|NGOs and Arab Terrorism|
|By Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg|
The Palestinian terror campaign has been accompanied by a parallel political strategy designed to label Israeli defensive actions as “war crimes”, “excessive use of force”, and “violations of international law”. In this massive use of “soft power”, the main combat troops are members of groups claiming to promote human rights or humanitarian assistance, known generally as civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Their weapons, including glossy reports, press conferences, and mass emails focused on demonization of Israel, and erasing Palestinian terror, are purchased by funds from European governments, and wealthy “charities”, including Christian Aid, the Ford Foundation and, in some cases, the New Israel Fund.
The latest political attack came in June 2006, after Israel was blamed for the deaths of eight Palestinians in a mysterious explosion on a Gaza beach. The Palestinian version of events, which included fabricated videos and many contradictions, was supported and promoted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) officials who came to Gaza, organized a major press conference, and declared that Israel was responsible for the incident. Boosted by HRW’s massive public relations machine, his words were immediately repeated in the media around the world, with no independent confirmation or analysis.
Following the standard pattern, other powerful NGOs joined the chorus, including Amnesty International (AI), as well as numerous Palestinian groups that routinely promote anti-Israel propaganda. None of these groups that claim to promote human rights, including HRW and AI, issued reports on the barrage of Palestinian missiles that were launched against Sderot and other Israeli towns since the withdrawal from Gaza. Under the double standards of NGOs, terror attacks against Israelis are not human rights violations, while Israeli self-defense actions are automatically labeled “war crimes” and "violations of international law".
The central role of NGOs in the demonization of Israel was launched at the UN Conference on Racism that took place in Durban, South Africa. Meeting in early September 2001, 1500 NGOs, including the active participation of HRW and Amnesty, (despite their subsequent cover-up efforts) adopted a strategy of de-legitimizing Israel as ‘an apartheid regime’, through international isolation based on the South African model.
Working closely with the Palestinian leadership, the Arab and Islamic governments, and supporters in Europe and elsewhere, the NGOs provide the platform, funds, and the political slogans that drive this process. In 2002, following the Passover terror attacks and the Israeli military response, officials from Amnesty International and other NGOs were quick to repeat Palestinian claims of a "massacre" in Jenin. These NGO officials, many of whom are obsessed with Israel, continue to refer falsely to Israeli "war crimes" and are also the leaders of the effort to attack the security barrier by using the term “apartheid wall”. NGOs that claim to promote universal human rights focus far more on condemnations of Israel, while giving relatively little attention to abuses in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Sudan.
The international NGO network is also very active in the anti-Israel academic boycott and church divestment campaigns, particularly in the UK and Europe. International and Palestinian NGOs provide the language of these resolutions and speeches. In the UK, for example, officials of Christian Aid such as Lord Gladwin and the Rev. Stephen Sizer are closely aligned with an NGO known as Sabeel, which is run by a radical Palestinian (Naim Ateek) who uses blatant anti-Semitic language in his attacks on Israel. To claim legitimacy, in turn, Ateek often appears with an extremist Israeli, Jeff Halper, whose NGO, known as the Israel Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD), and funded by the EU.
Similarly, Christian Aid made anti-Israel campaigns the center of its fund raising and public relations efforts in Britain during the Christmas periods of 2003 and 2004. The 2004 "Child of Bethlehem" program, featuring a picture of a wounded Palestinian child, and no mention of terror attacks against Israel, played on clear anti-Jewish themes and motifs. Such campaigns created the fertile background for the academic boycott votes of the university faculty unions, and for the church divestment efforts focusing on rhetoric that portrays Israel as "racist", apartheid, and guilty of war crimes. Both tactics are core elements in the Durban process and the political war to destroy Israel as a sovereign Jewish state.
There are dozens of other very active anti-Israel NGOs operating throughout Europe, perpetuating the myth of neutral “civil society”. In Belgium, the local branch of Oxfam, which was headed for many years by a radical socialist named Pierre Galand, distributed an anti-Semitic poster based on the theme of the blood libel, in promoting the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and Israelis themselves. Galand, now a member of the Belgian Senate, uses his influence and access to promote the activities of the European Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP), based in Brussels. Galand is a frequent speaker in the United Nations conferences that attack Israel, under the auspices of the UN Committee on “the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People”. He is also President of the Forum des Peuples, a leader of the Belgo-Palestinian Association and plays a leadership role in many other radical Belgian and European NGOs.
This radical NGO activity and demonization could not take place without a great deal of money, and generous funding is provided by governments (particularly Europe and Canada). Many pro-Palestinian NGOs are able to promote their agendas under the frameworks of development support, human rights (via EIDHR and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)), and peace advocacy. Funding for MIFTAH (headed by PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi), Hamoked, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), B’tselem, PHR-I, and dozens more gives these groups access to the media, diplomats (including direct involvement in UN discussions) and other public relations channels. Hundreds of pro-Palestinian NGOs, linked together in associations such as PNGO (the Palestinian NGO Network), and closely tied to the PLO political leadership, have formed partnerships with the global NGOs.
In addition, the money provided by charities and philanthropies adds more weapons to the NGO war against Israel. The U.S.-based Ford Foundation, with an annual budget of half a billion dollars per year, paid for many of the NGO officials who traveled to the 2001 Durban conference. Later, after the U.S. Congress investigated this abuse of charitable funds for promoting the destruction of Israel, the president of Ford pledged to end this funding. But implementation of these guidelines is slow, not transparent, and most of these NGOs continue to receive money. In addition, Ford transferred some of these funds ($20 million) to the New Israel Fund, which itself has been involved in supporting some of the most virulent anti-Israel NGOs under the false flag of civil rights in Israel. NIF gives fellowships to embittered academics to promote divestment and the myth of “apartheid”, and continues to allow donations via its charitable status to groups such as ICAHD.
These activities and the role of funders have been carried out in secret, and without analysis, until recently. As a result of the “halo effect”, journalists and academics rarely questions the interests and biases of NGOs and their officials who claim to promote human rights, peace and development. But this is beginning to change, and the NGO Monitor project has brought this activity out of the shadows. As a result of NGO Monitor research on over 100 NGOs, all of which is available on the internet, many donors to NIF are demanding a change in funding policies to end support for demonization. In the European Parliament, MEP Paul van Buitenen asked the European Commission to justify the funding for political NGOs, not only with regard to the Palestinian groups, but more widely as well.
In order to defeat this political war and the demonizaton of Israel, the exposure of the leading role of NGOs and the civil society groups in the Durban strategy must continue. The media and academics must be pressed to investigate NGO claims and biases, and end the exploitation of human rights for this incitement. The era of the “halo effect” must be brought to an end, while legitimate activities that are shown to actually promote universal human rights, including in Libya, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, should be encouraged and promoted.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is Editor, NGO Monitor and Director, Program on Conflict Management, Bar Ilan University firstname.lastname@example.org.