News in Brief
By NGO Monitor
September 2, 2007
Following NGO Monitor's initial report, as well as protests from the Israeli government and embassy in Brussels, a group of Polish MEPs deriving from all main political parties decided to boycott the "International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace", that was held in the European Parliament in Brussels, August 30-31. The boycott was to protest to many radical NGOs who dominated the conference and used it as a platform to advance the demonization of Israel and to call for international boycotts. Following the announcement of Poland's decision, B'nai B'rith International issued a statement applauding the decision and calling on other nations to follow Poland's lead in rejecting what B'nai B'rith called a "virulently anti-Israel gathering" and a "forum for anti-Semitism." For more information on this conference, including an analysis of the presenting NGOs, click here.
As MSNBC News has reported, USAID will now be screening all NGO personnel that receive USAID funding to make sure they have no links to terrorism. This is in addition to the pledge each organization has to sign that its money will not be used to support terrorism. A coalition of Palestinian NGOs have protested the pledge, refusing to sign. In April 2007, a MSF employee was arrested for planning terror assassinations in Israel, and the head of Al Haq, Shawan Jabarin, has been held by Israel for involvement with the PFLP.
MPs: War on Want's boycott guide "a handbook of hate"
Wired Magazine (online) features an item this month detailing how Amnesty International edits out criticism of its organization on the Wikipedia page – including NGO Monitor's detailed examples of false reports and bias. Amnesty also removed a link to NGO Monitor's Amnesty International infofile (the detailed log-page can be found here).
As reported on Ynet August 8, the Israel branch of Amnesty International, in cooperation with Hotline for Migrant Workers and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have launched a campaign calling on the Israeli Interior Ministry not to deport the Sudanese asylum seekers who have entered Israel illegally. The campaign features a highly emotive video clip, where a chilling version of Hatikva—the Israeli national anthem—is sung. The video features what appear to be Sudanese women and children, standing behind fences and barbed wire—images which invoke Holocaust imagery and German concentration camps (In some camps, Jews sang Hatikva in defiance on their way to the gas chambers.)
"Israelis have done much soul-searching about the decision to launch a large-scale military campaign in response to Hezbollah's border attacks, and much questioning of the military strategy for the war. But when it comes to the question of civilian casualties, the debate has been remarkably superficial…On occasion, Hezbollah forces even deliberately hid near noncombatants to render counterattack more difficult -- the war crime of shielding. But these violations do not begin to explain Lebanese civilian deaths."
HRW has done little reporting in real time on unspeakable abuses of human rights in several African countries. One notable example is the Central African Republic (CAR)—a crisis so vicious and bloody that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has initiated proceedings. The ICC notes that "sexual violence appears to have been a central feature" of the 2002-2003 conflict. HRW issued a statement in May 2007 praising the ICC for finally tackling these abuses. Incredibly, however, HRW itself issued no statements on these atrocities as they were taking place. In fact, HRW's only publication addressing the CAR conflict, prior to May 2007, was published in 2001. See NGO Monitor’s blog for more information.
Human Rights Watch claimed that recently announced United States-Middle East arms agreements would undermine US goals in the Middle East: According the HRW's Washington director, Tom Malinowski, the planned arms deals "will reduce pressure on Egypt and the Arab states to reform their politics...It's another case of trying to purchase stability at the expense of liberty."
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has issued a report, After Gaza, which considers policy options in the effort to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in light of Hamas' recent takeover in Gaza. The central argument of the report is that the International Quartet of the EU, Russia, the UN, and the United States must work with the Palestinians to establish a rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah and the formation of a unity-government. The report specifically urges the Quartet "in all statements and contacts with the PA government in Ramallah" to "encourage reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas." The report urges the "formation of a new, unified government subject to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) approval," and calls on Israel to be willing to negotiate with such a government, which will include Hamas, on a "two-state solution."
The Interfaith Peace Builders (IPB) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) sponsor regular delegations to "observe" the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The claimed purpose of these trips is to "foster a network of informed and active individuals who understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States' political, military, and economic role in it." However, as NGO Monitor has detailed this month, rather than creating a network of people who "understand" the conflict, IPB and AFSC are building a radical advocacy network with NGOs that promote the Palestinian rejectionist narrative and anti-Israel demonization through the "Durban Strategy". Speakers to the visiting delegations include members of the most radical NGOs operating in the region, including Jeff Halper of the EU-funded ICAHD.
