"Cotler addresses UN Human Rights Council in Geneva", June 13, 2007

Professor Irwin Cotler, Opposition Critic for Human Rights in the Canadian Parliament, told the UN Human Rights Council today – and made public for the first time – that he declined the invitation of the President of the Human Rights Council to join the UN investigative mission into Beit Hanoun in Gaza because, “[I] could not accept a mandate to hear only one side of a dispute […] which denied the other side the right to a hearing […] and which denied the presumption of innocence.”

"Lebanese ‘defensive shield’ – no problem", Joshua L.Gleis, The Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2007

“More than 50 people have been killed … Lebanese Army forces battle Islamists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared….The resemblance of the Lebanese chain of events to Israel’s April 2002 assault on the Jenin refugee camp as part of Operation Defensive Shield is striking….. Palestinians, Arab League, United Nations and human rights organizations all called for investigations into the Israeli operation, initially dubbed a ‘massacre’ by Arab leaders and the news media. The IDF operation resulted in the deaths of 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers. Still, protests were sent to the UN Security Council, and inquiries were conducted by the UN, journalists and human rights organizations. All admitted that no massacre had taken place; however Human Rights Watch and others did claim that Israel had violated international law. Curiously, similar calls by the world community for investigations into the recent fighting in Lebanon are absent. Missing are the cries of the Arab world for an investigation into the deaths of innocent Palestinians.

Amnesty’s Moral Blindness’, editorial, The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2007

“Unfortunately, Amnesty’s take on the Arab-Israeli conflict is not just ‘unfair’ in this or that detail, but so wildly distorts the situation that it actually harms the worthy cause it purports to advance. . . . Amnesty openly refuses to distinguish between aggressors and defenders. As the report explains with respect to the 2006 war in Lebanon, it did not condemn Hizbullah for attacking Israel on July 12, nor did it condemn Israel for defending itself. Despite this, the report argues that Israel responded disproportionately, which is an indirect admission that Israel does have a right to defend itself.”