Table of Contents
- NGO Sources in 2005 US State Department Human Rights Report, Israel and Occupied Territories
- Israeli State Prosecutor Recognises Bias of NGOs, HaMoked and B’Tselem
- B’Tselem and Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- Sabeel and Other NGOs Campaign Against Church of England
- Human Rights Watch Still Promoting Political Agenda
- UN Watch and UN Reform of Human Rights Council
- Machsom Watch Meet with IDF
- Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) Provides Unverifiable Report to International Media
- EU’s EMHRN Issues Political Statement Backing Palestinian Positions
- Troubled Waters: Singer Linked to War on Want Defies Anti-Israel Boycott
- NGO Monitor Publications this Month
- NGO Monitor in the Media
NGO Sources in 2005 US State Department Human Rights Report, Israel and Occupied Territories
On 8 March, 2006 the US State Department released its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice. As documented by NGO Monitor, the section on Israel and the Occupied Territories in past years has included extensive quotes from NGOs that display a consistent anti-Israel political bias (in sharp contrast with the norms of universal human rights), publish claims that lack credibility, and ignore the complexities of human rights requirements in the context of mass terror.
The 2005 report shows evidence of improvement, reflecting NGO Monitor’s correspondence with the State Department. The degree of reliance on unverifiable claims by politicized NGOs has decreased significantly, particularly with respect to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In addition, the emphasis in the 2005 report on the context of terror is consistent with the need to assess human rights behaviour in relation to security requirements, in contrast to the practice of the NGO network. However, reliance on allegations of NGOs that often erase this core element in human rights behaviour remains significant. NGOs cited include HaMoked, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Physicians for Human Rights- Israel ( PHR-I), Israel Committee Against House Demolitions ( ICAHD), B’Tselem, and Machsom Watch.
Israeli State Prosecutor Recognises Bias of NGOs, HaMoked and B’Tselem
In a brief submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, State Prosecutor Nira Mashraki has argued that organisations claiming to work to defend human rights are seriously compromised by their one sided approach. In responding to a petition presented by HaMoked, the attorney’s statement referred to the NGO’s practice of placing Palestinian "rights" above universal ones such as the right to life. She said that "the organization’s self-presentation as ‘a human rights organization’ has no basis in reality and is designed to mislead." B’Tselem was criticised for attacking "the State of Israel and its security forces throughout the world." This brief was the subject of debate in the Israeli media, and was criticized by Haaretz columnist Tom Segev and MK Zahava Gal-On of the Meretz Party.
See Gerald Steinberg, Challenging the NGO Mythology," Jerusalem Post, March 11, 2006;
Gerald Steinberg, Exposing the myths of human rights NGOs," Makor Rishon, March 10, 2006 (PDF – Hebrew).
Also Yuval Yoaz, "Rights groups representing Palestinians ’cause damage’ to the state, court told," Haaretz, March 7, 2006;
Yuval Yoaz, "Prosecutor rejects criticism of human rights groups," Haaretz, March 9, 2006;
Tom Segev, "Patriotism sans borders" Haaretz, March 10, 2006
B’Tselem and Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
On 7 March Sarit Michaeli, Communications Director of B’Tselem participated in a conference at the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign entitled " After the Election of Hamas – What Next." ? The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign based in Dublin advocates boycotting Israeli goods and Israeli universities. B’Tselem’s credibility as a neutral source of information is seriously undermined by its links and cooperation with such an organisation. Director of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani was also involved in the conference.
Sabeel and Other NGOs Campaign Against Church of England
A coalition of around fifteen groups, including War on Want and Friends of Sabeel UK, have begun a campaign to get individual churches in the UK to withdraw their finances from the Church of England’s Central Board of Finance (CBF). This comes in response to the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) that voted unanimously not to disinvest from Caterpillar, contrary to the 6 February vote of the General Synod for "morally responsible investment."
Rev Stephen Sizer, Vice Chair of Friends of Sabeel UK and a major opponent of Christian Zionism, appears to be leading the campaign. Sizer told The Guardian that "[t]hey [the Synod] must withdraw from Caterpillar, or we will take our money back, and other parishes will do the same." He said that the number of churches boycotting the CBF could rise to hundreds as the campaign gathers momentum and also alleged that outside parties were controlling the EIAG when he claimed that " There appear to be other interests at work here, besides those of the Church."
