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Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region
The Role of NGOs in the Palestinian Political War Against Israel

The Role of NGOs in the Palestinian Political War Against Israel

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg

Since the late 1990s influential human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have been at the forefront of attempts to delegitimize Israel. These international NGOs often work in concert with the Arab League and the Islamic bloc in UN frameworks, as well as with Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, promoting false allegations of “war crimes,” “massacres” and other violations of human rights.

As will be detailed below, this process was clearly manifested during campaigns to condemn Israel’s self-defense actions, beginning with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield (2002) and continuing through and after the Gaza operation in 2012. These NGO condemnations fuel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns, as well as lawfare campaigns in the International Criminal Court (ICC), and other venues.

The source of the NGOs political influence, particularly regarding moral and legal issues, is what Nye terms “soft power,” which he describes as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.”1 The perception of expertise, and commitments to a universal morality untainted by partisan politics or economic objectives, are crucial for human rights NGOs.2 This is particularly important in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, where NGOs rely on this perception of expertise and moral authority as an important tool in the political war on Israel.

Many of these political advocacy NGOs are funded by foreign governments, primarily by the European Union (EU) and European governments, as well as private foundations, many providing millions of dollars and euros annually. EU member states, as well as Norway and Switzerland, together grant up to 100 million euros to an estimated 80 Israeli and Palestinian political advocacy organizations. These government funds are provided under the banners of human rights and promoting democracy, but the recipient NGOs are the leaders of political warfare through BDS and lawfare campaigns. As a result, the European governments, in particular, are important enablers in these activities. In addition, significant government funds are often budgeted for the major international NGOs that are centrally involved in anti-Israel political warfare, such as HRW, Amnesty, and Oxfam.

The Durban Process

In analyzing NGO-Palestinian cooperation for political purposes, it is necessary to examine the Durban process. The Durban Conference had three parallel forums: an official diplomatic framework, an international youth forum, and an NGO Forum. In the opening day (August 31, 2001) of the official framework, PLO leader Yasser Arafat spoke, accusing Israel of being a “racist” state, guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” This set the tone for the NGO Forum, which was a formidable and unique gathering, and included thousands of representatives from an estimated 1,500 organizations. The participants included major global actors such as HRW and Amnesty International, joined by dozens of Palestinian NGOs such as MIFTAH, the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, BADIL, Al Haq, and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). All of these NGOs enjoyed and continue to receive significant funding from foreign governmental sources.

The Durban NGO Forum was characterized by many displays of anti­-Semitism,3 and Jewish and Israeli participants were subject to verbal and physical intimidation.4 In this environment, and with the active participation of NGOs such as HRW and AI, the NGO Forum adopted a Final Declaration that focused on Israel. It is notable that the NGO declaration adopted much of the text drafted during the UN-sponsored Asian regional preparatory conference, held in Tehran during February 2001, targeting Israel with terms such as “racism,” “apartheid,” “crimes against humanity,” and “genocide.”5 (In contrast to the pledge made by UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, Israelis and Jewish delegates were excluded.6)

Article 164 of the NGO declaration asserts that “[t]argeted victims of Israel’s brand of apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods have been in particular children, women, and refugees.” Following the anti-apartheid South Africa strategy, article 425 advocated “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation, and training) between all states and Israel.” Article 426 condemned states that “are supporting, aiding and abetting the Israeli apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide.”7 (Similar language was removed from the text of the document adopted by the governmental forum of the Durban Conference, following a walkout by American and Israeli delegations.8)

For some supporters of human rights, the Durban NGO Forum was recognized as a disaster. In writing about the Ford Foundation’s role as one of the main funders for NGO participants, Korey notes that “Durban turned out to be a propagator of vulgar anti-Semitism.”9 Previous “world conferences against racism” had focused on South African apartheid. With the end of the apartheid regime, many of the participants in the Durban process turned their focus and energies to resuming the attempts to label Zionism as racism. In the context of UN frameworks, and specifically in the UN Human Rights Council (formerly the UN Human Rights Commission), NGOs work closely with the controlling bloc of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in furthering its anti-Israel agenda, resulting in numerous unsubstantiated, disproportionate condemnations of Israel.

In 1975, this campaign of political warfare, which is a continuation of the efforts to delegitimize Israel that began with the recognition of the state in 1948, produced UNGA Resolution 3379 (“Zionism is racism”). While the UNGA “revoke[d] the determination contained in its resolution 3379” by majority vote in 1991 (resolution 46/86),10 the campaign continued and was revived globally at the Durban Conference.

