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Focus: HRW Issues More Reports on 2006 Lebanon War: Same Bias and Unverifiable Claims

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Focus: HRW Issues More Reports on 2006 Lebanon War: Same Bias and Unverifiable Claims

On September 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 250 page report on Israel’s conduct during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, shortly after publishing a lengthy publication on Hezbollah’s behavior.  HRW Executive Director Ken Roth also visited Israel to publicize the report ‘Why They Died: Civilian Casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 War’

This publication followed HRW’s familiar pattern of disproportionate and distorted criticism of Israel. Footnotes and text show almost exclusive reliance on unreliable eyewitness testimony, and the clear evidence of Hezbollahs’ use of human shields is ignored while HRW claims, without credibility, that the facts are inconclusive and yet ‘further investigation’ is necessary.

The report includes a number of specific responses to NGO Monitor’s detailed exposure of HRW claims and biases during the Second Lebanon War.  (Professor Gerald Steinberg published extensive op-eds in Ma’ariv and the Jerusalem Post; and in the immediate aftermath of the report, NGO Monitor joined Israeli government officials in noting the failures of HRW’s methodology).  NGO Monitor issued an updated analysis and rebuttal of HRW claims against Israel, and is in the process of formulating a comprehensive analysis of the latest report.


NGO News in brief

Chorus of NGOs issue preemptive condemnation of Israel’s Gaza Policy

Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, B’Tselem and ICAHD all condemned the Israeli government’s September 19 statement that it may place sanctions on Gaza in response to continued rocket fire and terrorism emanating from the Hamas-controlled territory. This decision’s practical and legal ramifications are unclear, and no action has yet been taken. Possible measures, according to the statement, include “a restriction of various goods,” reduction of the “supply of fuel and electricity”, and “restrictions . . . on movement of people to and from Gaza.” The statement states that the measures “will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis.”

On September 20, HRW (which has a history of instant condemnations, before the facts are known) predictably declared that “Israel’s threat to impose additional sanctions on the Gaza Strip would constitute unlawful collective punishmentof Gaza’s civilian population. HRW issued a similar press release on June 29, 2006, condemning Israel for attacking Gaza’s power plant in response to the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Oxfam joined HRW in preemptively condemning Israel. Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, called Israel’s actions "immoral and contrary to the Geneva Conventions." ICAHD (which is funded by the EU under the “partnership for peace” budget), called for one-sided international action to "prevent the starvation siege Israel plans to impose on Gaza." Israeli NGO B’Tselem added its voice to the condemnations, arguing that "regardless of how they might cloak it, cutting off electricity to a civilian population is collective punishment and a violation of international law…It doesn’t really make a difference whether it’s cutting off the supply from Israel or bombing the power station."

All of these statements generally ignored the context of terrorism and give short shrift to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense. These NGOs have shown very little interest in the rocket attacks and terrorism emanating from Gaza, while focusing narrowly on the Israeli government’s efforts to find a means of deterring these attacks.


Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch criticize UN Human Rights Council – Are They Finally Getting the Message?

In a July 2007 statement The Human Rights Council: A New Era in UN Human Rights Work?, Yvonne Terlingen, director of Amnesty International’s offices at the UN, criticized the activity of the supposedly ‘reformed’ UN Human Rights Council. Discussing the Council’s actions during three special sessions in 2006 covering the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Terlingen offered the following observations concerning the failings of the Council to uphold its mandate:

"Particularly regrettable was the one-sided resolution that the council adopted…The highly politicized resolution strongly condemned “grave Israeli violations of Human Rights and breaches of International Humanitarian Law in Lebanon,” but entirely ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by Hezbollah in using indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. This was a clear example of the “selectivity” and “double standards and politicization” that Resolution 60/251 seeks to eliminate. Moreover, the nearly exclusive focus of these special sessions on Israel, at the cost of disregarding equally if not more egregious human rights situations elsewhere in the world, started to raise serious questions regarding the council’s credibility.”

This criticism may represent recognition by Amnesty of the need for greater universality. However, much more fundamental change is required, to counteract Amnesty’s highly disproportionate focus on Israel in its own reporting — a significant failing which NGO Monitor has documented in detail.

Human Rights Watch also criticized the UN Human Rights Council in a September 10 statement. Unlike Amnesty, it failed to censure the council for its anti-Israel bias and activities; it did, however, call on the council "expand its agenda," to address neglected human rights and "tackle crises Worldwide." (In 2006, HJRW attacked the Israeli and US governments for warning that the new Council would repeat the biases and double-standards of the old Commission.)


ICJ (Geneva) visit to Israel, Palestinian Territories – Preliminary report

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which is based in Geneva, is among the most biased European-based NGOs claiming to promote the core values of universal human rights. as documented by NGO Monitor. In August 2007, an ICJ panel completed the “the sixteenth and final visit”, and will issue its global report in 2008.  According to the ICJ press summary, “the visit was facilitated by the Association for the Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Haq” – all three are highly politicized NGOs that support Palestinian claims through the abuse of human rights rhetoric. As a result, the report is expected to repeat the standard NGO approach that focuses blame primarily and disproportionately on Israel.


New Israel Fund Update: NIF receives another $20 million from Ford Foundation; promotes Israeli who labels Israel “apartheid state”  in UN/EU conference

The New Israel Fund in the UK went ahead with a September 3 appearance by Danny Rubenstein (Ha’aretz columnist), despite his labeling Israel as an “ apartheid state” at the EU/UN “International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” (The British Zionist Federation dropped him as a speaker following this statement.) This is consistent with previous NIF policies supporting individuals and organizations working to demonize and delegitimize Israel. (In 2004, Shamai Leibowtiz used his status as an NIF Law Fellow to promote divestment and a single-state solution. More recent NIF grantees include Adalah and Mousawa, who have submitted papers to the UN accusing Israel of apartheid, referring to Zionism as racism, and distributing an alternative constitution for Israel that would abolish the concept of a Jewish state.)