Other Sabeel Activity
Sabeel held a conference entitled "Pursue Justice Seek Peace" in Washington on 3-4 March. Speakers included head of Sabeel, Dr. Naim Ateek as well as Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions , Liat Weingart of Jewish Voice for Peace, Quaker Peace Activist Jean Zaru from Ramallah, Rev. Dr. Don Wagner, a Presbyterian Minister/Professor, Bill Fletcher of TransAfrica; Prof. Susan Akram of Boston University; Sara Roy of Harvard University;
In an address to a group of United Methodists from the in Jerusalem on 25 January, Sabeel head, Dr. Naim Ateek repeated his position on the illegitimacy of Israel, declaring "ultimately, the best solution is one state." He also said that his organization was working towards a two-state solution despite this opinion. The Methodist group heard from other highly politicized NGO representatives in their trip, including ICAHD Badil ARIJ B’Tselem and the Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel.
Human Rights Watch Still Promoting Political Agenda
As noted in previous NGO Monitor updates, HRW is continuing to use current events to pursue a political agenda, including calls to cut U.S. aid to Israel. In a letter of February 9 to European Commission President Josè Manuel Barroso, Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division stated that EU aid to a Hamas-led P.A. should be conditioned on the human rights record of the Palestinian government. However it also supported the continuation of EU aid for the time being, since Hamas "largely has maintained a moratorium on such attacks for more than a year".
The letter ignores the declarations by Hamas leaders that the ceasefire is temporary and that violent activity will be renewed. The letter also condemns attacks "against Israeli civilians" but by omission implies that military operations against Israeli military targets should not preclude EU funding. HRW’s position as set out in the letter also fails to mention the requirement that Hamas adhere to previous international agreements signed between the PA and Israel.
By failing to address these issues, HRW effectively backs the continued flow of money to a Hamas-controlled government, despite its refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence. HRW’s apparent acceptance of Palestinian violence is reflected in its screening of the controversial film "Paradise Now" in the HRW film festival 15-25 March. The film depicts two suicide bombers yet the HRW review simply describes their plan as a "strike on Tel Aviv."
On a related topic, Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch supported the decision of a New York school to invite two Islamist anti-Zionists to speak. As a parent of a pupil in this school, Roth reportedly opposed those who argued against this radical program. "It suggests that some parents who supposedly believe in progressive education and trust their kids to hear all sides of disputes don’t extend that principle to disputes about Israel."
Other HRW activities related to this conflict since the beginning of 2006 include a recommendation that the IDF open criminal investigations of soldiers allegedly involved in the killing of two Palestinian children in January 2006. HRW also sent a letter to Dr. Ramadan Shalah, Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad calling on them to "immediately stop the practice of targeting civilians or launching indiscriminate attacks that claim civilian lives." At the same time, HRW continues the increased emphasis on human rights violations beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict zone, as noted in previous NGO Monitor analyses. It has published material
UN Watch and UN Reform of Human Rights Council
UN Watch along with other NGO groups called on member states of the UN General Assembly to strengthen the draft for a new Human Rights Council. The statement called for the removal of a clause which gives member states the power to decide what constitutes "the most effective contribution" of NGOs at the council. This would limit the ability of NGO’s to speak out freely. It also called for the adoption of a clause, originally proposed by Kofi Annan, requiring a two thirds majority for the election of a member to the Council, in order to give democratic states the ability to block the election of serial abusers of human rights.
In opposition to this position, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, "to urge that the United States support the draft resolution for a new U.N. Human Rights Council" as it is, claiming that delay would "weaken the resolution" or "delay its adoption indefinitely."
Amnesty International also declared support for the new draft. Secretary General of AI, Irene Khan stated "the administration should not jeopardize the best chance in decades to establish a more effective UN human rights body." Neither HRW nor AI commented on the role their organizations played in reinforcing the political biases under the previous UN Human Rights Commission.
