Special Report: "Al Mezan (Madison/Rafah "Sister City" Proposal)"
Editor’s Note: The Madison, Wisconsin city council is debating a proposal to "adopt" the Palestinian city of Rafah in Gaza. If approved, the Al Mezan Palestinian NGO would represent Rafah in this process. The following report provides information and analysis on Al Mezan and its activities.
Gerald M. Steinberg, Editor, NGO Monitor
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, based in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, claims to be a Palestinian non-partisan organization. In its mission statement, it claims "to promote, protect and prevent violations of human rights in general and economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights in particular, to provide effective aid to those victims of such violations…The mission of the Mezan Center for Human Rights is to provide a secure and long-lasting foundation for the enjoyment of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). While, given the current international situation Al Mezan must confront the increasing amount of daily violations of civil and political rights, its’ long term aim is to encourage and develop economic, social, and cultural rights. In this view, it acts as a monitoring and documentation center…which constitutes an essential basis for the work of local and international organizations. The Center is also a vehicle through which to provide legal aid and advocacy …on such fundamental issues such as basic human rights, democracy…(http://www.mezan.org/site_en/about_mezan/index.php)
Al Mezan is particularly active in pursuing a virulently anti-Israel political agenda, while entirely ignoring Palestinian terrorism. Its website reflects a deep-seated hostility towards Israel, packed with incitement, including pictures and reports, with no hint of support for compromise or human rights for Israelis, including the right to be free from terrorism. A May 19 2004 press release ("IOF perpetrate a massacre in Rafah, Shelling a demonstration with missiles and artillery; dozens killed and wounded," May 19, 2004) promotes false claims of an Israeli massacre related to the fighting in Rafiah, while frequently invoking the term "war crimes." (See also Analysis of NGO Statements Regarding the Violence in Gaza). Additional press releases also highlight this organization’s primary focus on political attacks against Israel and virulent demonization through exploitation of the rhetoric of human rights. The language of demonization and the false allegations regarding Israeli military action speak for themselves. ("A Condemnation of the Bush-Sharon Agreement on the so-called "Unilateral Withdrawal" from the Gaza Strip and its Implications for the Future of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Regional Stability," April 18, 2004; "Joint Press Release issued by The Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights IDF continue to humiliate Palestinian Workers; One Worker Killed at Checkpoint," March 16, 2004).
In addition, Al Mezan is closely linked to the PLO’s intense lobbying efforts in the press and in international frameworks that seek to isolate Israel. (See "Letter to EU Presidency, Calling for Immediate Intervention to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip," May 22, 2004, and "Letter to United Nation Secretary-General Calling for Immediate Intervention to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip," May 18, 2004).
This political emphasis under the guise of human rights is not new, and reflect a long standing pattern. In 2003, Al Mezan used a $100,000 donation from the Ford Foundation to promote the notion of Israeli "war crimes." Mezan is partnered with groups such as the International Commission of Jurists, whose anti-Israel agenda is well documented. In 2003, Al Mezan claimed that: "the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have systematically violated Palestinians human rights and perpetrated war crimes on an unprecedented level in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The absence of effective intervention on the part of the international community has allowed these crimes to continue unchecked. The situation in the OPTs has grown even more dangerous since the US and Britain initiated the war on Iraq in March 2003. Palestinian and international human rights organizations were accordingly obliged to intensify their efforts to monitor and reveal Israel’s practices especially as all eyes focused on Iraq."
- Netherlands Representative Office
- Swiss Agnecy for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
- Kerkinactie/Global Ministries
- The Ford Foundation
- International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) – Sweden
- Mertz Gilmore Foundation
- The French Consulate (funded the library in 2002-2003)
Networks and Committees
- Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR Network)
- Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
- Coalition for Accountability and Integrity
- Middle East and North Africa Network to Stop the Use of Children as soldiers
- Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network
Additional Sources, References, and Links
- NGO Monitor Info-File summary on Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
- Joel Fishman, "Madison, Wisconsin, Etats-Unis : un champ de bataille pour la légitimité d’Israël ," Objectif Information, July 20, 2004.
- Judith Davidoff, "Rafah Debate Anguished, Bruising Council Delays Sister City Vote After Panel’s OK," Capital Times, July 7, 2004.
NGO Monitor report cited in Madison, WI decision on Al Mezan (July 8 2004) "The new draft takes out all references to Al Mezan, a human rights organization that sister city members have used to establish contacts in Rafah but which the Madison Jewish Community Council says has engaged in anti-Semitic activities." This decision was based on the NGO Monitor reports and correspondence on Al Mezan.
- Leon Cohen, "Madison Debates Linkage to Rafah, with Madison Jews Take Both Sides," Madison Jewish Chronicle, June 9, 2004.