Head of Israeli-Arab NGO admits to spying against Israel

On October 27, 2010 Haaretz reported that Ameer Makhoul the director of Israeli-Arab NGO Ittijah, “confess[ed] to charges of spying, contact with a foreign agent and giving information to the enemy.” Makhoul, as head of Ittijah, has a background of anti-Israel activities characterized by demonization and hate rhetoric. For example, an Ittijah email during the Gaza war claimed, “the IDF is turning Gaza into kind of an extermination camp, in the full sense of the word and with the full historical relativity.”

Despite the serious charges against Makhoul, NGOs defended him and attempted to portray the Israeli justice system as illegitimate. Amnesty International accused Israel of “harassment of [a] human rights defender” and that his detention was “designed to hinder his human rights work.” Without providing evidence for these claims, Deputy Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Phillip Luther asserted that it was “unlikely…that there are genuine grounds to prosecute Makhoul.”

Similarly, Adalah labeled Makhoul “a political activist and human rights defender,” and implied that his arrest was linked to “attacks against human rights organizations in Israel working to defend Palestinian rights.”

Following Makhoul’s plea bargain, the NGOs have not issued retractions or corrections of their misstatements.

Israeli Flotilla Commission questions NGO credibility

On October 13, 2010, Israeli NGOs B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) testified before the Turkel Commission, which was established to investigate the “Free Gaza Flotilla” incident of May 2010. All three have records of political bias and unsubstantiated allegations regarding Israel’s Gaza policy. At the hearing, the Commission vigorously questioned and cross-examined the NGO representatives, challenging the NGOs for presenting information outside their areas of expertise, including political analyses of the conflict.

Commission head Judge Turkel challenged B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell “…I must say that I wonder about the sources of your information. I don’t feel sure enough of the reliability of your information.” And when Montell used the word “siege” to describe the government’s Gaza policy, panel member Maj.-Gen (res.) Amos Horev asked “Why do you use the term ‘siege’ rather than ‘closure?’ Words are important. Semantics are important.” Other panel members reproached her for “presenting facts that are not in the context of reality” and for offering her own “presumptions.”

During the testimony of Gisha legal adviser Tamar Feldman, panel member Ambassador Reuven Merhav rejected claims that Israel is implementing “collective punishment” and “economic warfare” against Gaza’s civilian population, and told Feldman, “You seem to live in a bubble.”

NGOM impact: Combating NGO antisemitism (BADIL)

BADIL’s 2010 Annual Al-Awda Award was granted to a blatantly antisemitic cartoon, featuring a grotesque caricature of a Jewish man standing over a dead Arab child and holding a pitchfork dripping with blood. The image was featured on BADIL’s website until NGO Monitor contacted DanChurchAid, a BADIL partner, and its officials intervened and removed the cartoon from the site. As a result of this pressure, BADIL added a new rule for its 2011 5th Annual Al-Awda Award: “All participants whose submission discriminates on the basis of race, gender, color or any other basis will be excluded.”

In correspondence with NGO Monitor, a representative from DanChurchAid agreed that the 2010 cartoon was antisemitic, attributing “this unfortunate incident” to “a misjudgment or error on behalf of Badil management.”

Despite these claims by DanChurchAid and the new disclaimer, NGO Monitor has uncovered other Al Awda entries with antisemitic content on the Badil website.

BADIL, whose funding is entirely non-transparent, is a leader in anti-Israeli demonization, including the global BDS campaign, lawfare attempts targeting Israeli officials in international and European courts, and tendentious written and oral statements to the UN Human Rights Council.

In response to NGO Monitor’s analysis, BADIL Director Ingrid Jaradat Gassner ignored the racist content of the poster and instead, reiterated the emphasis on demonization. She called on Europeans to support the BDS campaign, and repeated anti-peace propaganda, alleging “Israel has stolen and colonized Palestinian land, displaced millions of our people and imprisoned, tortured, wounded, maimed and killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.”

Amnesty’s new lawfare calls

In September 2010, Amnesty International published five separate documents on the “victims of [the] Gaza conflict,” calling for the prosecution of Israeli officials and soldiers in national and international courts, for alleged “war crimes or other serious violations of international law crimes.” This lawfare advocacy is part of an ongoing campaign against Israel, including calls for an arms embargo following the Gaza War.


