“United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation:” What to Expect
BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and lawfare campaigns against Israel originated at the NGO Forum of the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference. Since then, UN frameworks have continued to be primary venues for these forms of political warfare. As part of this process, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP – established by the UN in the 1970s as part of its discriminatory “Zionism is racism” campaign) is holding an anti-Israel propaganda conference on June 30, 2017 to advance BDS and demonize the existence of Israel.
The event, titled “Ending the Occupation: Creating the Space for Human Rights, Development and a Just Peace,” is billed as a Civil Society Forum, with scheduled speakers including various NGO officials and activists.
For the most part, as detailed below, these speakers and their organizations have long-standing pro-BDS, lawfare, and ‘48 agendas. Crucially, their economic and legal warfare campaigns target Israel as a whole, not only criticism of policies concerning the West Bank and Gaza.
This strongly suggests that discussion at this “50th anniversary” event is yet another excuse by UN agencies and their NGO partners to delegitimize Israel’s very existence and to bolster campaigns in line with this agenda. Scheduled panels such as “Enforcement of international law and accountability: How to make a difference?” and “Beyond occupation: in search of a just and lasting peace” reinforce this analysis.
Two surprising additions to the program are Hagai El-Ad of B’Tselem and Tania Hary from Gisha. Although El-Ad has made calls for “decisive international action” and “international action that resonates locally,” without publicly specifying what this would entail, neither has explicitly supported BDS or expressed opposition to Israel’s existence. Their participation in the CEIRPP event, therefore, is troubling.
NGO Participants that Support BDS and Lawfare Campaigns Against Israel
- Al-Haq is a leader in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns and BDS activities. Al-Haq has proposed sabotaging the Israeli court system by “flooding the [Israeli Supreme] Court with petitions in the hope of obstructing its functioning and resources.” In November 2015, Al-Haq and three other Palestinian NGOs submitted a document to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming evidence and testimonies of alleged Israeli “war crimes” perpetrated during the 2014 Gaza war.
- Al-Haq is highly active in promoting BDS campaigns. In a September 2015 meeting of CEIRRP in Brussels, Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq’s General Director, called for the international community to enact policies of BDS against Israel.
- Shawan Jabarin is allegedly linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.
- Wesam Ahmad, head of Legal Research and International Advocacy for Al-Haq, participated in a March 2014 conference held by the University of Amsterdam on the “role of the European Union in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the case of businesses invested in illegal settlements, labelling settlement products and EU’s commitments to respect and promote human rights.”
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
- AFSC is a leader of BDS campaigns on campuses and churches in the United States.
- Dalit Baum, director of AFSC’s Middle East program, is co-founder of Coalition of Women for Peace’s flagship BDS project “Who Profits?” Baum lobbies international audiences on how best to promote the global BDS campaign against Israel. Campaigns include an online investment screening tool aimed to “help individuals and institutions identify companies on their investment portfolios that are directly complicit in ongoing severe violations of human rights and international law.”
- Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- HRW consistently lobbies the International Criminal Court to pursue “war crimes” prosecutions against Israeli officials, and promotes BDS campaigns. It is also active at the United Nations and other international frameworks, making false, distorted, and unverifiable allegations against Israel.
- Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine Director, is a consistent supporter of a one-state framework and advocate for BDS campaigns against Israel. At a May 2010 presentation at UC Irvine, Shakir stated that BDS is “a way that each of us in this room can exercise their own form of pressure to end that unjust system and to embrace a vision for a better future.”
- HRW initiated a public campaign with multiple articles, travel, and extensive lobbying of the UN, alongside PLO efforts, calling on FIFA to take punitive measures against Israel and “require the IFA to stop holding games inside the settlements and to stop allowing fields and halls in the settlements to be used for official competitions.” HRW has never done this with any other country.
- On January 19, 2016, HRW published “Occupation Inc.” a 162-page report calling for businesses to cease operations in Israeli West Bank settlements, constituting a de-facto call for a boycott of Israel. Coinciding with HRW’s publication, Kathleen Peratis, co-chair of HRW’s Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee and emerita Board of Trustees member, penned a pro-BDS article in Ha’aretz.