The false accusations leveled at Israel since 2000, and their use as primary weapons in the efforts to isolate Israel and to resume the “Zionism is racism” campaign, were the direct results of the “Durban strategy.”

NGO Warfare from Jenin to Pillar of Defense

The first major implementation of the Durban strategy of political warfare took place in April 2002, following the IDF’s Defensive Shield counter-terrorist operation in the West Bank. The operation was carried out in response to a series of Palestinian suicide bombing attacks which killed and injured hundreds of Israeli civilians. The Jenin refugee camp, the operational center of the mass terror attacks, was a major objective of the operation. Following the takeover of the camp by the IDF, Palestinian officials immediately claimed that it had committed a “massacre” in Jenin,11 and NGO officials instantly echoed these allegations.

On April 16, Le Monde cited HRW’s statements alleging that Israel had committed “war crimes” and demanding the appointment of what they referred to as an “independent investigative committee.”12 On April 18, the BBC interviewed an Amnesty official, Derrick Pounder, who repeated these massacre allegations.13 Shortly afterwards, an AI statement declared, “The evidence compiled indicates that serious breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed, including war crimes,” and, like HRW and Palestinian officials, also called for an “independent inquiry.”14 Other influential NGOs issued similar statements, reports, and condemnations, including Caritas (a European Catholic group).15

The campaign led by NGOs and Palestinian supporters had a direct influence on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appointed a “fact-finding team” to “investigate” the allegations of Israeli war crimes. The Committee was headed by Finnish politician Martti Ahtisaari, and included Cornelia Sammaruga, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.16

The Israeli government refused to cooperate with what it viewed as a biased committee,17 and this effort was disbanded. However, the General Assembly then adopted resolution ES-10/10 on May 7, 2002, “in which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to present a report…on the recent events that took place in Jenin and other Palestinian cities.” Israel also rejected the legitimacy of this group, and denied its members access, as noted in the report issued by the Secretary ­General.18 This report generally followed the lead of HRW and other NGOs, and, as the Israeli government had anticipated, was similarly one-sided.19 In contrast to the biased report, Israel reported that the vast majority of Palestinians killed were armed militants, and that the IDF’s tactics, which were planned to reduce civilian casualties, resulted in a large loss of life on the Israeli side.20

The 2002 anti-Israel NGO campaigns based on the Durban strategy were the first of many. In 2004, international NGOs joined the Palestinian campaign to condemn Israel’s separation or security barrier, which was constructed in response to mass terror attacks. Again following Palestinian officials who labeled the barrier one of the “crimes against the Palestinian people,” with “the magnitude of a crime against humanity,”21  political advocacy NGOs issued press releases, letters, and reports calling on the UN to take action, and demanding that the US and the EU penalize Israel.22 Groups active in this campaign included HRW, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, World Vision,23 the UK-based War on Want, the Mennonite Central Committee, Médicine du Monde (France), along with many Palestinian NGOs, many of them funded by European governments. Christian Aid lobbied the British government, issuing a press release entitled “Why the Israeli ‘barrier’ is wrong,” which referred to Palestinian hardships inflicted by Israel’s “land grab.”24

The NGO-led process contributed to the UN General Assembly adoption of a highly one-sided resolution that sent the allegations of Israeli violations regarding the security barrier to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for an “advisory opinion.”25 This resolution was adopted by a 90-to-8 margin with 74 abstentions, and reflected the Palestinian usage of the politically loaded term “wall” rather than neutral “barrier” (or Israeli “fence”), as well as the vocabulary and historical distortions of the Palestinian narrative.26

After the majority of the judges of the court, including senior Egyptian diplomat Nabil Elaraby issued the expected advisory decision condemning Israeli actions (accompanied by a blistering minority opinion and critique),27 the NGOs began to quote and cite the majority text as if it were legally significant and mandatory and not merely advisory.28

In another example, Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in late 2005, followed by the 2007 Hamas takeover of the area, led to increased rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. These central changes were largely ignored by the political advocacy NGO network that continued to automatically condemn Israel as an “occupier” and condemn IDF responses as “war crimes.” This was evident in what was known as the “Gaza Beach incident.” Once again, HRW and other NGOs amplified a claim by “Palestinian officials” that a “massacre” occurred,29 in line with the Durban strategy of delegitimizing Israel.

