NGO News in Brief
By NGO Monitor
May 30, 2007
NGOs Largely Ignore Lebanese Army Operation In Palestinian Refugee Camp
In contrast to extensive condemnation of Israeli actions in Gaza or during last summer’s Lebanon War, NGOs have largely remained silent regarding the fighting between the Lebanese army and the al Qaeda-linked, Palestinian faction Fatah al-Islam at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The only NGOs to issue statements to date are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and World Vision. And these statements do not repeat the condemnations, extreme politicized rhetoric and exploitation of international legal terminology that are common in these group’s statements on Israel. Moreover, while the death toll has already climbed higher than those killed in the 2002 Israeli anti-terror operation in Jenin, no NGOs have accused the Lebanese Army or government of a “massacre”.
A Gazan staff member of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mazab Bashir, who has worked for MSF for five years, confessed on April 19, 2007, that he had been collecting intelligence on senior Israeli officials - including Olmert and a number of Knesset members. Bashir met with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in September 2006, and said that the assassination was meant to avenge the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Bashir also underwent arms training with the PFLP, and was picked to carry out the planned assassination. MSF issued a press release in response stating “the charges handed down . . . are in no way related to either MSF or to our activities . . . .MSF . . . has always scrupulously complied with the security rules and regulations of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concerning movements of its staff.” The statement ignores the fact that the Palestinian exploited Israeli readiness to work with NGOs in providing humanitarian services.
The highly politicized nature of the procedures of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in voting on applications by NGOs for accreditation and “Consultative Status” has been highlighted again in the rejection of the application from the US branch of the Jewish National Fund (JNF-US) . In contrast, in 2006, the radical Palestinian NGO, Badil, was given consultative status despite the rejection of its application in 2005. Other politicized NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status include the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Adalah, Al Haq, HRW, and Ittijah. The status confers an NGO with significant power and influence including the ability to recommend agenda items and participate at UN meetings, submit written statements to official UN bodies, and provides the NGO with much-needed publicity. In fact, Adalah and Badil exercised this power to lobby against the JNF’s inclusion. As a result of this blatant political bias, some UN delegations may consider ending consultative status for NGOs, or replacing the process with a less divisive method.
A new UN Watch Report, “Dawn of New Era?”, analyzes the performance of the UN HRC in its first year. UN Watch concludes that the new council has largely been a failure and in some instances even worse than before. According to the report, the body has a “brazen alliance” of repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Russia. While the old Commission on Human Rights criticized Israel about 50% of the time, 100% of the new council’s condemnations have been directed towards Israel – not even Sudan has been censured. Prior to the HRC’s establishment in May 2006, major NGOs such as HRW and Amnesty praised the UN reform, criticizing those who predicted the council would be a failure. HRW has only recently come to terms with the problems of the HRC, though only a few of its statements criticizing the institution mention its exclusive focus on Israel. This NGO and others who condemned the US and Israel for demanding serious reform have yet to admit their mistaken evaluation.
In addition to “Dawn of a New Era?,” UN Watch, in conjunction with Freedom House, issued a report on May 7, 2007, evaluating the suitability of candidates for the UN Human Rights Council before the body’s election on May 17. The evaluation found the overwhelming majority of candidates were either “not qualified” or had “questionable” qualifications to serve on the Council. Only four countries were found to be “well qualified.”
HRW is also part of a coalition that also evaluates the candidates for the HRC, though rather than evaluating all candidates, the coalition has only openly opposed the candidacies of Belarus and Egypt.
From April 10-19, 2007, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, visited Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The purpose of her visit was to “ascertain first hand the situation of children” and to have “a constructive dialogue with the Governments, members of the civil society, NGOs and children affected by conflict, in the effort to address grave violations against children.” During her visit, however, the Representative met with the highly politicized NGOs, Defence of Children International/Palestine (DCI/PS), Save the Children Sweden, Save the Children UK, Al Haq, Christian Peacemakers Team, and Badil, who presented a one-sided version of events, blaming Israel for the suffering of Palestinian children. It was unclear if the Representative met with any Israeli NGOs or children’s groups. (This is another example of the absence of transparency in the UN, thereby preventing public analysis and detailed criticism.)
The NGOs Al Haq, Miftah, and Defence of Children International/Palestine (DCI/PS), proponents of the Durban Strategy of anti-Israel demonization, used the occasion of Palestinian Prisoners Day on April 17, 2007, to issue statements consistent with this strategy. Al Haq’s press release accuses Israel of continuing to violate international human rights and humanitarian law. The statement also criticizes Israel's arrest of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council arguing the Geneva Convention prohibits the taking of hostages. Ironically, Al Haq failed to note the application of the Convention to Gilad Shalit. Miftah’s press release accuses Israel of “misus[ing]” administrative detention to impose “collective punishment” and makes the incredible claim that “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have endured the dismal conditions of Israeli prisons.” DCI/PS’s press release claims Israel’s military court system is a “discriminatory system” used to “suppress and oppress Palestinian children.” DCI/PS also claims Palestinian children are “assaulted, beaten, and tortured during the interrogation process.” No sources are provided to verify these statements and similar statements made by the NGOs B’tselem and HaMoked have been found by Israeli courts and NGO Monitor to be without merit. DCI/PS makes no comment about the abuse of children by Palestinian terrorist organizations or the violent propaganda aimed at Palestinian children sanctioned by the Palestinian Authority.
