NGOs and Durban Demonization at UN Human Rights Review of Israel
- On December 4, 2008, Israel is scheduled to be reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of the Universal Periodic Review process (UPR). The HRC will issue a report on December 9th. As predicted by NGO Monitor, the majority of NGO UPR submissions ignore human rights issues facing Israelis and areas where Israel is a leader in this field, while grossly distorting the humanitarian, human rights and international legal dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- In their UPR submissions, several Palestinian NGOs and radical international NGOs exploit human rights terminology and employ inflammatory rhetoric against Israel. These include Nord-Sud XXI, Ittijah, Badil, PGAAWC, and others. Many of these NGOs have issued similarly demonizing statements in the buildup to the 2009 Durban Review Conference.
- The submissions by politicized NGOs contain claims backed by questionable statistics, include allegations contradicted by other NGO claims, or provide no source at all. Claims made by NGOs with documented credibility problems, such as Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, are repeated and cited without question.
- Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Adalah, and others make misleading allegations about the rule of law in Israel.
- Several of the NGO UPR submissions — including those of International Commission of Jurists, the Badil/Ittijah Coalition, Amnesty, Adalah and Human Rights Watch — attribute “racist” motives to Israeli policies, instead of acknowledging that these are legitimate responses to Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians.
On December 4, 2008, Israel is scheduled to be reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of the Universal Periodic Review process (UPR). The HRC will issue its report on December 9th.
The UPR was instituted in 2006 with the creation of the UN Human Rights Council to review each of the 192 UN member states every four years. It is ostensibly based upon the “universality of human rights” and should “be conducted in an objective, transparent, non-selective, constructive, non confrontational and non politicized manner.” In addition to the 47 members of the HRC (such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia), three UN-appointed rapporteurs (“troika”)1 facilitate the UPR.
In advance of Israel’s UPR, various UN bodies, the Israeli government and more than 28 NGOs2— including NGO Monitor — submitted statements to the HRC, which will be incorporated into the final analysis of Israel’s human rights record. The content and tone of NGO submissions may anticipate NGO activity at the upcoming Durban Review Conference (April 2009) and the possible repeat of the virulent NGO Forum of the 2001 conference.
NGO Monitor’s UPR submission
NGO Monitor’s submission expressed concern that many of the NGOs participating in the UPR process, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, World Vision, Save the Children, Al Haq, Badil, Adalah, and Ittijah, produce reports and launch campaigns that stand in sharp contradiction to their stated mandates of upholding universal human rights; indeed, they provide an incomplete and often non-credible picture of the state of human rights in Israel. Moreover, many of these NGOs are funded by European governments, the EU, prominent foundations (NIF and Ford), and international NGOs (Christian Aid), and use this funding to carry out anti-Israel international lobbying.
As predicted by NGO Monitor, the majority of NGO UPR submissions grossly distort the humanitarian, human rights and international legal dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including:
- focusing almost exclusively on alleged violations of Palestinian human rights;
- falsely manipulating a political and territorial dispute in the midst of asymmetrical warfare into one of racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination;
- failure to provide sources for claims; allegations based on questionable statistics; repetition of and citation to claims by non-credible NGOs such as Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel;
- ignoring human rights issues facing Israelis such as human trafficking, migrant workers, poverty, and children rights;
- ignoring areas where Israel is a leader in human rights – women’s rights, sexual freedoms, right to unionize, a vigorous free press, freedom of association, academic freedom, rule of law, and succession of power;
- omitting the context of terrorism as well as ignoring Israel’s international legal obligations to fight terrorism and its financing.
These omissions stand in direct conflict with the objectives of the UPR which mandate that the review “is undertaken in an objective and transparent manner of the human rights situation in the country under review, including positive developments and the challenges faced by the country” (emphasis added). In contrast, a few NGO submissions, such as that by the Israeli Women’s Network, and Kav LaOved, raise genuine criticisms of Israel’s human rights record without the accompanying rhetoric and demonization contained in the statements analyzed below.
Exploitation of Human Rights and International Legal Terminology
In their UPR submissions, several Palestinian NGOs and radical international NGOs exploit human rights terminology and employ inflammatory rhetoric to demonize Israel:
- Nord Sud XXI, a Geneva-based NGO with links to Libyan leader Muammar al-Ghadaffi, claims Israel is engaged in a “policy intended to destroy the Palestinian people in whole or in part that constitutes . . . genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.”
- A coalition of Palestinian and Israeli NGOs including Ittijah, Badil, ARIJ, the Durban 2009-accredited Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (PGAAWC), Zochrot, and others, accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.” This submission also includes reference to a pseudo-academic article comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Itijah itself is a coalition of NGOs that includes NIF-funded Adalah. In advance of Israel’s review on December 4, Adalah and Badil will old a press conference entitled “Israel’s non-compliance with international human rights law” at the UN building in Geneva. This event will allow Adalah and Badil to further promote its anti-Israel rhetoric.
- The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions repeats allegations that Israel is trying to “Judaize” Jaffa.