On June 9, 2006, an explosion occurred on the Beit Lahiya beach in Gaza, resulting in the reported death of eight Palestinian civilians. Though the details were and remain confused, HRW immediately initiated a major campaign condemning Israel, based on the analysis of Marc Garlasco, their “senior military analyst” (whose “military expertise” has been widely questioned30).  In a series of highly publicized statements and a press conference, the purported details of the explosives and technical information, which relied on dubious sources such as a “forensics” facility in Gaza, changed rapidly. HRW and Garlasco repeatedly accused the IDF of being “incapable of uncovering the truth,” and repeated the call for an “independent, international investigation.”31

In the following months, Gaza remained at the center of the NGO network’s political warfare. Increasing rocket fire followed by the abduction of Gilad Shalit (June 25, 2006) in a cross-border raid triggered an Israeli military response.32 This response, but not the initial attack and kidnapping, was condemned by Palestinian and international NGOs as “collective punishment,”33 creating a “humanitarian crisis.”34 The NGOs were also largely silent as Hamas held Shalit for five years, in blatant violation of any human rights standards, nor did they condemn the agreement in which he was released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian terrorists (in violation of due process of law).35

After the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 and the imposition of a blockade, NGO allegations targeting Israel increased further, including from major international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Save the Children.These publications, in turn, relied almost exclusively on unsubstantiated allegations made by Israeli and Palestinian NGOs.36

At the end of 2006, following rocket attacks from Gaza, IDF artillery counter-fire erroneously hit Beit Hanoun in Gaza, resulting in the reported death of 19 Palestinian civilians. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded a United Nations inquiry into this “massacre.”37 Following the previous pattern beginning with Jenin, Human Rights Watch called for a “comprehensive independent investigation,” rejecting the Israeli investigations into the event. Amnesty International also called for “an immediate, independent investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable.”38

A special session of the UNHRC was convened and, as in the past, adopted a resolution creating a “fact-finding investigation” with a mandate prejudging the outcome, and condemning the IDF’s alleged “gross and systematic” human rights violations “in the occupied Palestinian territories.”39 At this session, HRW and PCHR led vocal allegations that “[t]he level of killing and destruction was unprecedented by all means and standards” and that “[a]lmost all shelling attacks on Gaza had targeted civilians.”40

To head this “investigation,” the NGO-UNHRC alliance approached international personalities, including Canadian Professor Irwin Cotler, a leading human rights expert and advocate, who had defended Nelson Mandela, among other prominent dissidents; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was a leader of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and a vociferous opponent of Israel. Cotler, who was also a member of the Canadian Parliament at the time, and would become Minister of Justice, refused the appointment, stating that he “could not accept a mandate to hear only one side of a dispute…which denied the other side the right to a hearing…and which denied the presumption of innocence.”41

In contrast, Tutu, a well-known critic of Israeli policies,42 accepted the position and the mandate.43 Tutu had already repeated the allegations regarding the Beit Hanoun incident, calling it an “outrage that cries out to heaven.”44 Another biased figure, Prof. Christine Chinkin, was appointed as Tutu’s “co-expert,” and the Israeli government rejected the legitimacy of the investigation and refused to cooperate or to allow it to work in Israel.45 The Tutu-Chinkin report, written largely on the basis of NGO statements, were presented to the UNHRC and adopted in late 2008, just prior to the beginning of the Gaza War. This 24-page report used standard NGOs claims such as referring to Israel as “the occupying power” and Israeli policy as “collective punishment.”46 The NGO-led Beit Hanoun report and process were dress-rehearsals for the Goldstone committee that was to follow.

Goldstone and Gaza: The Central Role of International NGOs

The resumption of the deadly rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel, and the resulting Israeli military operation that began on December 28, 2008, provided the framework for an expanded implementation of the Durban strategy. Each of the elements that had been used in the previous rounds – from Jenin to Beit Hanoun – was employed in a highly coordinated and intensive manner. Anticipating the Israeli military response, the Palestinians and their supporters in the UN framework and among the NGO network were able to plan the tactics of the political assault in detail. The Gaza conflict was an opportunity to perfect the procedures and processes that had been used with increasing success to attack Israel using charges of “war crimes” and violations of international law. This objective was embodied in the UNHCR’s Goldstone “fact-finding mission” and report, which has served as the justification for a major increase in the Durban strategy.

