On June 8-10, 2009, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held one of its frequent conferences in Jakarta, Indonesia. Although the conference objective was ostensibly to “provide greater support for [a] two state solution,” the program’s agenda included: the “question of Palestine,” “promoting support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through the United Nations system,” “reaching decision-makers and politicians,” “participating in international campaigns to end the occupation,” and “a just solution of the issue of Jerusalem.” Holding a highly one-sided event in a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, has the world’s largest Islamic population, and is a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is counterproductive to promoting peace through understanding between Israel and the Islamic world.
As in past committee “conferences,” many speakers were officials from highly politicized NGOs, including Joharah Baker of Miftah and Daniel Seidemann of Ir Amim. Miftah and Ir Amim, NGOs funded by the EU, advocate and campaign for Palestinian positions, including on Jerusalem. Miftah’s website declares its goal is to “disseminate the Palestinian narrative and discourse globally.”
In her presentation in Indonesia, Ms. Baker highlighted the exclusively Palestinian position, claiming that “the conflict was not about Hamas, Fatah or even a military conflict. It was about ending an illegal Israeli occupation…” She speciously argued that the media only references “Palestinian ‘terror’ and Israel’s ‘necessary retaliation,’” instead of considering “the possibility that suicide bombings [are] a symptom of a much bigger problem.”
In his contribution to this anti-Israel exercise, Mr. Seidmann (from Ir Amim) asserted that what he defined as new “[m]assive settlements…would cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank, sounding the death knell for a two-State solution” and home demolitions are a “concerted attempt to reduce the Palestinian presence at that volcanic core.” Seidmann also declared that “[t]he Government supported the steamrolling of the competing narratives in Jerusalem into an exclusionary settler narrative.” No Israeli rebuttal or neutral analysis was included, as is the case for other NGO meetings organized by this committee.
Another NGO representative, Sonja Karkar of Women for Palestine (Australia), demonized Israel, saying “the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s occupation, ethnic cleansing and institutionalized apartheid over 61 years was the defining struggle of the twenty-first century.” She accused Israel of “racist ideology,” declared Israel “the most prolonged colonial enterprise of modern times,” and blamed “Zionist organizations” in Australia for “play[ing] a significant role in legitimizing the illegal occupation at the highest governmental and business levels.” In another form of demonization, she declared “[t]he savagery of Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza,” and called for “global campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions” to make Israel “hurt economically and politically.”
Other speakers and Israeli experts (whose entry into Indonesia appeared to be conditional on opposition to Israeli government policy) similarly represented a very narrow section of the political spectrum, and never departed from the Palestinian narrative and agenda. As such, it was highly misleading.
This Committee, and its events, is yet another example of how UN-NGO collaboration contributes to the intensification of the conflict, weakens universal human rights, and erodes the legitimacy of the UN. As with the Durban process, the Human Rights Council, CERD, UPR, Committee Against Torture, and other forums, the UN provides a platform for the demonization of Israel by NGOs. Correspondingly, outside the UN, these organizations and their officials provide additional legitimacy, visibility, and soft-power influence for biased campaigns.