According to an August 26 article in the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Justice Ministry is preparing legislation aimed at restricting the powers of the High Court of Justice, but will not try to have it approved by the Knesset before holding a public debate on the matter. The policy introduced by former Supreme Court presidents Meir Shamgar and Aharon Barak has opened the court to many non-government organizations such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Movement for Quality Government, and Adalah, petitioning on such matters as human rights, minority rights and ethical government behavior. This legislation is a response in part to growing charges of "judicial activism" by the Court. According to the article, "'Activism' includes, among other things, the court's readiness during these years to allow almost anyone to petition it on government actions, even when these actions do not directly affect the petitioner himself—an issue known as 'standing'."
B'Tselem issued a report this month—Ground to a Halt: Denial of Palestinians' Freedom of Movement in the West Bank—on Israeli check-points and security arrangements on West Bank roads. The Israel Justice Ministry's Department for International Agreements and International Litigation issued a response to the B'Tselem report, challenging its basic assumption that the road restrictions were being used for illegal purposes. "This far-reaching assertion is absolutely baseless," wrote Justice Ministry attorney Hila Tene.
In related news, in an August 15 press release, B'Tselem announced that its recent investigations "reveal that the Israeli army prevents Palestinians from traveling to the northern Dead Sea area…The nature of the restrictions…raises a grave concern that the prohibitions are not grounded on legitimate security needs, but on extraneous reasons that are intended to advance Israeli interests in the occupied territory….B'Tselem calls on the defense authorities to immediately cancel the restrictions on Palestinian movement in the area, including the restrictions on using the beaches and recreational sites in the northern Dead Sea area." NGO Monitor has previously reported on B’Tselem’s lack of credibility.
B'Tselem has issued a condemnation this month of Israel's detention of Hamas officials holding senior positions in the Palestinian Authority. According to B'Tselem, "international law permits administrative detention only in exceptional cases, when the detainee represents a clear and present danger, and then only if lesser means are ineffective in eliminating the danger. The use of administrative detention as a means of punishment is absolutely forbidden. The present case does not meet these conditions...the timing of the waves of arrests indicates that the arrests were intended to put pressure on the Palestinian people and its leadership."
According to a Ynet News report, "The High Court of Justice demanded Monday [August 20] that the state explain its failure to recognize Muslim sites of worship and to funnel sufficient funds to preserve mosques in Israel. 'Why shouldn't the National Authority of Religious Services respect the relevant laws and introduce ordinances to ensure that all Muslim religious sites in Israel are preserved?,' Justice Edmond Levy wrote in response to a petition against the state by the Arab advocacy center Adalah. The court adopted the petitioners' stance that earmarking a budget for the mosques did not guarantee a long-term commitment to their maintenance and demanded that the state provide explanations for its decision. Adalah lawyer Hassan Jabrin told Ynet that the government's refusal to recognize mosques was part of an 'unjust' policy that ignored 'their religious and historical importance.' 'Some of these sites are holy not only to Muslims in Israel but to millions around the world. The absence of ordinances that define these holy sites will perpetuate the ongoing damage they have been sustaining,' he added."
Physicians for Human Rights–Israel and Gisha have published an August 19, 2007 position paper, after submitting a petition to the Israeli Supreme court (which the Court rejected), criticizing Israel's system of classifying Palestinians at the Erez crossing seeking to enter Israel for medical attention. As NGO Monitor has previously reported, as a result of PHR-I's radical political agenda, the Israel Physician's Union halted cooperative activities with it; Gisha regularly uses "apartheid" rhetoric and excludes the context of Palestinian terror in its reporting.
The Alternative Information Center (AIC), a Palestinian NGO group funded by the European governments which is very active in promoting boycotts against Israel and using the rhetoric of demonization, has released an August 2007 report, The Case for Academic Boycott against Israel. According to the AIC website, the report is "an initial compilation of facts documenting the discriminatory practices implemented by the Israeli academic system, as well as this system’s active and ongoing involvement in the occupation of the Palestinian territories."
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