'Activists should portray Israel as undemocratic'

NGO Monitor accuses human rights groups of undermining Israel’s justice system; Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch cited.

Boycott Israel 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Boycott Israel 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A new NGO Monitor report published on Sunday accuses pro-Palestinian organizations of seeking to undermine the legitimacy of Israeli courts and investigatory bodies in an effort to internationally isolate Israel and paint it as an antidemocratic state.
According to the report, titled “Rule of Law and Due Process: NGO Campaigns to Discredit the Israeli Justice System,” groups such as Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, FIDH (France), Badil, and DCI-PS, all of which receive funding from European governments, have been pursuing this strategy at the UN and the International Criminal Court to in hopes of charging Israeli officials of war crimes.
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“Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have joined these efforts, with allegations that Israeli investigations, in particular, the Turkel Commission on the May 2010 ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla, lack independence and transparency,” the report said.
Central to the report was a quote by Hassan Jabareen, executive director of the Arab legal advocacy group Adalah, who in 2008 suggested at a conference in Sweden that activists “should try to portray Israel as an inherent undemocratic state” and “use that as part of campaigning internationally.”
Since then, NGOs have implemented inflammatory campaigns against Israel, especially its Supreme Court and military justice system. Some of these campaigns, the report claims, have gone so far as to advocate sabotaging the High Court by flooding it with petitions in the hope of obstructing its functioning and resources.
The report states that Jabareen also filed an expert opinion on behalf of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a lawsuit filed by the group in Spain. That case sought the arrest and imprisonment of seven Israeli officials for alleged war crimes arising out of the killing of a senior Hamas terrorist, Salah Shehadeh.
“Jabareen’s opinion claimed that the High Court of Justice had engaged in misuse of the judicial process in reviewing the Shehadeh operation. It also alleged that, following Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, there was a ‘lack of impartiality of the Israeli legal system towards Palestinians and the lack of an effective remedy before Israeli courts for Palestinians in Gaza.’”
It also highlighted NGO attacks on the credibility and independence of Israeli investigations. The report quotes officials from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as saying that “Israel’s investigations have lacked independence, appropriate expertise and transparency” and “Israel’s investigations have fallen far short of international standards for investigations.”
“It is important to note,” the report said, “that just because Amnesty International and HRW do not agree with the results of Israeli investigations, does not mean that credible investigations have not occurred or that due process has been violated. Indeed, it is surprising that organizations which frequently demand strict adherence to the standards of due process, proclaim Israeli officials and soldiers guilty of ‘war crimes’ and other criminal conduct simply prior to any investigation or judicial process.”
The NGO Monitor report argues that, for the most part, claims made by these groups are rejected by courts around the world, which hold the Israeli justice system in high regard. It cites decisions by courts in Spain, the UK and the US, all rejecting petitions aimed at undermining the Israeli judiciary.
Anne Herzberg, legal advisor for NGO Monitor, pointed to Judge Richard Goldstone’s famous retraction op-ed in the Washington Post – where he expresses full trust in the Israeli courts – as an example of how the country’s justice system is seen by legal experts, even those who are critical of Israel’s policies and actions.
The report ends by calling on the groups to cease attacking Israeli due process and adopt fair and balanced due process measures in their own activities.
In response to the report, Adalah issued a statement saying its job was to “pass criticism on the authorities and identify the places where injustice or discrimination exists.”
“Under this mandate,” the statement continued, “Adalah criticizes the state and sometimes also the justice system. That said, the very fact that the group operates to ensure minority rights by legal tools, means that it is interested in strengthening the courts and the rule of law in Israel. It is no coincidence that Adalah, together with other organizations, has come out against any body who has tried to infringe on the independent status of the High Court.”
The statement added that “It is worth reminding the authors of the [NGO Monitor] report that democracy cannot function without minority rights and without active human rights organizations and that it is those who attempt to portray civil society groups as enemies who harm democracy and the rule of law.”
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International failed to respond to the report.