As in the past, the NGO network led the process. During the three weeks of fighting, over 500 NGO documents and statements were published, often accompanied by press conferences, op-ed articles, and media interviews. Human Rights Watch again played a leading role in this assault, with particular emphasis on allegations of “illegal” use of white phosphorous. As in “Gaza Beach,” Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst,” led the campaign, which resulted in widespread media focus on this issue. (Garlasco was later dismissed by HRW after he was revealed to be an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia.47)

On this foundation, HRW and other NGOs resumed the campaigns demanding an independent investigation. HRW’s executive director Ken Roth called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to “lean on all actors, protect civilians, and ensure accountability. Only an impartial international investigation can achieve that.”48 Amnesty International demanded “a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law.”49 These statements were in line with Palestinian NGO statements.50

A UNHRC special session (January 9-12, 2009) adopted a resolution establishing the framework for a “fact-finding investigation.” Following the Beit Hanoun precedent, the leaders of this campaign sought another high-profile figure, such as Desmond Tutu, as the commission chair. After Mary Robinson, the former UN Commissioner of Human Rights, declined to head this “fact-finding mission,” citing the imbalance in the mandate, Judge Richard Goldstone was offered the position.

In many ways, Goldstone was the perfect candidate for the Durban strategy. As a South African judge, he became involved in the transition from the Apartheid regime, and was later appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, Goldstone’s Jewish background and affiliation with Zionist causes added to the impact he would have as Israel’s main accuser in this process. HRW was deeply involved in the nomination of Goldstone. Ken Roth, a friend of Goldstone, was instrumental in offering him the position. Goldstone was also a member of HRW’s board and only resigned after this conflict of interest was pointed out. Between Goldstone’s appointment in April 2009 and the September 15 release date, HRW issued more than 15 calls praising the establishment of the inquiry, promoting Goldstone’s “eminent” character, demanding that Israel cooperate despite the inherent bias, and lobbying the United States and others to pressure Israel.

In addition to Goldstone, the fact-finding mission again included Prof. Christine Chinkin, who, as noted above, had been a consultant for Amnesty and joined Desmond Tutu in the UNHRC-appointed “fact-finding” mission on Beit Hanoun. During the Gaza conflict, Chinkin signed a controversial public letter claiming that “Israel’s bombardment on Gaza is not self-defense it’s a war crime.”51 The other members of the team Hila Jilan, Desmond Travers (from Ireland), and Goldstone himself also signed a highly biased letter spearheaded by Amnesty accusing Israel of “war crimes,” before their appointment to the UN body.52

Between April and September 2009, the four committee members and their staff took testimony from invited witnesses in Geneva, and during two short visits to Gaza reviewed NGO submissions and held meetings also involving NGOs such as Amnesty and HRW. (The process was reportedly funded by the Arab League.53) As in Jenin and Beit Hanoun, the Israeli government rejected any cooperation with Goldstone’s group, citing the one-sided mandate and inherent bias of both the UNHRC and the members of the “fact-finding mission.”

As expected when the Goldstone process began, the allegations and recommendations in the 452 page report (issued on September 29, 2009) repeated the themes of the NGO Forum declaration at the 2001 Durban Conference. Once again, Israel was singled out and subject to unique criteria and methodologies that are not applied to other nations in considering counter-terror defense. As in the previous reports, testimony on alleged war crimes was not subject to cross examination, blatant internal contradictions were ignored, and much of the “evidence” was never made public or subjected to critical analysis. At the time, Goldstone himself acknowledged that while the language and framework of the report and proceedings were rigidly legalistic, the analyses and recommendations would not have been accepted by a duly constituted court of law.54

The Goldstone Report had more force and did more damage to Israel than the others, including accusations of systematic “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and deliberately targeting “the people of Gaza as a whole.” Goldstone’s reputation gave the recommendations much greater force than in past including calling on the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court55 and for other countries to start criminal investigations in national courts using universal jurisdiction.56

In the month immediately after the publication of Goldstone’s report, HRW issued 12 statements in support of Goldstone, and HRW officials were widely quoted in the media.57 Many repeated the central accusation that Israel had been guilty of “willfully” killing civilians. HRW’s campaign continued in 2010, with 14 publications alleging the “inadequacy” of Israeli investigations into the Gaza War.58

More broadly, as noted above, the Goldstone Report was embraced and exploited by the supporters of intense efforts to delegitimize Israel, including the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, “lawfare” campaigns, and “Israel Apartheid Week” activities.

