David Reiff’s article in The New Republic, “NG-Uh-O: The trouble with humanitarianism” (June 10, 2010), underlines important developments in the NGO network: their influence as major players in the political arena, the “weaponization” of so-called human rights organizations by terror organizations, the government funding that NGOs receive, and the control those governments exert over them. Importantly, Reiff notes that “Self-evidently, to speak of Free Gaza’s mission as purely humanitarian is absurd, as the movement’s leader, Greta Berlin [and others] make clear.”
Reiff notes that NGOs have “both a right and an obligation” to provide humanitarian aid to victims of repression, even if the aid provided is an assault on the governing country’s sovereignty.
But the real significance of the “Free Gaza” flotilla, Reiff writes, is:
“Viewed coldly, and without partisanship, the Free Gaza flotilla represents … an extraordinary victory for an idea that has been talked about ad nauseam…—the ability of non-state actors not themselves military formations … to influence political outcomes in conflict zones.”..Like it or not, the success of the Free Gaza flotilla … represents the coming to fruition of the idea of the non-governmental organizations as central players in global geopolitics. And that is where humanitarianism comes in. For one of the central ideas of the modern humanitarian movement … has been to insist that national sovereignty simply could not be used by states to behave as they wished toward either their own citizens or, as is the case in Gaza, populations they judge to be hostile and who are under their control.” (emphasis added)
This “soft power” has been harnessed by groups that “sympathize with Hamas and have links with Sheikh Yusef Al Qaradawi’s wing of the Muslm Brotherhood.” In this regard, Reiff’s op-ed reflects Prof. Gerald Steinberg’s analysis in The Wall Street Journal about “the new alliance between radical-left Western groups and Jihadists” aimed at delegitimizing Israeli and NATO responses to terror.
Reiff also points out that NGO power is manifest in the close relationships between non-governmental organizations and governments, such as the “virtual revolving door between the British development ministry, DFID, and the private NGO, Oxfam.”