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News in Brief

By NGO Monitor
November 5, 2007

Amnesty International

Amnesty International - update


Detailed criticism of Palestinian human rights abuses; but promotion of 'right of return' 


Amnesty International released two reports on Palestinian issues this month. An October 24 report -- Occupied Palestinian Territories: Palestinian factional strife fuelling abuses - details Fatah and Hamas human rights abuses in 2007. The report notes that, "Neither medical nor educational facilities were immune as they and residential buildings were both attacked and used as firing positions from which to mount attacks," and attributes the "lawlessness" and "interfactional fighting" to "the prolonged and systematic failure of the PA to uphold and enforce the law." The report accurately points to Palestinian government corruption and violence as a source of rights abuses – and this belated recognition marks an important change for Amnesty.  

Amnesty also published an October 17, 2007 report– Lebanon - Exiled and suffering: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The report criticizes the Lebanese government, which places these Palestinians "in a situation akin to that of second class citizens and denies them access to their full range of human rights, even though most of them were born and raised in Lebanon." However, Amnesty also repeatedly promotes the Palestinian "right of return" throughout the document, a highly contentious position and a major barrier to peace in the Israeli-Arab conflict (as it would mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state).  



Human Rights Watch - Blaming Israel, Ignoring Hamas


Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on October 23, 2007 which accused Israel of blocking medical evacuations from Gaza, "collective punishment" and violations of "international law," (no definitions were provided for these terms). The report quotes Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East division director, who claims that “Israel is punishing sick civilians as a way to hurt Hamas," and asserts that "Israel remains the occupying power in Gaza despite disengagement" - a position that is strongly disputed.  The report briefly mentions Israel's "legitimate security concerns" and cites the Supreme Court's support for the government's distinction between life threatening and "quality of life" cases, but dismisses these issues with brief anecdotes.  In contrast, the accompanying "photo essay" further demonizes Israel, with pictures of ill Palestinians and captions that hold Israel responsible. HRW ignores reports that Hamas is intentionally creating a humanitarian crisis, particularly with regard to medical supplies, and omits any mention of Hamas' use of hospitals and residential buildings to mount attacks against its rival Fatah.


In addition, HRW published reports during October 2007 condemning governmental human rights abuses and calling for the release of dissidents in both Iran and Syria. HRW representatives also met with members of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC on October 3, 2007 -- a welcome recognition by HRW of the serious human rights abuses in other Middle Eastern countries. 

Christian Aid Responds to Criticism


Debate about Christian Aid's highly biased and politicized approach, as reported by NGO Monitor, continues. Following NGO Monitor's letter to the Church of England Newspaper, which pointed out that the new CA website conflict section was devoted entirely to the Arab-Israeli conflict, there have been a number of developments.  The website now includes a few entries on Burma and Guatemala, but the "background," "facts and figures," "image gallery," and "resources" sections are still dedicated to the Middle East. In response to criticism of its anti-Israel bias, Nigel Varndell, CA Inter-faith Manager, claimed in an October 26, Church of England Newspaper article, that Christian Aid uses "rigorous, evidence-based analysis" to inform "its criticism." Sadly, a look at CA's sourcesB'Tselem, UN OCHA and the PLO Negotiations affairs department) contradicts this, demonstrating that political agenda drives CA's selection of facts and sources.  

Gisha source submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court revealed as forgery


On July, 2007 Gisha, "The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement" petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to allow Palestinian university students to leave Gaza to continue their studies abroad (the petition is in Hebrew; to view an English summary click here). The Associated Press checked Gisha's submission and discovered that one of the documents submitted is a forgery. A Palestinian claiming to be one of hundreds of university students trapped in Gaza, is "apparently not a student and used what appeared to be a forged document to make his case to leave for Texas."  

Gisha is funded by the NIF, the European Union and other donors.  To view NGO Monitor's detailed analysis of Gisha's manipulation of the vocabulary of international law and human rights to promote a partisan ideological agenda, click here

Dutch Government

Extensive Dutch government, EU funding for radical Palestinian NGOs


The Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) published a detailed investigation of United Civilians for Peace (UCP) in October 2007, which CIDI claims is an extreme anti-Israeli organization funded with money from the European Union and the Dutch Government. UCP is an initiative of several Dutch NGO's, including Cordaid, Oxfam-Netherlands, and Pax Christi, which supply UCP with funds. The report mentions inter alia that some of UCP's speakers advocate Iran's right to possess nuclear weapons, which opposes EU and Dutch policy. The report received attention in the Dutch and Israeli media. (An English summary of the report can be viewed here, the Dutch original here.)

