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NGO News in Brief

By NGO Monitor
April 10, 2008

Focus: Joint NGO report on Gaza -- propaganda and false claims:

On March 6, 2008, Amnesty International, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) CARE, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde, Oxfam, Save the Children Alliance and Trocaire issued a joint statement - entitled, "The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion".

The report repeats standard NGO condemnations of Israeli policy on Gaza (such as B'Tselem's summer 2007 booklet, entitled "The Gaza Strip - One Big Prison") and distorts international law. Charges include statements that Israeli policy both "constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children" and is "illegal under international humanitarian law". The NGOs also propagate the legal fallacy that Israel is still responsible for Gaza, and "bound by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population." This claim ignores Israel's total military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, the use of this territory to wage war against Israel, and the complexities of international and humanitarian law.

NGO Monitor's press releases: "NGO Rhetoric on Gaza Conflict Undermines Human Rights" and "NGOs Use False Claims on Humanitarian Conditions in Gaza," highlighted numerous factual errors in the report. A March 14, Jewish Chronicle article, "Aid groups admit Gaza report gaffe" also revealed mistakes. NGO Monitor's response was cited in reports by AP news wire, CNN web site, CBS news web site, USA Today newspaper, Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to the NGO statement, highlighting Hamas' diversion of fuel supplies, its exploitation of crossings for terrorist attacks and the continued transfer of fuel and medicines from Israel to Gaza.

NGOs and Durban Review Conference 2009 - Update

Debate continues in the lead up to the April Prep Com for the UN's 2009 Durban Review Conference. The NGO Forum of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance [WCAR], initiated a coordinated NGO campaign of virulent anti-Israel demonization - the "Durban Strategy." As NGO Monitor has reported, the 2009 Review Conference is intended to focus on implementation of the 2001 declaration.

The New Israel Fund and Rabbis for Human Rights are among signatories to a "Statement of Core Principles for WCAR Follow up," which expresses the need for a corrective movement to reverse the damage of the disastrous Durban I conference, and to restore the universality of human rights. The updated signatories list on April 4, 2008 shows that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch still have not signed the petition and Amnesty refuse to comment on their policy towards Durban 2009. NGO Monitor has been contacting NGOs and their funders to ascertain their positions on these issues.



NGOs condemnations of Gaza policy continue

As noted, following February's virulent condemnations of Israel's actions in Gaza, which largely ignored rocket attacks and portray Israel as the aggressor, a number of NGOs have continued to use the rhetoric of international law to delegitmize Israel's responses.

Statements from Gisha, Al Mezan, Amnesty, Adalah and Christian Aid included accusations of "collective punishment," (Al Mezan, Amnesty and Christian Aid) "disproportionate" attacks (Gisha and Amnesty), "gross human rights violations" (Al Mezan) and "war crimes" (Adalah). World Vision also released a statement blaming Israel for "toxic" water in Gaza.

Amnesty's March 3 statement, "Children and Civilian Bystanders in Gaza Death Toll", states that "Israel has a legal obligation to protect the civilian population of Gaza," and alleges "these attacks are disproportionate and go beyond lawful measures which Israeli forces may take in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups." NGO Monitor's response demonstrated that Amnesty relied on unsubstantiated claims and erroneously applied international law such as the use of the legal terms "reckless" and "disproportionate". A number of experts have shown that under international law Israel's responses to aggression have been entirely legal, while Hamas is guilty of aggression and war crimes in its unprovoked bombardment of Israeli civilians. Thus, these terms are applied arbitrarily, with no explanation of how they are appropriate to this situation under international law. This pattern reinforces previous evidence that Amnesty lacks competence in this area, and uses this language to reinforce its political opinions.

  • See also "Notable and Quotable", March 11, 2008, New York Sun editorial criticizes NGO condemnations of Israel Gaza policy, pointing to Israel’s humanitarian aid supplies.
  • And Letter to the Editor (in response to the Editorial), March 12, 2008, by Marc Stern, Assistant Executive Director American Jewish Congress, who adds a critique of the "collective punishment" term as applied to Gaza.

Statements and NGO Silence on Terror Attack on Jerusalem Seminary

A terrorist infiltrated the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6, 2008, and opened fire on a crowded library and study hall, killing eight youths and wounding 11 others.

Amnesty, B'Tselem, Trocaire and PHRMG condemned the incident. No statements could be located from Christian Aid, NIF, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam. [Oxfam did sign a joint call for a "formal cease fire in Gaza" which mentioned, but did not specifically condemn, the "recent attack on students at the Jewish religious school in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of 8 students including 3 children." Other signatories include World Vision, MAP - UK, Save the Children and Mennonite Central Committee]

ICJ (International Commission of Jurists) Distorts International Law in Supporting Biased UN Special Rapporteur

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) sent a political mission to Israel and lobbied the United Nations Human Rights Council in their 7th Session (3-8 March) to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur charged with “examining the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories”. The distortion of international law and double standards in ICJ’s activities are illustrated in the following paragraph, which merely alludes to terror attacks against Israel:

    "Neither Israel's duty to ensure the security of its civilian population nor any other legal principle justifies Israel's indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law. The direct and willful targeting of the civilian population, its means of subsistence, and its infrastructure, violate international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes according to customary international humanitarian law."

WHO report based on unreliable and false NGO claims

An April 2, 2008, World Health Organization report, "Access to Health services for Palestinian People," called Israeli policy restricting Gazan entry into Israel for treatment, "inhumane." It repeats false NGO claims of "collective punishment", and erases the context of Palestinian terrorism and past examples in which Palestinians exploited medical access to carry out terror attacks.

The WHO report describes five detailed cases and contains 32 "brief presentations" of patients who died waiting for permits for treatment outside Gaza.

The IDF Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration responded that many of the detailed case studies were "completely wrong" - 2 patients were treated in Israeli hospitals and 3 were granted permits which were not used due to internal Palestinian considerations

NGO Monitor's analysis found that of the 32 "brief presentations," 27 cited sources for the claims. 15 cases were based entirely on the allegations of PCHR (funded by the EU and Ford Foundation). As NGO Monitor has shown, PCHR 's primary activities are political. This NGOs presses an anti-Israel agenda in the media and international organizations, and its reports condemning Israel policy often lack credibility due to their blatant one-sided removal of the context of terror, and disregard of human rights abuses committed against Israeli civilians.

The politicized NGO PHR-I was used as the only source for 5 case studies. NGO Monitor research has consistently shown PHR-I's political activities under the facade of human rights and humanitarian rhetoric. This NGO's repetition of unverified Palestinian claims, and its double standards in the assessment of human rights violations, illustrates the primacy of its political objectives, and makes it a highly questionable source.

US State Department Report on human rights in Israel repeats NGO claims

The US State Department Report on Human Rights practices in "Israel and the Occupied Territories" was released on March 11, 2008. NGO Monitor analyses of previous reports found that the authors relied heavily on allegations from politicized NGOs, many of whom are active proponents of the "Durban Strategy," without providing any criteria by which these NGOs and their claims were selected or assessed. The 2005 and 2006 reports relied on NGOs that display anti-Israel bias, publish claims that lack credibility, and ignore the complexities of human rights requirements in the context of conflicts involving terrorism and warfare.

The 2007 State Department Report (published in 2008) again repeated unverifiable NGO claims and was too reliant on the evidence of NGOs, such as Adalah and Gisha in its section on "Israel and the occupied territories." A detailed NGO Monitor analysis of this year's reports will be published shortly.

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