- The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center accuses Israel of “apartheid.”
- Reporters Without Borders calls the accidental deaths of journalists in the midst of IDF anti-terror operations, “war crimes.”
- The Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem – a coalition comprised of 18 NGOs including Miftah, Al Haq, Defense of Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS) and PWGAAC — falsely claims that Israel engages in “racial segregation,” has enacted a policy of “Judaization” in Jerusalem, and implies Israel is falsifying Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem. Several of the coalition members are funded by European governments and the EU.
Questionable Statistics, Contradictory Claims, and Lack of Sources
Many of the submissions by politicized NGOs contain claims backed by questionable statistics, assert allegations contradicted by other NGO claims, or provide no source at all:
- Amnesty International’s submission is replete with such “evidence,” claiming “[t]he Israeli authorities have destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes and other structures in the OPT,” without citing a source. Independent research conducted by Israeli attorney, Justus Reid Weiner, has found these accusations to be without basis and that a majority of these homes were built illegally in violation of building codes, posing a safety hazard to their inhabitants and neighbors.
- The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which has a long history of anti-Israel demonization, accuses Israel of subjecting Palestinian “human rights defenders” to “blatant arbitrary travel restrictions” and claims that such restrictions violate Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides for “the right to liberty of movement.” ICJ pointedly omits, however, that subsection 3 of Article 12 explicitly allows for restrictions on this right to “protect national security, public order, public health, or the rights and freedoms of others.” One “human rights defender” affiliated with ICJ was not issued exit visas by either Israel or Jordan due to his alleged ties to the PFLP. Under international law (detailed below), Israel has a legal obligation to “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents.” (emphasis added).
- Palestinian NGO Addameer alleges that “since the Israeli occupation . . . began, 700,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by the Israeli military” and that “an estimated 10,000 Palestinian prisoners” are “currently” in Israeli jails. No sources are provided for the incredulous figure of 700,000,3 and the group overstates the number of Palestinian prisoners for July 20084 by more than 1500 according to B’tselem and Israeli government statistics on the issue. Addameer further adds, “the stark reality is that not a single Palestinian charged with so-called security-related and other criminal offenses who passes through the Israeli military court system receives a fair trial.”
- The Children Rights Information Network – MENA Section repeats claims by the Gaza-based Al Dameer Association for Human Rights that Israeli policies “implicate an approval of killing children and civilians” and that Israel “intentionally” killed 24 children in a March 2008 military operation. Even B’tselem’s list of alleged Palestinian casualties for March 2008 has no mention of such an incident.
False Claims Regarding the Rule of Law in Israel
- Amnesty alleges that “the Israeli authorities routinely fail to ensure independent, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of human rights violations.” In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court has judged thousands of petitions (many of which were brought by NGOs) examining the authority of the military commander according to the standards of proportionality; restrictions on place of residence; checkpoint positioning; harm to Palestinian property due to army operations; the safeguarding of freedom of worship and the right to access to holy places; the demolition of houses; the laying of siege; the powers of the army during combat pursuant to international humanitarian law; the rights of Palestinians to food, medicine, and similar needs during combat operations; the rights of Palestinians during the arrest of terrorists; and detention and interrogation procedures. In more than one hundred petitions, the Israeli Supreme Court “has examined the rights of [Palestinians] according to international humanitarian law as a result of the erection of the separation fence.”
- Human Rights Watch alleges that Israel did not conduct an “impartial and thorough inquiry” regarding the accidental death of a Reuter’s cameraman. The IDF, however, did conduct a thorough review of the incident, issuing a 17-page report concluding that the decision to fire at the journalist was “sound.” Since the IDF did not release the full report to the public — per Reuter’s request — HRW’s credibility is further undermined.
- Adalah claims that Israel’s Supreme Court “deprives” Palestinians “access to justice” because several of its petitions have been unsuccessful in court. As mentioned above, this assertion is false. Indeed, it ignores that in 2008 alone, Adalah was involved in more than 20 cases in Israeli courts – many of which were filed directly in the Israeli Supreme Court so that Adalah’s grievances could receive a full and fair hearing in accordance with due process. Few national supreme courts provide NGOs as extensive and direct access as Israel’s.
Spurious Charges of Racial Discrimination
Several of the NGO UPR submissions — including those of ICJ, the Badil/Ittijah Coalition, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and Adalah — attribute “racist” motives to Israeli policies that are necessitated by the Palestinian campaign of violence against Israeli civilians.
- ICJ, Amnesty, HRW, Adalah, and the Ittijah/Badil Coalition claim that the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law is a “discriminatory” law. These NGOs fail to mention, however, that this law was not enacted for discriminatory purposes but rather, because of persons “who were granted legal status in Israel based on their marriage to an Israeli citizen, and took advantage of their Israeli ID to pass checkpoints and carry into Israel either suicide bombers or explosives.”5 Twenty-three terrorist attacks resulted from an abuse of this law.6 Moreover, Amnesty, ICJ, and others distort international law on this issue. Almost all countries have residency laws pertaining to noncitizens and that several countries do not grant automatic citizenship or residency rights as a result of marriage. These NGOs also fail to inform that this law is temporary and can be repealed should the security situation in Israel improve.