As the campaign to market the report expanded, the numerous fundamental flaws in the entire process slowly received greater attention. The obsessive assault on Israel through the use of false claims and the gross distortion of legal arguments posed by the NGO network were increasingly understood to go beyond any substantive aspects of the Gaza conflict.59

On April 2, 2011, Goldstone published an op-ed article in The Washington Post, in which he recanted the essential claims of the report. Eighteen months after the UN publication, Judge Goldstone acknowledged that “our fact-finding mission had no evidence” to verify the allegations supplied by the radical NGOs. He retracted the allegations that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians, confessed to having ignored the war crimes of Hamas, and recognized that the UNHRC is fundamentally biased against Israel.60

Post-Goldstone – Operation Pillar of Defense

Following weeks of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, as well as numerous clashes along the border between Israel and Gaza, the IDF embarked in November 2012 on an operation aimed at halting rocket attacks on Israel.

Palestinian officials and NGOs immediately laid the blame on Israel, claiming a “new Israeli military escalation”61 and accusing Israel of human rights violations, including “massacres” and “war crimes.”62 Amnesty International and HRW immediately followed up on these accusations, condemning Israel alone for “re­igniting the conflict,” and “raising concerns” that Israeli strikes were “unlawfully disproportionate.”63 Amnesty also called for an arms embargo against Israel.64 However, these same groups also failed to condemn massive rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorist organizations in the weeks leading up to the operation.

The culmination of these political attacks was regarding the so-called Gaza “Media Center” or Al-Shurouk Tower, which housed Hamas communication infrastructure as well as various television studios. While Israel asserted that it targeted Palestinian terrorists and infrastructure, Palestinian NGOs and officials claimed this attack was a “systematic crime.” When describing the attack, HRW and Amnesty described the Hamas Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa channels which were housed in the tower simply as “pro-Palestinian,” failing to note that all bodies affiliated to Hamas are designated as global terrorist organizations, and failing to note that known terrorists were taking refuge in the building.65

NGOs and Palestinian Lawfare Strategy

In parallel to the UN “investigations” and condemnations generated primarily through NGO campaigns, the Palestinians and their NGO allies exploited international legal frameworks and universal jurisdiction statutes in Western democratic countries to press efforts to arrest and prosecute Israeli officials. This lawfare strategy was a direct outgrowth of the Durban NGO Forum and the repeated allegations of “war crimes” and “violations of international law.”

Between 2000 and 2010, over a dozen cases targeting Israeli officials were initiated in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Spain, and other countries. These attempts were also led by European-funded Palestinian NGOs such as Al Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Badil. International NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights (France), and the Center for Constitutional Rights (New York) were also deeply involved in this strategy.

In November 2008, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in conjunction with the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (both Cairo-based NGOs) held a conference in Cairo under the banner of “Impunity and the Prosecution of Israeli War Criminals.” The main conference sponsors were the European Union and Oxfam-Novib, a highly politicized international aid agency funded largely by the Dutch government. (Officially, the EU funding was provided for a project entitled “Abolition of the Death Penalty” in the Palestinian Authority.) An independent audit held on behalf of the EU found that these programs had little substantive oversight once grantees received funding, leading to abuses of this sort.66

The NGO-led lawfare cases were all dismissed as groundless, but they had political and diplomatic impacts, including a significant reduction in travel by former and current Israeli military and government officials. The cases were used to generate major media impact, contributing to the overall demonization process. After a number of cases in which Israeli former IDF generals and political officials were threatened with arrest in European countries, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Belgium changed their laws, removing this threat.67

Following the 2008-2009 Gaza war, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and allied political advocacy NGOs intensified their efforts to persuade the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to open cases against Israelis. In 2010, PCHR (funded by the EU and a number of European governments, including Norway) used the ICC Review conference in Uganda as another platform to target Israel, demanding that the ICC Prosecutor open “an investigation” and that the UN Security Council “refer the situation to the ICC.” The campaign intensified in 2011 and international NGOs such as Amnesty and FIDH joined it, claiming that Israel was “unwilling” and “unable” to investigate human rights violations, and calling for Palestinian accession to the ICC.68 In December 2013, an HRW official published yet another opinion article repeating this call. 69

In April 2012, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor decided that it did not have jurisdiction to begin an investigation over cases related to the 2008-09 Gaza War, as “Palestine” is not a state. Hence, it did not fall under the ICC’s purview (which only applies to states).70 In response, many of the same NGOs that had lobbied the prosecutor in support of the PA’s goals attacked the OTP for its decision. These NGOs alleged that the decision was “political,” without elaborating how, and ignoring their own attempts to sway the ICC process.