On September 6, the Ford Foundation announced a second $20 million grant to extend its partnership with NIF to support civil society, human rights and social justice organizations in Israel. The partnership was launched in 2003 with an initial Ford grant of $20million, following the exposure of Ford’s funding for the NGOs participating in the Durban conference. (NGO Monitor published a detailed report on the Ford Foundation’s funding for political NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict including Ford’s funding of the NIF.)

Many NIF and Ford funded NGOs are likely to take part in Durban 2009, a follow up to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, which spawned the use of the apartheid analogy to undermine and eliminate Israel.

Norwegian Government’s approach to Israeli-Arab Conflict increasingly influenced by politicized NGOs

According to the Norwegian press, the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv appealed to Oslo to act on reports of torture of Palestinians, based on claims by three Israeli human rights groups — The Public Committee Against Torture, HaMoked and B’tselem.  NGO Monitor has documented the serious deficiencies and lack of credibility in previous reports published by these politicized NGOs (whose many donors include European governments and the New Israel Fund), and the Israeli Foreign Ministry urged Oslo to ignore such reports that lack credibility.

In a related development, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), an NGO funded by the Norwegian Government, has issued its August 2007 report, “Israel: Multiple patterns of internal displacement affect several ethnic and religious groups”, which accuses the Israeli government of widespread “discriminatory planning policies” toward Israel’s Bedouin population. As documented by NGO Monitor, the IDMC regularly relies on the research and cooperation of radical or politicized NGOs, which promote a political bias that regularly ignores Israel’s right to security in its human rights analyses. Norway’s continued funding of the IDMC is further evidence that its approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict is in danger of being distorted by the anti-Israel NGO narrative.


PCHR Calls for Investigating Torture Crimes by the Palestinian ‘Executive Force’

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a press release on September 24, calling for an immediate investigation into a number of abuses committed by the Hamas executive force, including civilians being subjected to beating and torture by the Executive Force in Gaza City and El-Bureij refugee camp.  While PCHR does an important job of describing intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, it is blatantly one-sided in its removal of the contextof terror and disregard of human rights abuses committed against Israeli civilians.


NGO Vacancies

  • ANERA seeking new Middle East Representative
  • Human Rights Watch seeking Researcher on Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories (English and Arabic skills are required, Hebrew is "very desirable")


NGO Monitor in the Media

The New York Sun
Engel ‘Disappointed’ by Ford Forum for Mearsheimer, September 10, 2007

"…The executive director of the NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, said that by funding a panel where Mr. Mearsheimer is scheduled to speak, the Ford Foundation risks reneging on that promise by underwriting at Columbia the kind of falsehoods it was funding at Durban. Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer "are repeating many of these myths and use similar rhetoric that singles out Israel, uses double standards, and is considered by many to be anti-Semitic," Mr. Steinberg said. "On this basis, I would say that by helping promote this propaganda, Ford is violating its post-Durban pledge and repeating the same pattern."


"Christian Aid denies it is biased in the Middle East", Church of England Newspaper, September 14, 2007

"The relief agency Christian Aid has denied charges made by an Israeli research group that its reporting of events in the Middle East was biased, unfairly blaming Israel for the problems of the region.

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem think tank, charged the relief agency promoted a pro-Palestinian agenda, and that its advocacy work abetted the conflict between Arabs and Israelis."


"New pariah on the block", Economist, September 13, 2007

"The campaign for sanctions against Israel is growing. But it faces resistance and is less effective than it looks For once, Israel’s critics and cheerleaders agree on something: the Jewish state risks greater international isolation. Pro-Israel groups such as NGO Monitor and the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs say a new assault is on the way. "


"HRW, Foreign Ministry clash over Lebanon civilian deaths", September 06, 2007, Dan Izenberg, The Jerusalem Post

"In another response, the head of NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, charged that "Human Rights Watch’s latest attack on Israel’s actions during the Second Lebanon War follows a clear pattern which has sought to create a moral equivalence between the deliberate targeting of civilians by a terrorist organization and the efforts of a democratic country to defend itself."

‘Durban 2’ – A Fiasco in the Making, Feature Item, The Jerusalem Report [Print edition only], October 1, 2007

"Indeed, the anti-Israel NGOs may have gone to far for their own good. In Durban, over 80 NGOs from 35 countries in Europe, the former Soviet Union, North America and South Asia disavowed the final NGO declaration, arguing that they had not been consulted and objecting specifically to the chapters on ‘Palestine and the Palestinians,’ and anti-Semitism. Moreover, governments and pro-Israel NGOs, taken by surprise by the ferocity of the Israel-bashing in Durban, will be on their guard this time. ‘Hopefully the European governments and some of the wiser and more professional elements of the U.N. will have learned the lesson and will prevent these radical NGOs from again becoming the dominant factor or perhaps from participating at all,’ says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Bar Ilan University Conflict resolution expert and director of NGO Monitor, an organization founded to scrutinize radical NGOs in the wake of Durban 1…"

From far-off corners, Peace Agencies in Nepal blog cites NGO Monitor’s criticism of Oxfam

"UNICEF has also been criticized for having political bias by NGO Monitor, an Israeli non-governmental organization with the stated aim of monitoring other non-governmental organizations operating in the Middle East. NGO Monitor asserts that while UNICEF aims to fund only non-political organizations, it also funded ‘Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation’ (PYALARA), a student-run Palestinian NGO. NGO Monitor alleges the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation has a covert political agenda justifying suicide bombings and demonizing Israel."

NGO Monitor Publications this Month