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NGO News in Brief

By NGO Monitor
October 1, 2007

Chorus of NGOs issue preemptive condemnation of Israel’s Gaza Policy

Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, B'Tselem and ICAHD all condemned the Israeli government's September 19 statement that it may place sanctions on Gaza in response to continued rocket fire and terrorism emanating from the Hamas-controlled territory. This decision’s practical and legal ramifications are unclear, and no action has yet been taken. Possible measures, according to the statement, include “a restriction of various goods,” reduction of the “supply of fuel and electricity”, and “restrictions . . . on movement of people to and from Gaza.” The statement states that the measures “will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis.”

On September 20, HRW (which has a history of instant condemnations, before the facts are known) predictably declared that “Israel’s threat to impose additional sanctions on the Gaza Strip would constitute unlawful collective punishmentof Gaza’s civilian population. HRW issued a similar press release on June 29, 2006, condemning Israel for attacking Gaza’s power plant in response to the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Oxfam joined HRW in preemptively condemning Israel. Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, called Israel's actions "immoral and contrary to the Geneva Conventions." ICAHD (which is funded by the EU under the “partnership for peace” budget), called for one-sided international action to "prevent the starvation siege Israel plans to impose on Gaza." Israeli NGO B'Tselem added its voice to the condemnations, arguing that "regardless of how they might cloak it, cutting off electricity to a civilian population is collective punishment and a violation of international law…It doesn't really make a difference whether it's cutting off the supply from Israel or bombing the power station."

All of these statements generally ignored the context of terrorism and give short shrift to Israel's legitimate right to self-defense. These NGOs have shown very little interest in the rocket attacks and terrorism emanating from Gaza, while focusing narrowly on the Israeli government’s efforts to find a means of deterring these attacks.

 

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch criticize UN Human Rights Council - Are They Finally Getting the Message?

In a July 2007 statement The Human Rights Council: A New Era in UN Human Rights Work?, Yvonne Terlingen, director of Amnesty International’s offices at the UN, criticized the activity of the supposedly ‘reformed’ UN Human Rights Council. Discussing the Council's actions during three special sessions in 2006 covering the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Terlingen offered the following observations concerning the failings of the Council to uphold its mandate:

"Particularly regrettable was the one-sided resolution that the council adopted…The highly politicized resolution strongly condemned “grave Israeli violations of Human Rights and breaches of International Humanitarian Law in Lebanon,” but entirely ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by Hezbollah in using indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. This was a clear example of the “selectivity” and “double standards and politicization” that Resolution 60/251 seeks to eliminate. Moreover, the nearly exclusive focus of these special sessions on Israel, at the cost of disregarding equally if not more egregious human rights situations elsewhere in the world, started to raise serious questions regarding the council’s credibility.”

This criticism may represent recognition by Amnesty of the need for greater universality. However, much more fundamental change is required, to counteract Amnesty’s highly disproportionate focus on Israel in its own reporting -- a significant failing which NGO Monitor has documented in detail.

Human Rights Watch also criticized the UN Human Rights Council in a September 10 statement. Unlike Amnesty, it failed to censure the council for its anti-Israel bias and activities; it did, however, call on the council "expand its agenda," to address neglected human rights and "tackle crises Worldwide." (In 2006, HJRW attacked the Israeli and US governments for warning that the new Council would repeat the biases and double-standards of the old Commission.)

 

ICJ (Geneva) visit to Israel, Palestinian Territories - Preliminary report

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which is based in Geneva, is among the most biased European-based NGOs claiming to promote the core values of universal human rights. as documented by NGO Monitor. In August 2007, an ICJ panel completed the “the sixteenth and final visit”, and will issue its global report in 2008.  According to the ICJ press summary, “the visit was facilitated by the Association for the Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Haq” – all three are highly politicized NGOs that support Palestinian claims through the abuse of human rights rhetoric. As a result, the report is expected to repeat the standard NGO approach that focuses blame primarily and disproportionately on Israel.

 

New Israel Fund Update: NIF receives another $20 million from Ford Foundation; promotes Israeli who labels Israel “apartheid state”  in UN/EU conference

The New Israel Fund in the UK went ahead with a September 3 appearance by Danny Rubenstein (Ha’aretz columnist), despite his labeling Israel as an “ apartheid state” at the EU/UN “International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” (The British Zionist Federation dropped him as a speaker following this statement.) This is consistent with previous NIF policies supporting individuals and organizations working to demonize and delegitimize Israel. (In 2004, Shamai Leibowtiz used his status as an NIF Law Fellow to promote divestment and a single-state solution. More recent NIF grantees include Adalah and Mousawa, who have submitted papers to the UN accusing Israel of apartheid, referring to Zionism as racism, and distributing an alternative constitution for Israel that would abolish the concept of a Jewish state.)

On September 6, the Ford Foundation announced a second $20 million grant to extend its partnership with NIF to support civil society, human rights and social justice organizations in Israel. The partnership was launched in 2003 with an initial Ford grant of $20million, following the exposure of Ford’s funding for the NGOs participating in the Durban conference. (NGO Monitor published a detailed report on the Ford Foundation’s funding for political NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict including Ford’s funding of the NIF.)

Many NIF and Ford funded NGOs are likely to take part in Durban 2009, a follow up to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, which spawned the use of the apartheid analogy to undermine and eliminate Israel.


Norwegian Government’s approach to Israeli-Arab Conflict increasingly influenced by politicized NGOs

According to the Norwegian press, the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv appealed to Oslo to act on reports of torture of Palestinians, based on claims by three Israeli human rights groups -- The Public Committee Against Torture, HaMoked and B’tselem.  NGO Monitor has documented the serious deficiencies and lack of credibility in previous reports published by these politicized NGOs (whose many donors include European governments and the New Israel Fund), and the Israeli Foreign Ministry urged Oslo to ignore such reports that lack credibility.

In a related development, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), an NGO funded by the Norwegian Government, has issued its August 2007 report, “Israel: Multiple patterns of internal displacement affect several ethnic and religious groups”, which accuses the Israeli government of widespread “discriminatory planning policies” toward Israel’s Bedouin population. As documented by NGO Monitor, the IDMC regularly relies on the research and cooperation of radical or politicized NGOs, which promote a political bias that regularly ignores Israel's right to security in its human rights analyses. Norway’s continued funding of the IDMC is further evidence that its approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict is in danger of being distorted by the anti-Israel NGO narrative.

 

PCHR Calls for Investigating Torture Crimes by the Palestinian 'Executive Force'

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a press release on September 24, calling for an immediate investigation into a number of abuses committed by the Hamas executive force, including civilians being subjected to beating and torture by the Executive Force in Gaza City and El-Bureij refugee camp.  While PCHR does an important job of describing intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, it is blatantly one-sided in its removal of the contextof terror and disregard of human rights abuses committed against Israeli civilians.



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