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NGO News in Brief
By NGO Monitor
August 7, 2008

HRW report on intra–Palestinian abuses includes false allegations against Israel

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) July 2008, 113-page report, “Internal Fight: Palestinian Abuses in Gaza and the West Bank,” focuses on “serious human rights abuses” by Hamas and Fatah, including torture, summary executions and illegal arrests. While such behavior is well known, it is rarely discussed in the self-proclaimed human rights community, and this major report marks a change from HRW's previous policy of largely ignoring intra-Palestinian violence, while targeting Israel (as documented by NGO Monitor). However, the transition is partial, and includes swipes at Israel in order to create the illusion of political balance, repeating false allegations of “persistent abuses” by Israel (pg. 3), Israeli “violation of international humanitarian law” (13) and “collective punishment” (16) in Gaza. Similar comments were by Sarah Leah Whitson in an Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) article. HRW’s political bias is also displayed when Hamas’ terrorist organization, which targets Israeli civilians, is described as “traditionally focused on social programs and fighting the Israeli occupation” (54).

The Palestinian NGO Al-Haq also released a report on intra-Palestinian abuse in July, documenting torture and arbitrary detention in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.  The report concludes that the “majority of arrests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are politically motivated,” and that the “PNA Preventive Security Force and General Intelligence Service” and the “Hamas Executive Force and Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades” are responsible for most of the torture.   

Amnesty International also made a Public Statement on July 28, 2008, condemning intra-Palestinian violations.

Terrorism minimized by Alternative Information Centre

In contrast to B’Tselem’s harsh condemnation of the July 2, 2008 bulldozer terror attack, in which 3 Israelis were murdered, other NGOs minimized the severity of the crime. Addameer - Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, reportedly criticized Israel for the “execution” of the bulldozer driver, describing it as a "violation of the right to life." Alternative Information Center (AIC), funded by the Irish government via Christian Aid, and other donors, published an article justifying these attacks by immorally comparing them to the land disputes related to the separation barrier.

In a story about Samir Kuntar – the Lebanese terrorist who, in 1979, infiltrated Israel, killed a police officer, shot an Israeli father, killing his  4-year old daughter by smashing her head on a rock, and was released along with four other terrorists in exchange for the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev – AIC continued to downplay Kuntar's actions by selectively quoting from his declassified court file and including a hero-like image. The AIC article repeated Kuntar’s own version of events, that he did not murder the Israeli family, and ignored the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses and forensic scientists, which were included in the declassified document. AIC relegates the charges of murder to “the Israeli imagination,” and falsely asserting that the file “makes different claims.”

MIFTAH’s “apartheid” strategy used to vilify Israel

In Michael J. Jordan’s article on Ford Foundation's funding of politicized NGOs, Joharah Baker of MIFTAH (a prominent Palestinian NGO), admitted that their  use of the term “apartheid” applied to Israel “is not quite accurate, ‘as no two situations are exactly the same.’” “Apartheid” is deployed to condemn Israel and generate sympathy for Palestinians: “Once there’s such a well-known comparison [between Israel and South Africa], people can draw those parallels and it becomes much more tangible in their mind.” Baker claims that the conflict should be characterized as “apartheid-like”, but as Ambassador Tova Herzl wrote in Ha’aretz, “Israel's enemies have drawn a comparison between these two struggles, in order to argue that Israel - like apartheid - does not have the right to exist.”

Amnesty International supports expansion of UN Special Rapporteur

Amnesty International
has lobbied the UN Human Rights Council for the “review of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” Amnesty supports the proposal to expand the existing one-sided focus on Israel to include violations “committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by all parties – Israeli and Palestinian, state agents and non-state actors.” Among the reasons, Amnesty states that the current limited focus “undercuts both the effectiveness and the credibility of the mandate” and provides a “convenient pretext” for “Israel not to cooperate with successive Special Rapporteurs.” The appointment of Richard Falk, who is notorious for his anti-Israel ideology, has further diminished the credibility of this position.

While Amnesty fundamentally critiques the current version of the Special Rapporteur, it does not call for a repeal of the mandate. With other countries, notably Cuba, the position of Special Rapporteur on Human Rights was eliminated, and replaced by UPRs (Universal Periodic Review, meaning a single process for each country). NGOs blamed the “political agenda” and “US-driven…perceived as coloured by a bilateral relationship” for the Cuban mandate, which has now ended.  However, Amnesty and other NGOs are silent in the face of the Arab political campaign against Israel that led to the discriminatory position of Special Rapporteur, and the resulting double-scrutiny (including the UPR) that is unique to Israel in the UN Human Rights Council.

NGO campaign for Al-Haq leader linked to PFLP

In July 1, 2008, Amnesty International followed HRW and others in issuing a Public Statement calling on Israel to lift the travel ban on Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq. Amnesty claims that the ban, imposed for “security reasons” in March 2006, violates Jabarin’s right to freedom of movement. The Alternative Information Center (AIC) made a similar “demand.” Both Amnesty and AIC ignore Jabarin’s links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which appears on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Durban Review Conference Update

A Regional Preparatory Meeting for the 2009 Durban Review Conference will be held in Abuja, Nigeria, from August 24-26, 2008. NGOs have been invited to attend, and African NGOs have been offered grants of up to $2000 to facilitate their participation. As reported by UN Watch, in its July session, ECOSOC, responsible for granting consultative status to NGOs which would enable them to participate in the Durban Review Conference, rejected the application of the Human Rights Foundation, after pressure from the Cuban and other governments. HRF is “devoted to defending human rights in the Americas,” and its advisory board is chaired by Armando Valladares, (recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience for his years of incarceration in Cuban prisons.) Amnesty did not protest this decision.

Preparations for the DRC will be influenced by the appointment of Navanethem Pillay, from South Africa, as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay is in a position to prevent the conference’s deterioration into a forum for the demonization of Israel, and live up to its new motto: “United Against Racism: Dignity and Justice for All.”

B’Tselem vs Mekorot on alleged discrimination in water distribution

In a July 1, 2008 press release, B’Tselem blamed Israel for projected water shortages in the Palestinian Authority, for “unfair distribution of water resources”, and ignoring theft from the water supply in “Area C.” Mekorot, the national water carrier, responded that it provides more water to the PA than mandated by the Oslo accords, “despite water cutbacks and severe shortage in Israel.” Moreover, according to Mekorot, significant theft goes unchallenged in PA-controlled areas.

PHR-I accuses Israeli doctors of complicity in torture

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I) issued a press release (date) describing their “guidelines booklet for medical personnel, which explains the ethical obligations of medical professionals who encounter evidence of torture….” PHR-I also called for “legal protection for whistleblowers against dismissal and harassment by the establishment, whose interest it is to maintain the conspiracy of silence.” (PHR-I is a political NGO funded by ….) The Israeli government declared PHR-I’s report “fraught with mistakes, groundless claims and inaccuracies.”

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