Radical NGO Badil (that has received funding from the Norwegian, Canadian, Irish governments) recently issued a strategy document entitled, "Call to Action", on the occasion of the '”40 years since Israel's occupation' and the upcoming' 60 years since the Nakba.” This document provides a blueprint for the concerted implementation of the Durban Strategy over the next year by several NGOs. NGOs joining this coalition include DanChurchAid, the European Coordinating Committee of NGOs on Palestine, ICCO, Oxfam Solidarity, TROCAIRE, and HEKS/EPER of Switzerland. The goals of the campaign are to:
To implement these goals, Badil’s strategy document calls on the coalition to increase visibility around certain “important” dates; that NGO-issued statements “should not only state the respective violations (of [international humanitarian law] and/or [human rights law]) by Israel, but also to call upon states to live up to their obligations”; boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns; a June 2007 demonstration, and efforts to “[e]nlist journalists to organize a targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community's double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation.” The document also seeks to enlist the help of anti-Israel “Jewish” NGOs to “rais[e] awareness of the Palestinian Nakba and the right of return among the Jewish public in Israel” including a “3rd Right of Return conference in Israel” and “a series of creative and effective awareness-raising events targeting the Jewish public in 2007-2008.” During 2007-2008, NGO Monitor will track the implementation of Badil’s strategy as well as additional members joining the coalition.
In conjunction with Badil’s strategy, a coordination meeting took place on April 18, 2007, involving “national and Islamic forces”, the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, the National Committee for the Commemoration of the 59th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the National Coalition for defending the rights of Palestinian in Jerusalem, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), and Ittijah. The committee will take responsibility for coordinating activities relating to
(Emphasis added). Notably, no specifics were offered as to what activities fall under the category of “activation of popular resistance” or “[d]efending Jerusalem.”
In an example of fulfilling the mandate to promote universal human rights, several NGOs who place disproportionate focus on Israel have issued statements regarding the situation in Darfur. On April 16, 2007, Oxfam issued a press release, launching a £5 million appeal for “'world's greatest humanitarian crisis', to help people in Chad and Darfur.” HRW issued a statement calling on “concerned governments” to “impose targeted sanctions against Sudanese officials unless Khartoum immediately agrees to the full deployment of the proposed 20,000-member hybrid international peacekeeping force for Darfur.” HRW Toronto hosted an event with Irwin Cotler on April 26 and urged “Canada to take the lead in the international community's response to end the violence in Darfur.” On April 27, Christian Aid and Caritas launched an emergency appeal. Amnesty International held a worldwide event on April 29, “to mark the fourth anniversary since the start of the conflict in Darfur.” In addition to these NGO efforts, the Ford Foundation has provided funding for a Tel Aviv University legal clinic to help Sudanese refugees.
In another example of broadening its focus in the Middle East, HRW released a report, "The Human Cost: The Consequences of Insurgent Attacks in Afghanistan," criticizing Afghani insurgent groups for failing to differentiate between “civilians and combatants.” The report calls on Afghan government to develop “better rules of engagement'” to minimize civilian casualties and calls on Pakistan to act more effectively against insurgents located over the border.
The Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Raji Sourani, has been re-elected as the Vice President of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) for his third consecutive term. In an April 26, 2007 press release on the Palestine News Network announcing the election, FIDH states that “Sourani's re-election comes as an appreciation of the Palestinian human rights movement in general, and PCHR in particular.” This appointment reveals the close connection and influence of radical Palestinian NGOs within large international human rights organizations. NGO Monitor has extensively documented the anti-Israel bias of both of these NGOs. Sourani is also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a leading proponent of the Durban Strategy.
Medecins Du Monde, notable for its campaigning against Israeli’s security barrier, is advertising for an “International Coordinator in Palestine” to be based in Jerusalem. The job description includes networking with “various partners and institutions in Palestine”; supervising “the management of the MdM international network's base in Jerusalem”; Successful applicants will have “Knowledge of Middle East and particularly Palestine.” Knowledge of Israel or Hebrew is not a requirement, nor is networking with Israeli institutions or partners. MDM does not specify if they consider all of Jerusalem to be “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Save the Children UK is advertising for a Child Rights Programme Manager for “Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Save the Children UK is active in anti-Israel advocacy at the UN. The Manager will head SCUK’s newly created Child Rights Program and seeks applicants with previous experience in the “OPT/Middle East”. The announcement does not state where in Jerusalem the position will be located, nor does SCUK specify whether it considers all of Jerusalem to be “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
CARE is hiring a Country Director for the “Palestinian Territory” to be based in Jerusalem. The Country Director will be CARE’s “senior representative in West Bank and Gaza who ensures that CARE's work contributes to CARE's vision of a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been eliminated and people live with dignity and security....The CD provides strategic leadership and guidance to the country office team so that CARE's role and mandate in the Palestinian territory are appropriate to the operating context and CARE is a significant contributor to reducing poverty and social injustice.” The position does not require knowledge of Arabic
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