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What the NGOs Did Not Say This Month

By NGO Monitor
March 6, 2008

The Dimona terror attack, razing of Gaza YMCA, persecution of Christian Arabs and Hamas theft of humanitarian aid  

In sharp contrast to the almost daily statements condemning Israel’s policy towards Gaza, NGOs have said little about Palestinian terror attacks and other core human rights violations.  

On February 4, 2008 two Palestinian suicide bombers killed one woman and injured thirty eight civilians in the Israeli city of Dimona. Following the attack, only B’Tselem issued a special statement to condemn the bombing. Amnesty International was silent, and HRW mentioned it once in a long February 7 press release criticizing Israel's response to rocket attacks.  HRW minimized its importance saying it was the "first suicide attack in a year," and ignored the ongoing campaign of Palestinian terror by referring to Israel's response as "retaliat[ion]."  Oxfam UK mentioned it in passing in a February 6, 2008 press release entitled, "Gaza situation worsens as Israel cuts supplies."  It stated, "The Palestinian suicide bomb attack, in Dimona, could lead to an escalation of violence which would further undermine the humanitarian situation." Despite claiming to "have condemned" the bombing, no other mention of it could be found on Oxfam UK or any other Oxfam website. Christian Aid ignored the bombing, despite issuing a press release the following day, which ignored terrorism and accused Israel of "illegal use of collective punishment."  

On February 15, 2008 the YMCA's Library in Gaza city was razed by "more than 10 armed men."  This follows a murder in October 2007 of a Christian bookshop owner, and numerous attacks on Christian owned property over the past year.  The latest attack was condemned by a number of Palestinian NGOs, including Al-Mezan, PCHR, GCMHP and PARC.  But despite extensive evidence of intimidation and persecution of Palestinian Christians, the major international NGOs such as Amnesty, HRW and Christian Aid continue to ignore this phenomenon.

Finally, despite numerous claims that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Hamas’ abuse of aid shipments was also met with silence by NGOs. As the German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported February 7, 2008, “[a]t least 10 trucks with humanitarian aid sent to the Gaza Strip by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society were confiscated by Hamas police shortly after the lorries entered the territory;” a further news report added that the aid was “unloaded in Hamas ministry warehouses,” and that a similar seizure took place in January, 2008.

News in Brief:

Durban 2009 Review Conference – Update

The NGO Forum of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance initiated a coordinated NGO campaign of virulent anti-Israel demonization – the "Durban Strategy." As NGO Monitor has reported, the UN’s 'Durban Review Conference' is intended to focus on implementation of the 2001 declaration. Events in February 2008 demonstrate growing debate and opposition to a 2009 gathering that will reinforce the 2001 results.  

According to a February 8, 2008 report from UN Watch, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is debating whether to hold an NGO forum (distinguished from the diplomatic one) in 2009, as the 2001 NGO meeting "cast a negative light" on the overall conference (UN Watch also reports that the location of 2009 Conference, as well as 2008 preparatory meetings, remain uncertain.)  

Articles critical of the planned conference appeared in the National Review, The National Post (Canada), the New York Daily News, the South African "Mail and Guardian" and the Miami Herald (which lauded French President Sarkozy’s statement that France would withdraw from the conference should it include racist or anti-Semitic elements). A French petition against the Durban II conference, signed by a number of prominent intellectuals, was published in Le Monde ('L'onu contre les droits de l'homme') February 27, 2008. Israel has said it will not attend the conference, unless it can be sure that it will not serve as a platform for anti-Semitic activity; and World Jewry continues to debate the issue.  See: “World Jews, Israel, to Meet on Durban 2” and Center Field: What the Global Forum must do (Jerusalem Post); “Jerusalem & Babylon / Ignoring Durban summit not an option” (Ha’aretz).  

NGO Monitor continues to analyze NGO involvement in planning the 2009 Conference, and has initiated discussions with many NGOs and their funders on measures to prevent a repeat of 2001. To view the NGO Monitor Durban Review Conference 2009 essentials page, click here; NGO Monitor's Submission to the 2009 Durban Conference Preparatory Meeting (August 2007) can be viewed here.

Stream of NGO condemnations of Israel's Gaza policy continues - HRW, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Gisha


NGO Monitor has reported on the virulent NGO campaigns regarding Israel’s policies toward Gaza,. In January and February 2008, 425 rockets were fired were fired at Israeli cities, wounding scores and killing one civilian; yet NGOs continue to portray Israel as the aggressor, ignore the role of Hamas in the humanitarian situation, and repeat claims of "collective punishment" of the Palestinians.

  • Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International statements echo prior campaigning

Both Human Right Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International issued statements about Gaza. A February 29 statement by Human Rights Watch reflects previous positions taken by the NGO.  While condemning "[i]ndiscriminate rocket attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas against civilian areas in Israel” as “serious violations of international humanitarian law”, HRW repeated earlier claims that Israel “should do more to examine its targeting behavior and to implement measures that better protect civilians.” Despite claiming to address the impact of the conflict on civilians, this statement ignored Hamas’ continuing practice of endangering Palestinians by firing rockets from within densely populated civilian centers.  

HRW’s February 7 statement -- 'Gaza: Israel’s Energy Cuts Violate Laws of War – similarly repeats the charge: that while "rocket and suicide bomb attacks" are "war crimes" (an important change in HRW’s position), Israel's response violates international law and constitutes “collective punishment.” James Ross of HRW responded in Feb. 7, 2008 Letter to Editor of the Jerusalem Post ('We Defend Rights') to an article by Eric Shechter which criticized HRW’s statements concerning Gaza ("Prisoners of Gaza," January 22) as constituting a double standard when compared to HRW’s language elsewhere. Ross defended HRW's application of international law, including the terms "occupation" and "indiscriminate attacks" without addressing the specifics; Shechter’s response re-asserted that HRW’s application of international law in condemning Israel remains fundamentally flawed.

Amnesty International also issued a statement on Gaza March 2, 2008 -- “Killings of civilians must cease, condemning Israel for “attacks [which] are disproportionate and go beyond lawful measures" while adding , "It is high time that the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) took effective steps to prevent and punish attacks on civilians in Israel”—a statement which ignores Hamas’ continued direct involvement with rocket attacks.

  • Oxfam inverts reality to portray Israel as the aggressor

In an op-ed in The Telegraph (UK) ('The State of Gaza should shame us all', Jan. 31, 2008), the director of Oxfam, Barbara Stocking, inverted cause and effect, presenting Israel as the aggressor, and muting the responsibility of Hamas for rocket attacks: “While accepting the legitimate security concerns of Israel, we must be clear that the plight of the people of Sderot, … will not end, unless Israel too stops its blockade and military attacks.” Stocking also repeated the false charge that Israel’s policy toward Gaza represents “collective punishment.” In a February 28, 2008 statement, Oxfam equated terrorist rocket attacks with Israel's response, terming both "military action that affects civilians and targets civilian infrastructure.”

On March 3, 2008 Oxfam condemned a potential Israeli action, in a statement which ignored Israel's right to self defense and the terrorists' deliberate policy of fighting from civilian areas.

  • Christian Aid distorts casualty figures

In a March 3, 2008 statement Christian Aid laments the death of "112 Palestinians, two Israeli soldiers and an Israeli civilian."  The NGO uses Palestinian claims which group terrorists and civilians together to inflate the number, while urging dialogue with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

  • Gisha continues one-sided condemnations of Israel’s Gaza policy

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post ("One on One: 'Control Creates Responsibility'", Feb. 6, 2008), Gisha Director Sari Bashi, called Israel’s Gaza policy "illegal, dangerous and stupid." When challenged with points from Avraham Bell's January 2008 article (International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel's Right to Self-Defense, Jan. 2008), which criticizes Gisha's position, Bashi simply repeated standard one-sided NGO claims without providing a complete legal analysis, regarding the historical status of Gaza.  

On March 2, Gisha issued a statement that called on “both sides of the conflict” to “remove civilians from the cycle of combat.” While noting that “the Hamas organization and militants in Gaza must immediately stop the firing of rockets on towns in southern Israel”, Gisha drew a parallel between these attacks, and Israel’s response, condemning Israel's “undifferentiated firing into crowded population centers.” Gisha did not condemn Hamas’ practice of launching rockets from civilians areas (human shields), a practice which is clearly a violation of international law.

War on Want representative condemns EU-Israel trade ties, over alleged Israel “rights abuses”

In a February 2008 interview with the online blog Tadamon (entitled ‘Economics and Israeli Apartheid: E.U.-Israel Economic Association Agreement’) John Hilary of War on Want – an EU-funded NGO whose political activities have prompted investigation by the UK Charity Commission – uses language which mirrors past statements from War on Want demonizing Israel. Hilary criticizes the “E.U.-Israel association” trade agreement," because of "Israel’s abuse of Palestinian human rights” and its continuation to "effort[s] to legitimize the Israeli government."  