- Amnesty alleges that Israel perpetrates house demolitions in order to racially discriminate against Palestinians. It also falsely charges that house demolitions are “routinely used against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, while it is virtually never used against Israeli Jews.” As mentioned above, an in-depth study found these accusations to be without basis.
- Human Rights Watch, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (a unit of the Norwegian Refugee Council that works closely with Badil), and Adalah charge that Israel enacts “discriminatory land and planning policies” against the Bedouin. These NGOs ignore the complex challenges Israel faces in involving and integrating the Bedouin into Israeli society and legal framework, including: environmental issues surrounding illegal Bedouin construction; the massive birth rate in the Bedouin population, and the large welfare and medical budget necessary to sustain it; Bedouin polygamy; security issues related to Bedouin weapons and drug smuggling. Moreover, these charges are misleading as Bedouin culture is nomadic and this group did not lay claim to specific lands until recently.
- The Badil/Ittijah Coalition claims Israel is engaging in “[i]nstitutionalized racism and discrimination on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion” and that Israeli “racism . . . constitutes a root cause and consequence of the ongoing internal forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.” These NGOs obfuscate the multicultural reality of Israeli society and make the false accusation that Israel solely enacts policies for the “exclusive benefit of the ‘Jewish nationals.'”
- Adalah continues lobbying for its “Democratic Constitution,” which calls for the end of Israel as a democratic society with a Jewish character. If the Constitution were to be adopted, immigration of Jews would not be permitted except for “humanitarian reasons.” In addition, the Jewish cultural framework would be replaced by a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” state where “Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of the State of Israel and enjoy equal status in all of the functions and activities of the legislative and executive branches.” Adalah contends critics of its plan want to “render [Arab-Israeli] second-class citizenship status permanent.”
Continuation of the “Collective Punishment” Hoax
A significant portion of HRW, Amnesty, and ICJ’s submissions continued to falsely accuse Israel of “collective punishment” and distort international law regarding Israel’s obligations in Gaza:
- HRW parrots the PLO legal opinion that “Israel continued to occupy the Gaza Strip by virtue of its effective control over Gaza’s borders, airspace, territorial waters, tax collection, and population registry.” This argument is not in accordance with international law, and as in past statements, HRW proffers the unsupported claim that Israel controls Gaza’s “tax collection” and “population registry.” A request by NGO Monitor to HRW to provide the bases for these allegations went unanswered.
- Amnesty alleges that Israel’s “blockade has prevented the entry into Gaza of all but the minimum and insufficient quantities of fuel, food and basic necessities.” This understates the amount of aid Israel provides Gaza on a daily basis as well as that Israel has exceeded its obligations under international law.
- The ICJ accuses Israel of a “siege” and “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force” against Palestinians. ICJ makes only passing mention of the thousands of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks aimed at Israeli civilians as a pretext to further condemn Israel for its anti-terror measures. The ICJ, like Amnesty and HRW, repeat the non-serious claim that Gaza is still “occupied.”
Ignoring International Legal Obligations to Fight Terrorism
Israel has numerous binding obligations to fight terrorism under international law. These include Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) made pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter requiring Israel to:
- “prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts”;
- “criminalize the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds” used to carry out terror attacks
- “refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts”;
- “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens”;
- “prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other States or their citizens”;
- “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents.”
Many of the NGO submissions discussed herein ignore this obligation and seek to place “human rights” duties upon Israel that stand in direct conflict with Israel’s legal obligations – in essence, demanding Israel violate international law.
Given the UPR’s impact, it is important that the Final Report on Israel be credible, accurate and impartial. Reliance on the submissions of the politicized NGOs discussed herein is inconsistent with this requirement. The obsessive NGO condemnations of Israeli responses to daily attacks on its civilians, as well as disproportionate criticism of Israeli attempts to balance rights within a complex society facing asymmetrical warfare, further highlights this issue. As expressed in its own submission to the UN, NGO Monitor calls upon the Human Rights Council to treat these NGO submissions as nothing more than propaganda intended to advance a political agenda.
- The troika members for Israel are South Korea, Nigeria, and Azerbaijan.
- The UN website lists 28 NGO statements. Additional NGO submissions such as that by Adalah, are included in the UN’s Stakeholder Summary even though they are not listed on the UN website.
- If Addameer’s claim of 700,000 imprisoned Palestinians is to be believed, since 1967, 17,500 new prisoners would have to be detained by Israel annually. Even at the height of the Palestinian terror campaign in 2002, the number of Palestinian prisoners averaged around 5000 at any one time. Moreover, given that many of these prisoners were sentenced to multiple year terms or were repeat offenders, the same individuals are included in the figures for each year. Addameer’s statement must be dismissed as nothing more than pure propaganda.
- Addameer’s submission is dated July 2008.
- Submission of the Israeli Government to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Document CERD/C/471/Add.2, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds70.htm.