While Israel faces massive terrorist attacks from Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, there is another, parallel war being waged against it. However, in this “soft power” war, Israel’s enemies do not use bullets, missiles or bombs.
Instead, Israel is being bombarded by a powerful and hostile network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are mass-producing hundreds of “cut and paste” condemnations of Israel. For groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and their Israeli and Palestinian NGO allies, the most destructive weapons are false claims of “war crimes” and the rhetoric of international law. On this crucial battlefield, success is determined by the number of times NGO allegations are uncritically repeated by journalists, diplomats and government officials.
As in previous conflicts – Jenin in 2002, the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Gaza in 2008-2009 – a major NGO objective is a formal, “independent” United Nations inquiry into Israel’s military conduct.
Despite lacking any real investigatory capacity to draw meaningful conclusions, Amnesty, HRW and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) have called for the UN to form a “fact-finding mission” into alleged “violations” during the fighting.
Likewise, a coalition of Israeli-Arab NGOs, including Adalah and Mossawa, positioned themselves as go-to sources, offering to provide “information, assistance, materials or advice.”
The NGOs know that the actions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which established previous inquiries, are set by the member states – primarily from the Islamic bloc and other closed dictatorial regimes. Any UNHRC “investigation” will simply be a platform for NGO accusations.
The most egregious example of this NGO strategy is the discredited Goldstone process that arose from the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict. While the fighting was still ongoing, NGOs lobbied the UNHRC to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of Israeli war crimes. Then, as now, the missiles and terror structure within Gaza were simply ignored. Later, Judge Richard Goldstone, who was then on the HRW advisory board, agreed to lead this kangaroo court.
In place of honest and professional fact-finding, the Goldstone committee simply copied the unsourced, unverified, unreliable and highly biased NGO claims.
As NGO Monitor has shown in a series of detailed reports, NGOs were involved in every stage of the pseudo-investigation, determining the list of incidents and supplying a narrative of events in order to guarantee the predetermined outcome.
Following the publication of Goldstone’s report, the NGO network moved to the next phase, by widely promoting the report and its demonization of Israel.
Judge Goldstone later repudiated the main findings, thereby exposing the NGOs’ lack of credibility. But the NGOs refused to reconsider their own role and practices in this deeply flawed and irresponsible process.
Now, the NGOs are attempting to create another Goldstone-like framework for the current round of violence in Gaza.
And taking the Goldstone agenda one step further, NGOs have called for International Criminal Court (ICC) proceedings against Israel.
HRW, along with the Israeli NGOs, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a number of Palestinian NGOs have all highlighted the ICC strategy in their public statements of the past week. On July 16, HRW’s Middle East division director Sarah Leah Whitson proclaimed that “the only meaningful option for justice and accountability is legal proceedings before the International Criminal Court,” while Palestinian NGOs called upon “President Mahmoud Abbas to immediately ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in order to prosecute suspected Israeli war criminals and ensure they do not enjoy impunity.”
These statements follow years of intensive NGO lobbying of the ICC Prosecutor to pursue an investigation into alleged Israeli “war crimes.”
In addition, NGOs, most notably Amnesty International, have again called for a comprehensive arms embargo against Israel, falsely accusing Israel of using weapons obtained from the US and others for illegal attacks. This would deprive Israel of necessary and entirely legitimate self-defense capabilities.
The common element in the three components of the NGO “Goldstone process” – fact-finding missions, ICC cases and sanctions – is the intense effort to criminalize Israeli self-defense measures. These NGO campaigns limit Israel’s legitimate self-defense options and diminish its ability to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks.
Immorally, political NGOs are ignoring the most basic human rights of Israelis, as well as undermining Israel’s primary duty to ensure the safety of its civilians.
Organizations that claim to promote human rights values should be campaigning to reduce and eliminate the threat in the South, instead of preventing Israel from exercising the most basic human right – the right to life.
The author is the managing editor of NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org), a Jerusalem- based research organization.