Citing NGO Monitor research, Israeli Ambassador raises concerns about Ireland’s funding of NGOs  

According to a February 10, 2008 report in the Sunday Business Post (Ireland), the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Dr. Zion Evrony, “raised concerns with the Department of Foreign Affairs about Ireland’s funding of non-governmental organisations working with Palestinian groups,” at discussions with the Irish Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs. According to the article, the talks followed a report by NGO Monitor which criticized the Irish government for funding ‘‘highly biased and conflict-producing NGOs’’ including Trocaire, Al-Haq, Christian Aid and War on Want.(The article refers to NGO Monitor’s August 2007 report on Irish government funding.)  

Israel’s regulatory body for nonprofit organizations suspends Peace Now

Decision has implications for NGOs funded by foreign governments.

According to February 11, 2008 report in the Jerusalem Post, Rasham Ha-Amutot, The Israeli Ministry of Justice’s regulatory body for nonprofit organizations, decided to “withdraw the certificate of proper administration from Sha'al Educational Enterprises, the organization that provides funding for Peace Now.” The Israeli Justice Ministrystated,  

    “The most serious [violation] was the fact that the aims of the [Sha’al] organization, as it defined them, did not tally with the activities of Peace Now, which is a political-ideological activist movement calling for a two-state solution along the 1967 Green Line boundaries. This is problematic, as it may lead to misrepresentation regarding what the money of Sha'al's donors would be used for."

This investigation and suspension may have implications for Israeli NGOs, many of whom receive foreign government funding (including from the European Union and EU member states)—if NGOs misrepresent themselves as humanitarian and non-political, yet engage in clearly political campaigning, Rasham Ha-Amutot can apply the precedent set in the investigation of Peace Now.

Center for Constitutional Right’s appeal rejected in case against former IDF chief of staff

As NGO Monitor has reported, The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) – funded by the Ford Foundation and Open Society Institute -- contributes to the demonization of Israel and exploitation of international law primarily through its lawsuits against Israeli officials for alleged “war crimes, extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

On February 15, 2008, the Washington, DC Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court dismissal of Belhas v. Ya’alon – a case brought by the CCR -- to prosecute a former Israeli general for deaths that occurred during a battle with Hezbollah.  This was the latest result in CCR’s on-going “series of cases seeking to exploit US courts as a platform” to prosecute Israelis for anti-terror measures.  In September 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of CCR’s case on behalf of the parents of International Solidarity Movement activist  Rachel Corrie against Catepillar for “complicity” in alleged Israeli “war crimes and extrajudicial killings”. In May 2007, a New York district court dismissed CCR's suit against former head of the Israeli Security Services (Shin Bet), Avi Dichter, for his alleged role in the killing of Hamas-military leader and suicide-bombing mastermind, Salah Shehade.  CCR has appealed that case as well and briefing is now underway in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision is expected later in 2008.  

UN Watch director elected Vice-President of the UN Special Committee of NGOs on Human Rights

As reported in a February 20, 2008 press release, Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, was elected vice-president of the Geneva-based Special Committee of NGOs on Human Rights, part of the worldwide Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO): “The Special Committee is composed of more than 50 NGOs with UN consultative status that are active on a range of human rights issues. It works to bring together international NGOs, improve their cooperation, disseminate information, and increase their exchanges with the United Nations and its agencies.”

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) uses Christian liturgical calendar to demonize Israel

As NGO Monitor has reported in the past, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) often partners with the International Solidarity Movement, ICAHD, Sabeel and others in promoting the Durban Strategy of boycotts, divestment, and identification of Israel as the new apartheid South Africa. As reported by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) February 28, 2008, CPT

    “is the most recent group to demonstrate how the church's liturgical calendar can be used to demonize Israel. …, CPT is using the Stations of the Cross to portray Israel and its supporters as solely responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people…The First Station compares the plight of Palestinian youths detained by the IDF after allegedly trying to break into a woman's home with ‘Jesus, accused by his enemies [as he] stands condemned before Pilate.’ The implication is clear -- the hearings faced by the young men are the same as the Jewish leaders who, according to the Gospels, condemned Jesus to death.”

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