- Al Mezan
- Al Mezan is highly active in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns, exploiting courts and international legal bodies to seek arrest warrants against Israeli government officials, file lawsuits against companies and governments doing business with Israel, and lobby for cases against Israelis at the ICC.
- Supports BDS initiatives through signing of petitions and membership in BDS platforms. In July 2014, signed a Joint Call to Action: July 2014 – Month against the Apartheid Wall stating: “….it is time for a ‘legal intifada’, an intensified popular struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions….We ask you to expand and deepen the global BDS movement for justice…”
- Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP)
- CWP is a leader in international BDS campaigns against Israel, including through initiating the “Who Profits from the Occupation” project. CWP is involved in campaigns against major Israeli banks, the Elbit and G4S security companies, Ahava cosmetics, and Agrexco produce. CWP further supported a Berkeley divestment vote and a successful divestment initiative with the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.
- In December 2009, CWP lobbied the British government to “Enable Prosecution of Israeli War Criminals.” CWP also sent a Hebrew translation of the UN Goldstone “Fact-finding” Report to (former Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni, stating: “We are convinced that if you refer to the report you will understand why British citizens and organizations have turned to the courts with a request to issue a warrant for your arrest… We call on you to cooperate with any international investigation that may be opened against you and to counsel your colleagues in the Government and military to do the same.”
- Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
- Promotes political warfare strategy against Israel, including BDS, sustained campaigns of demonization alleging “apartheid” and “racism,” and support for a Palestinian claim to a “right of return” with the ultimate goal of dismantling Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
- On February 2, 2016, JVP, together with “Jews Say No!,” circulated a deceptive print and online edition of The New York Times to protest the newspaper’s coverage of Israel. The front page of the falsified edition reads, “Congress to Debate U.S. Aid to Israel” and featured several ads, including one for Shalom Cement, a company specializing in building “apartheid walls,” and another for a luxury watch that reads, “The time is now to end Israeli military aid.”
- Mustafa Barghouti
- Barghouti takes part in BDS activities, stating, “We are now in the early stages of a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed at this Israeli government for its refusal to abide by international law. Such action successfully overturned Jim Crow laws in the American South and apartheid in South Africa, and we are slowly applying it to Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
- He has called for an arms embargo against Israel, arguing that European countries must end military purchases from Israel because it is “a war criminal country.”
- Noura Erakat
- Erakat is the US-based Legal Advocacy Consultant for the radical Palestinian NGO BADIL.
- She is also an assistant professor at George Mason University, vocal anti-Israel activist, and former legal campaigner for “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation,” where she “helped seed BDS campaigns” and facilitate “lawfare” cases against two former Israeli officials in US federal courts.
- In December 2014, Erakat participated in a panel discussion by the American Anthropological Association titled “What is the Role of Academia in Political Change? The Case of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and Israeli Violations Of International Law.” During her lecture, Erakat stated that “one of the values of an academic boycott is to…do what Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions does, which is to apply a moral pressure onto Israel, which has been absent. It has been absent as a result of intimidation, and real repercussions, or, on the international scene, the work of the United States to incapacitate any kind of accountability, whether it be legal or diplomatic or otherwise.”
- While a student at UC Berkeley, Erakat spearheaded a divestment campaign along with Students for Justice in Palestine.
- Diana Buttu
- Buttu is the former spokesperson for the Negotiations Support Unit for the PLO and was also involved in promoting the discredited advisory opinion against Israel’s security barrier at the International Court of Justice.
- In October 2016, Buttu was a signatory on a letter to the editor sent to The New York Review of Books welcoming the “shattering of the taboo against boycotting Israeli entities that are complicit in—at least selective—violations of Palestinian human rights.” The letter added, however, that “calls for boycotting settlements  let Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook. Moreover, shouldn’t Israeli banks that are not based in settlements but finance their construction be targeted as well?”
- Buttu has accused Israel of “war crimes,” “ethnically cleans[ing] 75% of the Palestinian population,” “a massacre against Palestinian civilians,” and promotes BDS campaigns. She also participated in the 2012 Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York.