Following the OTP’s decision not to include Palestine under the jurisdiction of the ICC, NGOs are continuing to push the Prosecutor on this issue, despite the PA’s official agreement not to pursue this track while US-sponsored peace negotiations are underway.71 (Nevertheless, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has not stopped discussing Palestinian plans to use the ICC.) On this issue in particular, NGOs are promoting a position that, if accepted by the OTP, would severely jeopardize the peace process.72

NGO Political Warfare and European Policy Outsourcing

From the 2001 Durban NGO Forum through Jenin, Goldstone, the ICC, and other examples, a combination of major international NGOs and local NGOs based in Israel and the Palestinian Authority worked closely with the Palestinian leadership in promoting political warfare targeting Israel.

Major funding for these NGOs is provided by the European Union and individual European countries, under the rubric of “soft power” and as a form of foreign policy outsourcing. Through this funding, which is estimated at 100 million euros a year, channeled through direct and indirect frameworks, such as church aid organizations, European governments are enabling activities of radical NGOs that are directly contradictory to their stated objective of a promoting a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The discredited Goldstone report and the related boycott and lawfare campaigns were directly facilitated by the European-government funded NGO network.

While other governments, including the United States and Australia, provide some money to these NGOs (for example, the US National Endowment for Democracy funded Miftah through 2012), the amounts involved are much smaller than Europe’s. (Canada has ended all government funding for political advocacy NGOs involved in the region, and has reorganized CIDA – the Canadian International Development Agency.)73

In the case of the European Union, budgets for between 20 and 30 political advocacy NGOs involved in the attacks on Israel are provided annually by frameworks such as the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). In the period between 2007 and 2010, EIDHR’s country-based support scheme (CBSS), channeled more funds to Israeli and “OPT” NGOs than to any country or conflict area in the world.74 Such NGO funding targeting Israel under the banners of democracy and human rights stands in sharp contrast to the very low levels of support for NGOs focusing on Syria, Iran, Libya, and similar countries.

Furthermore, these EU budgetary processes for NGOs that are involved in Arab-Israeli issues take place in secret processes without public hearings or parliamentary discussions, and requests under European Union freedom of information regulations have been denied.75  Furthermore, in many cases, pro-Palestinian groups provide the basis for EU policymaking decisions on the conflict, reflecting the outsourcing of foreign policy to non-governmental organization that lack democratic accountability.76

Since the 2001 Durban conference, this European funding for NGO-led political warfare has reinforced Palestinian positions and created major obstacles to the negotiation of the compromises necessary for peace, while also inflicting substantial damage to relations between Israel and Europe. As long as this counterproductive process continues, the damage in both dimensions will continue to increase.

* * *


1 Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York, 2004), p.x.

2 Gerald M. Steinberg, “The Politics of NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israel Conflict,” Israel Studies 16.2, Summer 2011, p.27.

3 William Korey, Taking on the World’s Repressive Regimes:The Ford Foundation’s International Human Rights Policies and Practices, (Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2007), p.251.

4 Ibid., p.249. Asian Preparatory Meeting for the WCAR, “Declaration,” 21 February 2001

6 Paul Lungen, “Iran tries to exclude CIJA from Durban II Conference,” The Canadian Jewish News, April 24, 2008, ;

7 Tom Lantos, “The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the World Racism Conference at Durban,” (PDF) The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, vol. 26.1, Winter/Spring 2002. U.N. World Conference Against Racism NGO Forum Declaration.

8 Irwin Cotler, “Durban’s Troubling Legacy One Year Later: Twisting the Cause of International Human Rights Against the Jewish People,” Jerusalem Issue Brief 2:5, Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, August 2002,

9 Korey, p.250.

U.N. General Assembly, “Elimination of racism and racial discrimination” December 16, 1991.

11 Dore Gold, Tower of Babble: How the United Nations has Fueled Global Chaos, (New York: Crown Forum, 2004), pp. 212–218. See also Dr. David Zangen, “Seven Lies about Jenin”, IMRA, November 8, 2002 (translated from Ma’ariv).