(NGO Monitor reported in January 2007 that Dutch development NGO, Kerkinactie, left the UCP, over the coalition's bias against Israel  Kerkinactie stated that the UCP paid “too little attention . . . to the necessity of security for all peoples in the region, including Israel itself,” and due to its "reputation of being 'one-sidedly pro-Palestinian'" UCP could no longer “be sufficiently effective in its advocacy and lobbying work.")


NGOs Criticize UN Human Rights Council 


According to an October 15, 2007 UN Watch report, the President of the International Commission of Jurists concluded in a review that the new UN human rights body has shown “no significant improvements to date.” Human Rights Watch also criticized the work of the committee -- Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, remarked that, "There's a lot going on at the council, but if you stand back, it isn't amounting to anything." This view stands in stark contrast with HRW's Global Advocacy Director, Peggy Hicks' June 2007 statement that the UNHRC "has the potential to be far more effective than the commission" and that the inclusion of Israel as the only country on the Council's permanent agenda should not be viewed negatively because "in principle, at least, the council can scrutinize both Israeli and Palestinian behavior."

Ford draws US congressional scrutiny for funding Columbia Panel, Mearsheimer speech


The Ford Foundation, which came under US congressional scrutiny in 2003 “for supporting groups committed to destroying Israel,” again has drawn censure from American elected officials, this time for funding a panel at Columbia Universityhighlighting a professor who blames Israel and its American supporters for the Iraq War and for Al Qaeda terrorism against America.” Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, co-author of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” with Stephen Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, spoke October 30 at Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. The panel, entitled 'Freedom and the University', was paid for using part of a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to the Hyman Center. Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat of the Bronx district, New York City, made this statement: “It’s disappointing that the Ford Foundation would make Mearsheimer one of the highlights of what they’re funding…If the Ford Foundation is going to say they’ve changed their attitudes, doing something like this only calls into question whether they’ve got the message and changed.” NGO Monitor has released a detailed report, Ford Foundation: 2006 Update on Funding for Political NGOs active in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, September 24, 2007, which highlights Ford’s continued support of many problematic NGOs, including major international organizations like Human Rights Watch as well as Palestinian NGOs such as the DWRC and PHRO, which promote the anti-Israel boycott movement.

In response to increased scrutiny of Ford, opponents of accountability and guidelines to prevent abuse have counter-attacked. Scott Sherman’s op-ed in The LA Times (“Fixing the Ford Foundation,” October 21, 2007) is one example, to which NGO Monitor has offered a thorough response


Protests dominate Sabeel conference in Boston


North American Friends of Sabeel (FOS) held a conference on October 26-27, 2007 to "look at ways the South African apartheid model of ethnic/racial segregation is applied in Palestine today." The conference featured a keynote address by Desmond Tutu, who labeled Israel an 'apartheid state'. NGO Monitor has documented Sabeel's virulent activities to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel in the past, including leadership of church divestment campaigns, use of anti-Semitic imagery and rejection of the "two-state solution." In addition to featuring well-known speakers (including Desmond Tutu, John Dugard - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian Territories, and Noam Chomsky), conferences such as the one held in Boston are merely another platform for Sabeel (and its NGO partner, the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions - ICAHD) to advance a highly distorted narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict that blames Israel for terrorism and ignores Palestinian corruption, and to wage political war against Israel. Sabeel's conference aroused considerable criticism and debate in the media, including important articles by Jeff Jacoby, Dexter Van Zile and others in the Boston Globe, The New York Sun, and Minneapolis City Pages, as well as comment in the Israeli press.

Palestinian NGOs promoting 'Durban strategy' hold conference in Cyprus


Ittijah, a radical Palestinian NGO which played a prominent role at Durban 2001, organized a conference in Cyprus October 16-18, which was openly devoted to the NGO strategy launched at Durban.   Participants included Christian Aid, The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), The Grassroots Palestinian Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign, and The Right of Return Congress – London.   The final statement of the conference includes the aim of promoting "boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel and its institutions and pursuing the parastata Zionist organizations worldwide," and to "see the conflict as basically a conflict between the Zionist movement and its racist colonial racist enterprise and the Palestinian people, the indigenous owners of the land, and their existence in their homeland." NGO Monitor is following these developments, and will continue to provide updates on activities leading up to the planned "Durban II" conference in 2009. More information is available on NGO Monitor's Durban 2009 essentials page

Reach all Women In War (Raw in War)


RAW in WAR (Reach all Women in War), a new international human rights group supporting women human rights defenders and women and girl victims of war, was founded on October 5, 2007. An October 6, 2007 letter to the editor of The Times (UK) in support of the new group, was signed by a number of prominent government and NGO officials as well as human rights activists, including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Elena Bonner, Andre Glucksmann, Vaclav Havel, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. It is to be hoped that Raw in War, who's founder and director Mariana Katzarova was a researcher for 15 years at Amnesty International, will promote universal human rights and avoid the politicization and distortions that are characteristic of some of its members.

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