Statement of Professor Gerald Steinberg to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Regarding the Situation at Rights and Democracy
I submit this statement in order to clarify the record regarding several false and defamatory statements made in testimony to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the “Committee”) during April 13, 2010 hearings on Rights and Democracy. These statements were made about me and NGO Monitor, the organization I head.
On April 13, 2010, Mr. Payman Akhavan, former Rights and Democracy board member, testified to the Committee that he was “shocked that internal documents were leaked to… Gerald Steinberg”; that NGO Monitor “seems dead set on eliminating human rights monitoring of Israel entirely and smearing anyone who supports this vital activity”; and characterized NGO Monitor as “a blatantly political far-right organization.”
Akhavan further claimed that “because of the lawsuit that was brought against NGO Monitor before the Israeli courts by the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem,…Mr. Steinberg issued the following retraction…‘I regret having called Al Mezan an organization that ‘justifies violence.’” Akhavan also alleged that when the Israeli Supreme Court considered the travel restrictions placed on Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian group Al Haq, Mr. Jabarin was only entitled to “an ex parte hearing. There was no chance to contest the evidence.”
Mr. Akhavan’s statements to Parliament regarding NGO Monitor’s systematic and fully referenced research are a combination of ideological mudslinging and falsehoods. NGO Monitor is an independent nonpartisan research and analysis organization, established to promote critical debate on the political advocacy campaigns and biases of powerful non-governmental organizations. All of its materials are open and available on its website free of charge.
Mr. Akhavan’s testimony was similarly false regarding alleged receipt of unspecified “internal documents” and a 2006 lawsuit filed against NGO Monitor. Contrary to Mr. Akhavan’s assertions, I never received any “leaked” or “internal documents.” Mr. Akhavan has also grossly distorted the facts regarding a lawsuit brought against NGO Monitor by the Palestinian political group known as ARIJ. This suit was one of a series of attempts at “lawfare” – the use of false claims of defamation and libel in order to prevent academic analysis, research and criticism of radical NGOs that exploit the language of human rights. All but one of the claims brought by ARIJ were dropped, and no judgment was issued by the court. In a compromise, NGO Monitor agreed to accommodate ARIJ’s request for a minimal change in language to one sentence in the summary of a report. This was done in order to avoid confusion on a minor point where ARIJ was mentioned with two other NGOs, one of which was Al Mezan. The main substance of the report was not altered with regards to either ARIJ or Al Mezan. Moreover, at no time did I make the statement regarding Al Mezan attributed to me by Mr. Akhavan.
Not only does Mr. Akhavan blatantly misrepresent the factual record, but he also seeks to distort and erase the aggressive activities and inflammatory rhetoric of Al Mezan. As its own publications clearly show, Al Mezan regularly refers to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists as “resistance fighters” and refers to their arms as “resistance weapons.” One report on the “misuse of weapons” referred to “the failure of the [Palestinian National] Authority to restrict the use of resistance weapons to their defined purposes” and that “weapons of resistance . . . become more dangerous if their use is not restricted for the purposes for which they were purchased.”
Mr. Akhavan also ignored Al Mezan’s frequent spurious charges against Israel including “apartheid,” “criminal aggression against civilians” and committing a “‘holocaust’ (genocide)” Al Mezan’s casualty figures of the Gaza War were shown to be without credibility, as they list many Hamas terrorists as civilians. The organization was also directly involved in the September 2009 lawfare case, which sought to have Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrested in the UK on charges of “war crimes.”
It should also be noted that Al Mezan’s director was quoted in the Arabic Press calling for a boycott of USAID’s ‘Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing’ which requires organizations accepting US funding to stipulate that it will not “provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity.”
This record notwithstanding, Al Mezan was one of the Palestinian organizations funded by Rights and Democracy.
With regards to Mr. Jabarin and Al Haq, another group that received Rights and Democracy funding, Mr. Akhavan similarly obfuscates. He claims that Mr. Jabarin’s case was only subject to an “ex parte hearing. There was no chance to contest the evidence.” Yet, in fact, Mr. Jabarin had two hearings regarding his travel ban in 2009 on March 5 and March 9 (see detailed descriptions on Al Haq’s own website ). Hearings were also held in 2007 and 2008. In its decisions following the proceedings, the internationally respected Israeli High Court noted Jabarin “is among the senior activists of the terrorist organisation, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” The Court also stated
The Court’s 2009 decision found that “material pointing to [Jabarin’s] involvement in the activity of terrorist entities is concrete and reliable.” For similar reasons, Jordan denied Jabarin entry in 2003.
In addition to Mr. Jabarin’s personal alleged affiliations, his organization Al Haq repeatedly calls terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians to be “resistance.” Jabarin himself complained that after 9/11, “the United States succeeded in establishing linkages between legitimate resistance against occupation and terrorism.” Al Haq’s former General Director, Randa Siniora also stated,
Al Haq is a leader in lawfare (it is responsible for filing 2 cases against the British government to stop arms sales to Israel as well as a case in Canada over the security barrier, all of which were dismissed), and also promotes the campaign to equate Israel with apartheid South Africa.