On March 15, the UN voted by 170 to 4 (3 abstentions) to implement reform without the suggested changes.
Machsom Watch Meet with IDF
Representatives of Machsom Watch met with Dan Halutz, IDF Chief of Staff on 5th March. The NGO, which claims to monitor the behavior of IDF soldiers at checkpoints while openly expressing its political positions, as noted in NGO Monitor’s analysis, also criticised travel restrictions. Halutz responded by saying that "Humanitarianism is not exclusively owned by Machsom (checkpoint)-Watch and it is tested not only at the checkpoints, but also in preventing suicide bombers from reaching the markets of Tel Aviv and Netanya."
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) Provides Unverifiable Report to International Media
PHR-I and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued an unverifiable report condemning an IDF operation in Nablus (Shechem) that started on February 18. The report alleged that the IDF fired "indiscriminately," that medical workers were targeted and "placed between stone throwers and Israeli soldiers in what seems to be the use of the ‘human shield’ tactic." Despite the lack of verification, the claim was re-published by the BBC and the Washington Post. PCHR’s political statement labelled the IDF anti-terror operation as a "war crime."
EU’s EMHRN Issues Political Statement Backing Palestinian Positions
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network sent an open letter to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on 21 February 2006 demanding that two arrested workers of its member organisations be immediately brought to trial or released. It asserted that "administrative detention is a violation of international human rights and humanitarian legal standards", and condemned Israel for "acts of harassment, intimidation, threats, and deliberate attacks on human rights defenders in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]." As documented by NGO Monitor, EMHRN and its member NGOs consistently use this forum to promote an anti-Israel position that erases the context of terror and exploits the rhetoric of "international human rights" claims
Troubled Waters: Singer Linked to War on Want Defies Anti-Israel Boycott
In 2004 Roger Waters of Pink Floyd performed his song "another brick in the wall" to promote War on Want’s major campaign against the separation barrier, as reported by NGO Monitor. Now he is being criticised by a number of Palestinian NGOs and groups for a planned concert in Tel Aviv. Waters has refused to cancel the concert stating "I am happy to play to anybody who believes in peace…Being an Israeli does not disbar from being a human being."
Analysis of NGO Funding: Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation, March 6, 2006
Exchange of correspondence with Reuters AlertNet, regarding the biased activities and agendas of its NGO members and "Content Partners," March 12, 2006
NGO Monitor’s reports and press statements were cited in numerous publications and websites this month, and NGO Monitor-authored op-eds contributed to the public debate on issues dealing with human rights NGOs active in the Middle East.
The Jerusalem Post quoted NGO Monitor’s editor, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, extensively in an article titled "Charity Money Often Used for Politics" about NGO funding to the PA after Hamas’ election. Steinberg warned that many humanitarian organizations, such as Christian Aid, support smaller Palestinian NGOs, some of which pursue strong anti-Israel political agendas.
Steinberg also wrote about the NGO network’s central role in the media war against Israel in a Jerusalem Post editorial, "Challenging the NGO Mythology" Prof. Steinberg praised Attorney Nira Mashraki of the State Prosecutor’s Office for stating publicly that NGOs such as Hamoked and B’Tselem "undermine the existence" of the State of Israel and "cause it damage in the world." The editorial was subsequently reprinted by IMRA. A similar article appeared in the Hebrew language newspaper, Makor Rishon.
NGO Monitor’s Associate Editor Sarah Mandel also published an Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post this month titled, "The Radicals Behind the Anglican Church", detailing the Sabeel Center’s role in the Church of England’s vote to divest from Israel in the name of "morally responsible investment." Mandel’s article was then quoted on Ekklesia, a website devoted to radical theological thinking.
The Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East quoted NGO Monitor’s digest entry on "Sabeel and its Connections with the UCC." And FrontPageMagazine.com referred to NGO Monitor’s reports on The Sabeel Center and Naim Ateek in an article on the divestment campaign against Israel. The "Stand For Israel" blog also quoted NGO Monitor in a post about Sabeel’s anti-Israel activities. And DiscovertheNetwork.com cited numerous NGO Monitor reports in its comprehensive review of the Ford Foundation