12 Martin Seiff, “Analysis: Why Europeans Bought Jenin Myth,” UPI, May 20, 2002,­34731022008462/.

13 BBC News, “Jenin ‘massacre evidence growing,’’ April 18, 2002,

14 Margaret Wente, “Call it Sham-nesty International, an Apologist for Terror,” Toronto Globe and Mail, May 9, 2002, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, “Caritas Aid Workers Witness the Horror of Jenin,” April 29, 2002,

16 United Nations News Service, “Members of Jenin fact-finding team leave Geneva after Annan disbands group,” May 3, 2002,

17 Dov B. Fischer, ‘Who will watch the watchdogs?’, Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2002,

18 U.N. General Assembly, “U.N. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to GA resolution ES-10/10,”

19 Ibid. Israel MFA, “What Happened in Jenin,” August 5, 2002,; Yagil Henkin,“Urban Warfare and the Lessons of Jenin,” Azure 15 (summer 2003), pp.56-59.

21 General Assembly Plenary, “Speakers in General Assembly Emergency Session Condemn Israel’s Construction Of ‘Security Barrier’, Expansionist Policies.” October 20, 2003,

22 HRW, “Israel: West Bank Barrier Endangers Basic Rights: U.S. Should Deduct Costs From Loan Guarantees,” October 1, 2003,­endangers-basic-rights.

23 Tim Costello, “For the Children’s Sake, Tear Down this Wall!,” The Age (Melbourne), July 14, 2004,

24 Christian Aid, “Why the Israeli ‘Barrier’ is Wrong,” February 24, 2004, U.N. GAOR, A/RES/ES-10/14 (A/ES-10/L.16) adopted on 8 Dec. 2003. 26 Gerald M Steinberg, “The UN, the ICJ, the Separation Barrier: War by other Means.” Israel Law Review 38 (2005), p.340.

27 International Court of Justice (ICJ), Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, ICJ Reports 2004; Declaration of Judge Buergenthal;Separate Opinion of Judge Kooijmans

28 See for example: Al Haq, “The Wall in the West Bank,” November 2006,

29 BBC, “Hamas militants vow to end truce,” June 10, 2006, Foreman, “Nazi scandal engulfs Human Rights Watch,” The Sunday Times, 28 March 2010. Accessed 15 June 2011.

31 See NGO Monitor, “Gaza beach incident: Timeline of HRW involvement and activities June 9-21 2006,” June 21, 2006,

32 Ilene R. Prusher and Joshua Mitnick, “Israel’s return to Gaza – multiple motives,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2006,

33 PCHR, “OPT: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) paralyze lives of civilians in the Gaza Strip,” June 27,2006,

34 Christian Aid, “OPT: Gaza invasion targets civilian infrastructure,” June 28, 2006,

35 NGO Monitor, “NGOs, Universal Human Rights and Gilad Shalit: Four Years Of Double Standards,” July 1, 2010,

36 See for example: Crisis Action, “The Gaza strip: a Humanitarian Implosion,” March 6, 2008,

37 BBC News, “Thousands mourn Beit Hanoun dead,” November 9, 2006,

38 Amnesty International, “Israel/Occupied Territories: Amnesty International delegate visits scene of Gaza Strip killings,” November 8, 2006,

39 UNHRC, “Special session resolution S-3/1,” November 15, 2006,

40 UNHRC, “Council decides to urgently dispatch a high-level fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun,” November 15, 2006,

41 “Cotler addresses UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: Reveals for the first time why he did not take part in UN mission,” June 13, 2007,

42 Maurice Ostroff, “Archbishop Tutu, Please Be Fair,” Jerusalem Post, December 5, 2006, http://fr.jpost. com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1164881826126&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull.

43 BBC News, “Tutu to lead Beit Hanoun mission,” November 29, 2006,–/2/hi/middle_east/6158223.stm.

44 “ADL slams UN body for making Tutu head of Beit Hanun mission,” Haaretz, November 30, 2006,­mission-1.205864.

45 “Statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leader of the High Level Fact-Finding Mission into events at Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006,” Press Conference, Gaza, May 29, 2008.

46  UNHRC, “Report of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun established under Council resolution S-3/1,” September 1, 2008,,,,COUNTRYREP,PSE,4562d8cf2,48cfa3a22,0.html.

