NGO News in Brief
By NGO Monitor
August 1, 2007
The United Nations has scheduled an “International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace”, to be held in the European Parliament in Brussels, August 30-31. This misleading not withstanding, this annual conference is held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the International Coordinating Network for Palestine – frameworks that promote the conflict through NGOs involved in implementing the Durban agenda of demonization. This year, for the first time, the exercise is gaining the legitimacy of sponsorship by the European Parliament, further highlighting the role that the Europe Union plays in supporting the radical NGO campaign. While the speakers list is secret until the conference, highlighting the violation of transparency in the UN and EU, past speakers have included Jeff Halper (from the EU-funded ICAHD and allied with Sabeel) and officials from other radical NGOs. Topics such as “The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and civil society response”, “Action by civil society organizations working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, workshops on “Fortieth anniversary of occupation: building on action taken by civil society…”, and “Strengthening campaigns to end occupation, including grassroots campaigns against the wall, rallying around Bil’in” (note that Bil’in is the site of violent attacks organized by NGOs in order to provoke Israeli responses). The program and further information can be found at http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf and through representatives of the European Union and Parliament.
Too little, too late: HRW criticizes UN Human Rights Council
In a July 27th BBC News article, Steve Crawshaw, spokesman for Human Rights Watch, offered harsh criticism of the new UN Human Rights Council, established in 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission: "I think it would be crazy to say that it has not been a disappointing year... We really hoped that the new council would move things forward radically. It has, to be honest, failed to do so," stated Crawshaw. As NGO Monitor reported in our June 2007 Digest, other HRW officials are actively defending their support of the UNHRC. HRW's Global Advocacy Director, Peggy Hicks, claimed that the UNHRC still can be more effective than the old Commission and that the inclusion of Israel on the permanent agenda should not be viewed negatively because "in principle, at least, the council can scrutinize both Israeli and Palestinian behavior."
Human Rights Watch issued a July 5 press release calling for the release of Israeli prisoners in Gaza and Lebanon, as well as for Israel to release Hamas legislators and ministers “taken in reprisal.” The call to release Israeli prisoners came a few days after Hamas aired a tape on the one-year anniversary of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's capture, and a few days after HRW issued a report blaming Palestinians for missile fire from Gaza as well as Israel's response; HRW accused both sides of committing “war crimes”.
Having completed a 5-day tour of the West Bank and Gaza, a "high-level delegation" of The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued a July 17 press release calling on all Palestinian groups "to uphold the rule of law," and condemning human rights abuses by Palestinian factions, including torture and summary executions. During their visit to Gaza, the members of the mission met with three senior Hamas officials, including Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh. FIDH does not indicate that it held meetings with Israeli government officials. FIDH called upon Israel "to immediately and without condition release the 43 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council currently detained in Israel." Yet FIDH failed to demand that Palestinian groups, including Hamas, cease terrorist attacks against Israel.
Neither Israel nor Lebanon has investigated allegations of war crimes from last year's conflict, Amnesty International charged in a statement released this month, calling for a United Nations inquiry. In its reports since the war, Amnesty criticized Hezbollah for firing nearly 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities and towns, and Israel for bombing civilian areas and using cluster bombs in south Lebanon. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev's response to the Amnesty charges was quoted in The International Herald Tribune: "The Israeli system of justice is independent, professional and transparent. Allegations of inappropriate behavior by Israeli military personal have been thoroughly investigated. Israel is a country in which respect of human rights and the rule of law are at the very center of the political process."
Haaretz reported that "an Israeli Arab attorney was appointed as a prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague." Marwan Dalal, an attorney with Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, began his work at the international court this month. Dalal is the first Arab Israeli to serve in such an international legal forum.
Sabeel announced that it will be holding a conference, in conjunction with North American Friend´s of Sabeel October 26-27 in Boston. The conference promotes the "Durban strategy" of demonization, referring to Israel with terms such as "apartheid". Advertised speakers include Desmond Tutu, John Dugard, (UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian Territories), Naim Ateek, and Jeff Halper (head of ICAHD, which is funded by the European Union – see Focus item above).
Jessica Montell, Executive Director of B´Tselem, has announced that B´Tselem´s Board of Directors recently approved the establishment of a U.S. office in Washington, D.C., thereby becoming "the only Israeli human rights organization to have a presence in Washington." One of its goals for a “presence in Washington is to insert human rights into the Washington debate on Israel-Palestine.” Read more about this issue on NGO Monitor’s Blog.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a press release on July 15th calling "for an immediate investigation into attacks against 3 journalists while they were covering a demonstration organized by national factions in Khan Yunis on Thursday evening, 12 July 2007, forcing them to delete all video footages and photographs before releasing them." PCHR demanded an investigation into "the beating and degrading treatment" carried out by Hamas of a number of people arrested following these demonstration.
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