These examples stand in direct contrast to Mr. Akhavan’s misleading and false testimony.
Before closing I would like to briefly comment on the remarks of former Rights and Democracy presidents Ed Broadbent, who lamented the criticism of the International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International against the principled stand taken by the Rights and Democracy board. Similarly, Warren Allmand, testified that “the governing imperative for the centre is the International Bill of Human Rights. The governing imperative is not the foreign policy of Canada, it is not the foreign policy of the United States, and it certainly is not the foreign policy of Israel.”
These are baseless accusations and dangerous innuendos. The foremost principle in the international bill of human rights is that of universality – to claim a moral foundation, human rights must apply to all, equally without bias or double standards. Unfortunately, as NGO Monitor’s systematic analysis shows, the work of Al Mezan and Al Haq, and that of several other NGOs, do not adhere to this central principle. As outlined above, these organizations routinely ignore or minimize terror attacks on Israeli civilians and engage in demonizing rhetoric and delegitimization that is the very antithesis of universal human rights or morality. Mr. Broadbent and Mr. Allmand cannot claim to promote the values of human rights if they are dismiss the core principle of universality, and use the dark language of conspiracy and accusation.
Unfortunately, this failure to uphold universal values is not limited to Al Mezan or Al Haq. Recent publications in the Sunday Times of London and the New Republic  add to the evidence of ideological bias at Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International’s acting head recently defended the organization’s ties to Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg, and endorsed the concept of “defensive jihad.” Similarly, the International Federation of Human Rights is a supporter of lawfare against Israeli and US officials, and devotes its “terrorism” section to mostly condemning counter-terror efforts, yet issues few statements condemning deliberate attacks against civilians in Israel and elsewhere.
Should you require further clarification on these issues, please inform me.
 Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers, Al Mezan Publishes Statistical Report on Persons Killed and Property Destroyed by Israeli Occupation Forces during Operation Cast Lead,” June 15, 2009. Available at http://www.mezan.org/en/details.php?id=8844&ddname=Gaza%20destruction&id_dept=14&p=center
 Al Mezan Center for Human Rights Press Release, “Sixty Years of Nakba,,, IOF Crimes Continue in OPT Amid International Silence,” May 14, 2008. Available at http://www.mezan.org/en/details.php?id=1596&ddname=Human%20Rights&id_dept=9&p=center
 Al Mezan Report, “Gaza man assassinated and run over, baby shot in the head,” Electronic Intifada, March 6, 2008. Available at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9375.shtml
 Halevi, Jonathan D. “Casualties of the the Palestinians Security Forces: Myth vs. Reality,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 24, 2009. Available at http://jcpa.org.il/JCPAHeb/Templates/showpage.asp?FID=594&DBID=1&LNGID=2&TMID=99&IID=22712
 Black, Edwin. “Transparency a concern as millions go to Mideast,” JTA. Available at http://www.featuregroup.com/fgarchive/jta.org/jta.org3/index.html
 See Al Haq Press Release, “Travel Ban on Al-Haq General Director Upheld: Once again, the Israeli judiciary demonstrates its subservience to the military and security authorities ,” March 11, 2009. Available at http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=435
 NGO Monitor Blog, “Oops! Guess, we forgot to mention that stuff about the PFLP…,” March 22, 2009. Available at http://blog.ngo-monitor.org/other-ngos/human-rights-watch/oops-guess-we-forgot-to-mention-that-stuff-about-the-pflp/
 Al Haq, “Human Rights Organizations and Future Challenges.” Available at http://www.alhaq.org/printnews.php?id=48
 Al Haq, “Legal Cover for Illegitimate Practices: Arbitrary Arrests and Prison Conditions of Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Prisons and Detention Centers.” Available at http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=47
 NGO Monitor Report. Al Haq-supported Lawfare in Canada, June 11, 2009. Available at http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/al_haq_supported_lawfare_in_canada
 Al Haq Press Release, “South African study finds that Israel is practicing colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” June 4, 2009. Available at http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=451
 Foreman, Jonathan. “Nazi scandal engulfs Human Rights Watch,” The Sunday Times, March 28, 2010. Available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7076462.ece
 Birnbaum, Benjamin. “Minority Report: Human Rights Watch fights a civil war over Israel,” The New Republic, April 21, 2010. Available at http://www.tnr.com/article/minority-report-2
 Rushdie, Salman. “Salman Rushdie’s statement on Amnesty International,” The Sunday Times, February 21, 2010. Available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7034773.ece
 Human Rights for All Press Release, “Amnesty International responds to the global petition and a response from the petitioners,” April 1, 2010. Available at http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article53
 International Federation for Human Rights Website, Terrorism. Available at http://fidh.org/-Terrorism-