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NGO Activity in Brief

By NGO Monitor
December 21, 2006
http://www.ngo-monitor.org/digest_info.php?id=57#2


Controversial Christian Aid (CA) Trustee resigns but CA maintains close links with Sabeel

Baroness Jenny Tonge resigned as Christian Aid (CA) trustee after defending her September comment that "the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world." Tonge was widely seen to reflect the core anti-Israel ideology of CA. In May 2006, she appeared in a joint CA-Palestine Solidarity Campaign in London; and in January 2004, she expressed empathy for Palestinian suicide bombers stating "if I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one [a suicide bomber] myself."

Despite this resignation, CA continues its cooperation with Sabeel, its partner Palestinian NG O that leads international church divestment campaigns and uses anti-Semitic imagery to attack Israel. Friends of Sabeel UK's (FOSUK) October 2006 Newsletter advertised a joint event with Christian Aid Information officer for the Middle East, Ramani Leathard. The event demonstrates the closeness of the two NGOs (also reflected by CA Chair Bishop Gladwin's post as FOSUK patron): One of the speakers at the event, Jan Davies, was a "former member of Christian Aid's staff" and the initiator and former national coordinator for FOSUK. The program also included "Christian Aid Christmas materials, featuring the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and Physicians for Human Rights" -- two NGO s with political agendas.

European Commission response on NGO funding avoids core issues

On October 13, 2006 the European Commission published answers to questions on NGO funding tabled by MEP Paul Van Buitenan in May, 2006. NGO Monitor is preparing a detailed analysis of the response for next month. Van Buitenan has included NGO Monitor's research and analysis to further challenge the Commission  on its funding of a number of politicised NGO s, including ICAHD and Miftah. His new questions, submitted on December 4, await a response.

EMHRN – FIDH report distorts international law to attack Israel
The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) (an official EU body) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) joint mission to the Gaza Strip delivered its report on November 15. The analysis of human rights issues, including evidence from PCHR, Al Mezan and the Arab Association for Human Rights, contained many omissions and distortions. The report erased Palestinian responsibility for violence and terrorism and attacked the legitimacy of Israeli defensive responses in both Lebanon and Gaza. For example, "general security chaos" in the Gaza Strip is blamed on Israel's unilateral disengagement that left the PA "unprepared" rather than internal Palestinian corruption and factional rivalry. The report also condemns Israel for "disproportionate" attacks on Gaza and Lebanon during the summer, but offers no criteria for proportionality.

Mossawa Conference Legal Paper undermines existence of Israel
EU and NIF funded Mossawa,  a highly political Israeli-Arab NGO that delegitimizes Israel on the basis of charges of racism and has actively campaigned against the Citizenship law, held a conference November 25-December 1, 2006. Officials presented a paper entitled "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.", This document calls Israel an “ethnocratic state” which “cannot be defined as [] democratic.”  It claims that only “Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous people of the country” ignoring Jewish historical ties to Israel and Jewish communal continuity. The document further demands that the “State has to [officially] recognize that Israel is the homeland for both Palestinians and Jews. Commentators in the media and blogosphere understand these arguments to reflect opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.

ICAHD, War on Want and others lobby UK parliament on UN "Day for Palestine"
ICAHD
, War on Want and other NGOs demonstrated the primacy of their political campaigning in a November 29, coordinated lobby of UK MPs. ICAHD reported that over 300 people protested how "[t]he British government has colluded in [the] collective punishment of the Palestinian people", and the lobby was followed by a meeting in the parliament addressed by ICAHD Coordinator, Jeff Halper. FOSUK also promoted this event. 

Halper, whose NGO
received  €472, 786 from the EU Partnership for Peace program in July 2005, addressed the Royal Society of Medicine in London on November 30. He delivered his personal views on the conflict, including the obsoleteness of the two state solution, and promoted sanctions and boycott campaigns.

PCHR behind attempted prosecution of former IDF Chief of Staff in New Zealand
The EU-funded Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) continues its campaign to prosecute IDF officials for war crimes in foreign national courts. PCHR joined with international and local lawyers to seek the arrest of Former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon while on a trip to New Zealand in November. The Attorney General overturned the decision of the District Court judge before the arrest could be made, citing "unreliable materials" submitted by the PCHR team.

