NGOs Target Israel at UN Human Rights Meeting. Again.

Folks, NGO Monitor (NGO: non-governmental organizations) is one resource that should be part of your daily reading. The aim of NGO Monitor, as outlined in their mission statement, is to end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas. Click NGO (non-governmental organizations) for the definition of NGO’s.

Until recently, NGOs, which receive significant financial support from generous donors, philanthropic institutions, and government budgets, have not themselves been subject to independent and critical analysis.

NGOs can contribute to democracy through challenging governments and promoting social interests, but they themselves are not democratic institutions and have no democratic accountability. An NGO is only accountable to its particular funding organizations and members. Meanwhile, criticism of a human rights NGO is often dismissed as an attack on the values of human rights themselves.

NGO Monitor was founded to address these issues by tracking the activities of humanitarian NGOs. In this framework, it is important to distinguish between three types of NGOs.

The first group consists of international bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, whose operations are truly global and very influential. Amnesty International, for example, claims a membership of one and a half million, and an annual operating budget of $30 million with projects in 140 countries.

The second group is made up of region-specific NGOs such as Miftah, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I), and LAW. These regional “humanitarian” NGOs restrict their activities to the Arab-Israeli conflict and, in most cases, to criticism of Israel.

The third group consists of NGOs that collect funds for a variety of projects and areas, and provide financial and technical support to smaller regional NGOs. Examples include the Ford Foundation, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) New Israel Fund, Christian Aid, and the Advocacy Project.

The recent session of the UN Commission on Human Rights was again characterized by intense political attacks against Israel, in which many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) played a major role. From NGO Monitor:

The 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which took place in Geneva from 14 March to 22 April 2005, was again characterized by intense political attacks focused against Israel, despite the warnings of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Louise Arbour. The UNCHR, however, continued the past practice of singling out “Israel and the Palestinian territories” as a separate agenda item (“Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine”) in addition to Agenda Item 5 – “The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation”. The UNCHR’s failure to condemn Palestinian terror and its assaults against Israel were analyzed in detail by UN Watch. In the process, the NGO network was particularly active, and its biased reports and rhetoric was echoed in the Commission’s discussions and resolutions. The Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, a participant at the 2001 Durban conference, joined with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) to condemn “numerous forms of collective punishment”, the “devastating system of checkpoints and other movement restrictions”, and the “construction of the Annexation Wall”. This submission criticizes only Israel while failing to acknowledge Palestinian violence. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also continued its anti-Israel emphasis, criticizing “excessive use of force, indiscriminate killing of civilians” and the security barrier. The ICJ, did, however, condemn Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians, marking a change for this NGO. Save the Children, while refraining from using intemperate language to criticize Israel, failed to acknowledge Israeli security concerns when referring to restrictions on movement and protection of children’s rights. Similarly, ignoring the context behind Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, the highly partisan Habitat International Coalition and Al-Mezan (a recipient of Swiss and Dutch governmental funding) condemned “Israel’s systematic and aggravated violations of Palestinian civilians’ right to adequate housing” while endorsing the standard Palestinian political demand “for the immediate deployment of an international protection force in the region”. Israelis, in these reports, appear to have no human rights.Demonstrating an amoral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli self-defense operations, Medecins du Monde called on both Israel and the PA to prevent attacks against civilians. This NGO also referred to the “mental and physical suffering of Palestinians” caused by Israel’s security barrier and checkpoints, while ignoring Israeli suffering in the face of terrorist acts. Employing the language of extremism and demonization, the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) referred to Israel’s “war crimes”, “ethnic cleansing policy”, and “Jenin massacres”, while claiming that the “apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people is worse than the former South African one”. Major NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did not participate in this session of the Commission’s activities, instead, questioning the credibility of the UNCHR as a whole. Amnesty referred to “The selectivity and double standards that characterize the Commission’s approach to addressing country situations”, while HRW expressed “the need to scrap the Commission and replace it with something new and better”. HRW also called on the UNCHR to halt the neglect of “abuses by Palestinian armed groups” (i.e., terrorists), to actively condemn “deliberate and indiscriminant [sic] attacks on civilians” and to demand that the Palestinian Authority “undertake all efforts consistent with international human rights standards to curb these attacks”. However, HRW’s position was highly inconsistent, and included contentious language used to describe Israeli anti-terror policy.

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