NGO News in Brief
By NGO Monitor
October 7, 2008
A number of international NGOs which claim to promote humanitarian aid published a lobbying document on September 25, 2008, entitled "The Middle East Quartet: a progress report." Despite claiming to present "evidence" and "verdicts" on the Quartet policy recommendations to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the report is a compilation of claims from other NGO reports, many of which lack credibility or have been exposed as inaccurate. The selective and misrepresentative descriptions reveal the strong political agenda of the signatory NGOs, and their implementation of the NGO strategy from the UN 2001 Durban Conference and in the preparations for the 2009 review conference.
The report was produced by political NGOs that have been analyzed by NGO Monitor, including CARE International UK (and national CARE branches), Christian Aid, CAFOD, DanChurchAid, Diakonia, EMHRN, Medico International, Medicins Du Monde, Oxfam International, Save the Children (Sweden and UK), UCP (including Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO, IKV Pax Christi), World Vision Jerusalem.
Publications provided as "sources" in this report include:
Misleading claims which reveal the report's politicized agenda include:
Despite these deficiencies, these claims were quoted uncritically by the International Herald Tribune, BBC News, the Irish Times, the Independent, the Guardian, and many other international media sources.
On September 28, 2008, a Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) published a press release headlined "Palestinian Shepherd Killed by Settlers in Nablus" and condemned "this heinous crime." PCHR also accused the "Israeli Occupying Force" of complicity in the "murder," and demanded that "Israeli authoritiesâ€¦disarm all Israeli settlers, who pose a serious and continuing threat to the lives of Palestinian civilians." As noted by the Jerusalem Post, PCHR's version of events was repeated in Israeli and international media without question, providing another example of the NGO "halo effect".
However, an Israeli police investigation determined that the victim died after mishandling unexploded ordinance and that there was no evidence of shooting. Yet EU-funded PCHR has not corrected the mistake, and the original press release is still on the PCHR website. (PCHR, whose lack of credibility and bias has been documented by NGO Monitor, is funded by the European Commission, European governments, church groups and other sources.)
In an "urgent message" to members of ICAHD-USA, Director Jeff Halper announced, "We have just heard that our request for re-funding [from the European Union] has been rejected...So we now face a real crisis." NGO Monitor' research has shown that EU funding represented the majority of ICAHD's budget, despite the EU's claim that it only grants project support. (EU decision making for funding highly political NGOs such as ICAHD is highly secretive, as documented in NGO Monitor' report Europe' Hidden Hand.)
The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) promotes a highly politicized narrative of the conflict, falsely accusing Israelof "ethnic cleansing" and "state terrorism" and using demonization rhetoric that is unrelated to housing issues. In August, Jeff Halper was a leading activist on the Free Gaza boat trip, a political publicity stunt operated under the faÃ§ade of "humanitarian aid."
On September 24, 2008, B'Tselem announced the opening of a US office in Washington, D.C. "to become the central clearinghouse for information about human rights conditions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for Member of Congress, the State Department and other policy makers." Although claiming to promote human rights, B'Tselem's main objectives are political, and focused on ending the "occupation." Its Washington office will be headed by Mitchell Plitnick, who was active in the radical group known as Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes anti-Israel demonization, using terms such as "apartheid," and referring to the 1948 Arab invasion and the creation of Israel as the "naqba" (catastrophe).
B'Tselem's also launch comes amid debate on its "Shooting Back" video camera project needlessly endangers children; and that its statistics on Palestinian casualties are "deceptive" and "untrustworthy."
In anticipation of the September 8, 2008 United Nations General Assembly debate on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Amnesty International published a "review of the type of human rights violations committed in the pursuit of counter-terrorism measures, citing a range of country examples from every region of the world." Israel is included in the category for maintaining an overly "broad definition of terrorism," "systematically erode[ing] the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation" in order to prevent attacks on civilians. According to the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which is strongly endorsed by Amnesty, "the respect for human rights for all and the rule of law [are] the fundamental bas[es] for the fight against terrorism."
In contrast, in September, the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped and held in Gaza since 2006, urged Amnesty International to intervene on his behalf. In response, a representative of Amnesty stated: "Our concern is that Gilad Shalit be treated humanely at all times. We have met Hamas to raise our concern and we will continue to put pressure on Hamas to fulfill those demands. There is no reason that would ever justify them denying him Red Cross visitors."
During a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on the "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories," a joint NGO statement by two Jewish groups, Bnai Brith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, was interrupted by the representative from Egypt. He rejected the "seriousness" of these NGOs and their questioning of the one-sided condemnations of Israel. In a video released by Eye on the UN, the president of the UNHRC can be seen accepting the Egyptian' point-of-order, silencing the Jewish NGOs.
In a short video about scarce medical resources in Gaza, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) highlighted Hamas' forced redundancies of Fatah supporters and the subsequent health care workers' strike. In contrast to other NGO reports on Gaza, the MSF video did not blame Israel for problems that are a direct result of intra-Palestinian fighting.
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