Former Ittijah PR officer, now Associated Press reporter
Diaa Hadid, former PR officer for Ittijah, now reports for the Associated Press. Ittijah is an active "Durban Strategy" NGO that has received funds from NIF, EU, Ford Foundation and Christian Aid. Ittijah was highly influential in shaping the outcome of the 2001 Durban Conference, "where [it] gathered, facilitated and directed the vision and position of the Palestinian NGOs inside Israel on racism, particularly Israeli-state racism towards Palestinian citizens, and the apartheid…." While working for Ittijah, Hadid admitted that "I can’t look at Israelis anymore. I can’t separate your average Israeli citizen from the occupation…."

22 international NGOs sign statement to dismantle the "wall"
On the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 22 NGOs including Oxfam, Christian Aid, Medicins Du Monde, Save the Children Sweden and UK branches and World Vision Jerusalem, signed a statement "express[ing] their alarm at the continuing construction of the Wall in the occupied Palestinian territory and the misery it is causing the Palestinian people." The release included emotive descriptions of the security barrier, the "irreparable damage to the economy and living standards of Palestinians" and the "irreversible trends to the social fabric of the West Bank." It made no mention of the barrier's role in preventing terrorist attacks or of Hamas' continued refusal to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

Israeli NGOs condemn human rights violations in Gaza
9 Israeli NGOs including B'Tselem, Amnesty International – Israel Section, HaMoked and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel signed a joint statement on November 16. The press release describes the "dire humanitarian" situation in Gaza and argues that Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip continues." It calls on the "international community to ensure that Israel respects the basic human rights of residents of the Gaza Strip, and that all parties respect international humanitarian law," but omits the context of ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza (despite the "ceasefire"), continued smuggling of arms into the area, and Hamas' refusal to renounce violence.

Israeli Supreme Court issues rulings in two cases brought by NGOs
In December 12, 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court struck down part of a 2005 law barring Palestinians injured in “non-belligerent” army operations from seeking compensation. The suit was brought by nine NGOs including Adalah, B’tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and PCHR

On December 14, 2006, the Court ruled on the legality of “targeted killings”, in a case brought against the State by the NGO, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. The Court determined that such killings are legal so long as a determination as to the status of each specific target is made in accordance with international humanitarian law. The Court set out the balancing test to be applied in its decision.

B'Tselem strongly condemns Palestinian rocket attacks 
Unlike many NGOs, B'tselem has issued a strong condemnation of Palestinian rocket attacks as "grave breach[es] of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)." However, it continues to discount criticism from those who argue that its coverage of human rights violations by Palestinians and Israelis is not evenhanded.



The Debate on Human Rights Watch Continues

  • "Human Rights Watch & Israel: An Exchange," Seymour Feshbach, Reply by Aryeh Neier, The New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006
  • "The Credibility Watch," New York Sun Editorial, October 19, 2006.
    "Neier assumes a moral equivalence between Hezbollah and Israeli killing of civilians in the struggle in Lebanon. He treats as idle or irrelevant the explicit Israeli policy of minimizing civilian casualties versus the Hezbollah policy of deliberately firing rockets at civilian enclaves."
  • Little Green Footballs blog criticises HRW:
    "Notice how Human Rights Watch says this despicable tactic is a "war crime," then concludes that Israel's only option is to surrender to it. Welcome to the topsy turvy morally equivalent world of the transnational left, where "humanitarian law" gives the advantage to the most ruthless and unprincipled."
  • Kenneth Anderson of Washington College of Law and the Hoover Institute on HRW and the human rights NGO community
    "I have grave concerns about where the human rights movement is headed - on a general perception that NGO movements, … often get trapped in a kind of spiral toward more and more extreme views, trapped in a certain rhetoric that eventually leads over a cliff - I still regard HRW, for the difficulties it clearly has, as the most credible of the human rights monitors. Amnesty International has clearly gone over the cliff; .... It's not merely an organization or a movement that is at risk - it is the credibility of human rights itself."
  • HRW Executive Director Ken Roth, and NY Sun's Ira Stoll continued their heated public debate over HRW's coverage of the August 2006 Lebanon War, on the Billy O'Reilly show, August 8, 2006.



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