  1.  “Justice for victims of Gaza conflict hangs in balance,” September 15, 2010 “…the Human Rights Council must…support international justice solutions, including the potential involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
  2. Time for international justice solution for Gaza conflict victims,” September 23, 2010. “Irrespective of the status of the ICC’s jurisdiction, Amnesty International notes that under international law all states can and should investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the conflict before their national courts by exercising universal jurisdiction over crimes under international law.”
  3. ICC should decide on Gaza conflict investigation,” September 26, 2010 “Amnesty International has called on national authorities of all states to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in the Gaza conflict before their national courts on behalf of the international community, said Widney Brown [Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Amnesty International].”
  4. Amnesty International’s assessment of Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Gaza conflict,” September 27, 2010 “The two authorities are failing to ensure accountability for the victims of the conflict through domestic means. Therefore, an international justice solution must be found.”
  5. Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Human Rights Council fails victims of Gaza conflict,” September 30, 2010 “Amnesty International believes that the Human Rights Council has once again put politics before human rights and the victims of gross violations of humanitarian and human rights law.”

HRW Condemns Torture in the Palestinian Authority

On October 20, 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release on reports of torture in the Palestinian Authority (PA) (“West Bank: Reports of Torture in Palestinian Detention”). The statement describes torture endured by two inmates in a Jericho prison and calls for international donors, including the US and the EU, to “publicly insist on accountability for abuses against detainees by Preventive Security and the General Intelligence Services.”

In contrast to statements on Israel, such as “the IDF violated the prohibition under international humanitarian law – the laws of war,” HRW did not employ legal condemnations that would criminalize the PA. NGO Monitor has documented the HRW Middle East and North Africa division’s double standards and bias regarding legal rhetoric and accusations against Israel (see “Experts or Ideologues: Systematic Analysis of Human Rights Watch”). 

Lawfare update: Al Haq exploits the Dutch legal system

As part of its ongoing lawfare efforts, Al Haq filed a criminal complaint against the Dutch company Riwal in March 2010 for alleged complicity “in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity . . . through its supply of mobile cranes and aerial platforms for the construction of settlements and the Wall in several locations in the Occupied West Bank.” On October 13, 2010, Dutch police raided Riwal’s offices, but the Dutch prosecutor has yet to decide whether to move forward with the case. The lawsuit is another attempt by the NGO to judicially “enforce” the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Israel’s security barrier even though that decision is of no binding effect.  

ICAHD update

1. Pete Seeger rejects ICAHD’s boycott call; EU funding continues

Folk musician Pete Seeger rejected calls by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) director Jeff Halper to boycott a November 14 performance in support of the coexistence projects of the Arava Institute for Environment Studies. Seeger, a “longtime donor” to ICAHD, is scheduled to be a featured guest at the “With Earth and Each Other – A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East” event, which aims to raise awareness about the Arava Institute’s activities.

On September 8, 2010 Halper published a letter to Seeger, urging the artist to “not participate in the whitewashing, greenwashing, or any washing of this rogue regime.” Halper also made allegations of Israel’s “apartheid system” and “ethnic cleansing.”

In response to Halper and other BDS activists, Seeger said, “My religion is that the world will not survive without dialogue.”

ICAHD receives major funding from the EU (€ 169,661 2010-2012; from 2000-2008, the EU was a major contributor to ICAHD). Arava Institute is also a former EU grantee. NGO Monitor contacted the European Commission, asking whether Halper’s opposition to Israeli-Arab coexistence programs and ICAHD’s continued support for anti-Israeli boycotts will affect the organization’s funding. In response, the Commission wrote that the funding goes to “specific projects in thematic areas [not organizations],” EU policy does not have “to be systematically reflected in [the NGO] statements, seminars, or publications,” and “the EU fully supports diversity of opinion…as long as this is in line with its fundamental democratic principles.”

2. ICAHD lobbies against arms trade with Israel

On October 10, 2010, the Finnish chapter of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) published a petition protesting arms trade between Israel and Finland. The petition’s signatories include former Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who compared IDF defensive actions to Nazi persecution in Europe. ICAHD Finland’s press release about the petition referred to alleged “numerous war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.”

ICHAD Finland’s stated objective is to “spread out information about Finland’s affiliations in Israel/Palestine area,” and  “runs campaigns about the adherence of the international law and about politics that strengthen it.” In November 2009 the group invited anti-Israel demagogue Norman Finkelstein, who has also likened Israel to Nazi Germany and accused Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for political and financial benefits, to speak at the University of Helsinki.

NGO Monitor in the Media