The one-year anniversary (June 25, 2007) of the kidnapping by Hamas of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit has largely gone unnoticed by NGOs. As of June 30, 2007, the only NGO to mark the anniversary is Israeli NGO B’tselem. B’tselem’s press release calls for Shalit’s immediate release by Hamas and states that holding Shalit as a hostage is a “war crime”. The organization also calls denial of access by the International Red Cross “a blatant violation of international law.” In response to the NGO silence, the Anti-Defamation League sent letters to “the directors of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Human Rights First” and “called on those groups to speak out and demand the release of the soldiers one year after their capture.”
As NGO Monitor has reported, in November, 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to convene a 2009 follow-up to the World Conference Against Racism. The follow-up event will yet again take place in Durban. On June 21, 2007, Libya was designated as chair of the preparatory meetings in the lead-up to the conference and may be selected as overall Chair in Durban. Iran, Cuba, and Russia will also be among the 20-member bureau directing the preparatory meetings. A number of international NGOs are expected to participate in the meetings set for the end of July. NGO Monitor will report on any NGO activity at the meetings.
NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International argued that the new UN Human Rights Council would be different from the discredited Commission on Human Rights. They were wrong. On June 19, the UN Human Rights Council adopted new procedures for its second year in operation, including making Israel a permanent item on the Council’s agenda (the only country with this status). In response to these measures that belie any notion of promoting universal human rights, Amnesty praised the HRC for reaching consensus on the new procedures (even though it did not), and HRW’s Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks, claimed the HRC still can be more effective than the old Commission and that the inclusion of Israel on the permanent agenda should not be viewed negatively because “in principle, at least, the council can scrutinize both Israeli and Palestinian behavior.”
Dr. Michael Williams, former Head of Asia Research for Amnesty International, has been named as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. NGO Monitor is encouraged by Dr. Williams’ appointment. His 2003 Introductory Paper, Global Civil Society: Expectations, Capacities and the Accountability of International NGOs, stresses the importance of trustworthiness and accountability on the part of NGOs.
On May 25, the French League of Human Rights (FIDH) released a press statement expressing great concern “about the situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Gaza Strip in particular.” Consistent with past approaches, FIDH focuses on condemnations of Israeli actions while barely acknowledging ongoing Palestinian violence. FIDH erases Palestinian violence and corruption -- after “firmly condemning…the rocket firing from Palestinian armed groups,” only Israeli self-defensive measures are deemed a “flagrant and serious violation of international law” and constitute “war crimes.” This is another example of FIDH’s abuse of international human rights law to promote a radical political agenda.
In other activity, on June 4, 2007, FIDH presented a position paper to the 5th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. FIDH’s paper equates the on-going genocide in Sudan with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. FIDH calls on “the Council to condemn inter alia the massive human rights violations that have occurred in Darfur and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The position paper’s “Occupied Palestinian Territories” section ignores Palestinian terror and the on-going rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians. Additionally, the position paper labels Israel’s separation barrier as the “annexation wall” and omits evidence on the sharp reduction in terror attacks since the barrier’s construction.
In contrast to many human rights advocacy groups active in the Middle East, Human Rights First (HRF) presents a balanced and unpoliticized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In June 2007, HRF released a comprehensive survey on hate crimes including attacks on Jews. The report noted, “ in Europe and North America, authors of antisemitic threats and attacks frequently invoke Israel and Israeli policies as justification even while employing the language and symbols of Nazi Germany.”
On June 17, 2007, NGOs Amnesty International-Israel, B’Tselem, Gisha, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Ha-Moked, Yesh Din joined ACRI and Adalah in calling for the suspension of two attorneys in Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office, based on a political agendas. The two attorneys, Gilad Sherman and Yochi Gensin were condemned for stating that “[ACRI] and Adalah are comfortable with the possibility of a prime minister, cabinet minister or MP from Hamas ordering Qassam rockets launched at Sderot, [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit not being released and as many Israeli citizens as possible killed, in the spirit of the Hamas charter, while at the same time being entitled to reside permanently in Israel and to enjoy National Insurance Institute allowances and complete freedom of movement in the country.” Both ACRI and Adalah have been the subject of intensive criticism within Israel for the past six months over their politicized campaigning based on the rhetoric of human rights.
On June 13, 2007, radical Palestinian NGO Sabeel issued a press release to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 War. Consistent with Sabeel’s active role in the Durban Strategy of demonization the release opens up with verses from Old Testament Prophet Habbakuk and the inflammatory statement that, “As the prophet so eloquently notes, strife and contention are evident everywhere as we mark 40 years of the Israeli Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The brutal assault on Gaza continues unabated. Israel's army daily invades communities and kidnaps and kills Palestinians in the West Bank.” The one-sided statement goes on to say “The reasons for the current feelings are clear. The Israeli government and the Israeli army are implementing a long term strategy to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian government, economy, and civil society.” Sabeel again ignored Palestinian terror and corruption and denying Palestinian responsibility for the situation. In addition to the exploitation of human rights and international legal terminology, Sabeel is a major player in the boycott, sanction, and divestment movement against Israel as well as supports a “one state solution”.
Christians for a Fair Witness on the Middle East, responded stating that it was “appalled” by Sabeel’s revision of the history of the 1967 War as well as ignoring Israeli efforts to engage in peace talks. The group takes Sabeel to task for omitting the long campaign of Palestinian terrorism including on-going Qassam rocket attacks.
HaMoked advertises for Development Coordinator
Politicized Israeli NGO, HaMoked, is seeking a Development Coordinator to work in its East Jerusalem offices. The coordinator will be responsible for all of HaMoked’s fundraising activities. The position requirements include a “commitment to human rights” and unlike many NGO positions in Jerusalem, “a strong knowledge of Hebrew – written and verbal”.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-Israel) seeking Resource Developer
PHR-Israel is also advertising for a "Full Time Resource Developer" to coordinate the NGO’s fundraising activities. The position requires the applicant be “committed to human rights”, have English as a “mother tongue”, “good Hebrew”, and experience with “US based foundations”.
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