47 For critiques of Garlasco’s claims, see Dan Williams, “Human Rights Watch accuses Israel over Gaza drones,” Reuters, June 30, 2009,­drones-idUSTRE55T37A20090630.

48 HRW, “Israel: End Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis at Once,” January 13, 2009,

49 Amnesty International, “UN Urged to Extend Gaza Investigation,” February 19, 2009, http://www­

50 PCHR, “OPT: IOF offensive on the Gaza Strip makes it like earthquake zone and claims civilian and property,” January 19, 2009, 51 “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defense – it’s a war crime,” Letters: The Sunday Times, 11 Jan.2009. Accessed 22 June 2011. 52 Amnesty International, “World’s leading investigators call for war crimes inquiry – open letter,” March 16, 2009, 53 Statement by ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo in a December 4, 2009 press conference,, cited by Herzberg. 54 Gal Beckerman, “Goldstone: ‘If This Was a Court Of Law, There Would Have Been Nothing Proven,’”

The Forward, October 7, 2009,

55 “Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” p.424.

56 Ibid., p.399.

57 NGO Monitor, “Human Rights Watch: Selling Goldstone’s Indictment,” 15 Oct. 2009. Accessed 22 June 2011.

58 NGO Monitor, “HRW in 2010: More Bias, Even Less Credibility,” 6 Jan. 2011. Accessed 25 June 2011.

59 See Steinberg, Gerald M. and Anne Herzberg, eds. The Goldstone Report “Reconsidered” – A Critical Analysis. Jerusalem: NGO Monitor and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011; Abraham Bell, “A Critique of the Goldstone Report and its Treatment of International Humanitarian Law,” American Society of International Law Proceedings, 104 (2010); Alan Dershowitz, “The Case against the Goldstone Report: A Study in Evidentiary Bias” the Jerusalem Post, 31 January 2010.

60 See Dore Gold’s chapter in this volume.

61 Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), ”New Israeli Military Escalation against the Gaza Strip; Leader of Hamas’ Armed Wing and His Bodyguard Extra-Judicially Executed and Death Toll in Rises to 13,”  November 15, 2012,­hamas-armed-wing-and-his-bodyguard-extra-judicially-executed-and-death-toll-in-rises-to-13­including-two-c.

62 Jodi Rudoren, “Hoisting Dead Children, Gazans Mourn Family Killed by Israeli Strike,” The New York Times, November 19, 2012,­dalu-family-killed-by-israeli-bomb.html?_r=1&.

63 NGO Monitor, “Analysis of Statements By Political NGOs on Gaza Crisis – November 2012,” November 15, 2012,

64 NGO Monitor, “NGO Warfare Update: Amnesty Launches Frontal Attacks,” November 21, 2012,

65 NGO Monitor, “NGO Factual And Legal Distortions On Gaza ‘Media Center’ Attacks,” November 20, 2012,

66 Anne Herzberg, “Lawfare: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” NGO Monitor December 2010, p.20,

67 Ibid., p.3; see also Raphael Ben-Ari, in this volume.

68 Amnesty International, “Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian Bid For UN Membership And Statehood Recognition: Q&A,” October 4, 2011,; FIDH, “Shielded from accountability: Israel’s unwillingness to investigate and prosecute international crimes,” September 2011,­final.pdf.

69 Bill Van Esveld, “Why Palestine Should Seek Justice at the International Criminal Court”, Ma’an News Agency, December 6, 2013­international-criminal-court

70 See chapter by Eugene Kantorovich in this volume.

71 AP and Elhanan Miller, “Abbas threatens ‘all options open’ if US-led diplomatic bid fails,” July 22, 2013,

72 Harriet Sherwood, “ICC urged to investigate ‘commission of crimes’ in Palestinian territories,” The Guardian, October 4, 2013,­commission-of-crimes-palestinian

73 Gerald M. Steinberg & Stephen Seligman, “The Politics of Canadian Government Funding for Advocacy NGOs,” NGO Monitor, February 2012, p. 12.

74 European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), “EIDHR Compendium,” 2011,

75  NGO Monitor, “NGO Monitor Sues EU over Lack of NGO Funding Transparency”  January 26, 2010,

76 Gerald M. Steinberg, “False Witness? EU-Funded NGOs and Policymaking in the Arab–Israeli Conflict,” Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 8 (2013).