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NGO News in Brief

By NGO Monitor
December 4, 2007



(Rockets fired from Gaza at Israel.)

NGO campaigns against Israel's Gaza policy continue the Durban strategy

As NGO Monitor has reported, a number of influential international NGOs – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and ICAHD (funded by the European Union) – published highly political statements in advance of the Annapolis peace summit (November 27). Most used similar rhetoric, repeating one-sided condemnations of Israeli policy in response to attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, including accusations of “collective punishment” and blame for a "humanitarian crisis".

After the summit, more groups joined the campaign. On November 28, 2007 29 NGOs issued a joint statement, including Defense for Children International–Palestine Section, Oxfam , World Vision–Jerusalem, American Friends Service Committee, Medecins Du Monde, Medical Aid for Palestine (UK), Mercy Corps, and Terre des Hommes. They charge that Israel's "decision to limit fuel and potentially electricity to the general population constitutes a form of collective punishment which directly contravenes international humanitarian law." Israel is also condemned for "indiscriminate attacks and other human rights violations and abuses against civilians." Following the pattern of the past decade and the 2001 Durban strategy of demonization, these NGOs largely ignore systematic Palestinian violations of human rights, and use pseudo-legal language to deny Israelis the right to self-defense against terror. As a result, these NGO statements lack credibility and further undermine the universality of human rights norms.

Ford Foundation funds conference promoting new Middle East NGO forum

The Ford Foundation and Canadian Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) sponsored a conference in Istanbul on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in September, 2007.  The forum was convened by the Washington, D.C. based Fund for Peace, with the aim of "rais[ing] public consciousness and press[ing] decision makers to do more to protect civilians caught in conflict."  In addition to a number of journalists and academics, other participants included Sarah Leah Whitson and Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, Executive Director of ACRI Rachel Benziman, UPMRC board member Allam Jarrar,  Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) director Mohammed Zeidan, and Hansjoerg Strohmeyer of UN-OCHA.

Attendees signed the "Boshphorus Consensus", which restated articles of IHL relating to civilians, and declared the intention to set up a "new regional forum consisting of local civilian (non governmental) organizations… to jointly monitor and publicly report on attacks on civilians by state and non state actors." The document also promises to "promote the advancement of these principles…through advocacy…." (Publicity for this document's release continued in November.)

NGO Monitor has documented in detail the highly biased and politicized approach of NGOs such as HRW, UPMRC, HRA (as well as UN-OCHA).  Hopefully, the "Bosphorus Consensus" will be used as the basis for the promotion of universal human rights across the Middle East, rather than for narrow and politicized anti-Israel campaigning.

 

Durban Conference 2009: Update

The NGO Forum of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance initiated a coordinated campaign of virulent anti-Israel demonization – the "Durban Strategy." The UN’s "Durban II" 2009 forum is intended to focus on implementation of the 2001 resolution.

In November 2007, activities aimed at furthering the "Durban Strategy" and the planning of the “Durban 2009” conference continued. The NGO Committee Against Racism (part of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations [CONGO]) held a meeting November 7, to begin planning for the scheduled meetings of the Durban II Preparatory Committee to be held in the first half of 2008. And on November 20, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to advance the Durban II process. According to the watchdog group, "Eye on the UN," these activities have been met with a level of opposition and criticism: "there was a clear signal [in November] that Durban II will not be allowed to claim consensus and its credibility will be challenged throughout the build up [to the planned 2009 conference]."  "Eye on the UN" cites the public condemnation of the "Durban Declaration and Programme of Action," by the United States and Israel, and the US delegate stated that his country "has well-known, principled objections to the overall direction and procedures leading up to the planned Durban Review Conference..." 

NGO Monitor continues to scrutinize NGO involvement in planning the 2009 Conference. To view the NGO Monitor Durban 2009 essentials page, click here.

 

European governments, charities continue to fund War on Want, ignoring radical campaigning

In the past, British charity War on Want (WoW) – whose radical political activities have drawn intense criticism – has failed to provide financial details on its website. A copy of the NGO's 2006 official submission to the UK Charity Commission has now become available on the Charity Commission's site, which includes details of WoW's government funding sources.

In 2006, it received £300,006 from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), £229,820 from the European Commission, £34,017 from the UK National Lottery Charities Board, £24,696 from the Department of Foreign Affairs Ireland and £189,000 from Comic Relief, one of the UK’s major charity campaigns (page 16). While funding amounts are listed, it is not clear how much from each source is directed towards WoW's "Palestine campaign;" no further information is available on the European Commission or the Irish Government's websites. (DFID lists WoW as a recipient of Civil Society Challenge Fund for humanitarian projects, unrelated to Israel.)

Such government and charitable support for WoW is highly problematic, given the NGO's radical politicized campaigning against Israel. Even if grants are directed, money is fungible, and institutional support also increases the NGO's credibility. The result is that WoW’s total budget of £1,432,348 includes £535,536 allocated to "campaigning and policy work" which clearly contradicts stated EU, UK and policy goals. (See NGO Monitor’s recent reports on EU Funding, DFID, and Irish Government Aid for more information on these guidelines.)
 

Amnesty International - Israel youth members promote refugee rights
Amnesty Israel's youth members lobbied Knesset members on refugee rights in November, 2007.  They pressured the MKs to vote in favor of two bills designed to increase the rights of refugees seeking asylum in Israel, by offering a broader definition of what constitutes legitimate refugee status under Israeli law. The group successfully persuaded 62 Knesset members to sign a petition in favor of letting 1,200 Sudanese refugees stay in Israel in the summer of 2007. This activity does not reflect the anti-Israel campaigning that has characterized this NGO, and is an example of how the Israeli branch of Amnesty can promote its stated mandate to undertake "research and advocacy for the protection and promotion of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and IDPs [internally displaced persons]."


PNGO, Badil and other NGOs hold anti-Israel Boycott conference in West Bank
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), a radical group which played a prominent role at Durban 2001, organized a conference – "First Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel (BDS)" -- along with other radical anti-Israel NGOs November 22, 2007 in the West Bank. The stated aim was "to promote all forms of boycott against Israel among Palestinian community organizations, unions, as well as political, academic and cultural institutions." PNGO, which has received funding from the Ford Foundation, was instrumental in producing many of the preparatory materials for the Durban 2001 conference, including the document calling for embargoes on Israel. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights was also a "main supporter of the November 22, conference." BADIL is one of the most active NGOs in promoting extremist Palestinian political positions in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a signatory to an August 2002 call to boycott Israel, including an endorsement of the NGO Declaration of the 2001 Durban conference, and has received funding from sources including Oxfam, Canadian International Development Agency, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the Swiss Foreign Ministry.



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