Gerald Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and heads the program
on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University. He is a member of the Board of
Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East _www.spme.net_
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The annual U.S. State Department report on human rights
are important in documenting systematic violations in Darfur, China, Iran,
Russia and elsewhere.
For this reason, the lack of credibility and professionalism reflected in
the chapter on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” in the publication for
2006 (released March 6) is particularly disturbing, and seriously undermines the
credibility of the rest of the report. While the State Department’s version
recognizes the context of terror and the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense,
and is far more balanced than the farcical United Nations reports, this
publication is still highly flawed.
The main reason is the almost total reliance on allegations made by the
large number of non-governmental organizations active in this conflict zone.
Instead of doing their own research on these complex human rights issues, the
authors of this report in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (on the Palestinians)
and in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (on Israeli actions) parrot the claims of
highly political NGOs.
Groups such as Adalah, Mossawa, HaMoked, B’Tselem, the Public Committee
Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Human Rights Watch are the real authors of
this chapter. With the exception of HRW, these NGOs are funded by European
governments, radical church groups and similar donors.
As NGO Monitor’s carefully referenced and detailed studies show, these NGOs
follow a highly politicized agenda that views the Palestinians as perennial
victims and Israel as guilty of “war crimes,” “racism” and “violations of
international law.” These organizations apply double standards that single out
and demonize Israel, following the strategy adopted at the infamous NGO Forum
of the 2001 U.N. Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.
This strategy includes false allegations of human rights abuses, selective
or distorted interpretations of international law and use of inflammatory
rhetoric. These groups cannot be considered “reputable international
organizations” or “credible NGOs,” as the State Department claims.
For example, the 2006 report includes numerous references to petitions
brought to the Israeli judicial system on behalf of Palestinian groups or
individuals by “reputable NGOs.” Many of these are dismissed — as in the case of
PCATI’s case against targeted killings aimed at Palestinian terrorist leaders —
but the main result is to influence public opinion by reinforcing the image
of Israel as guilty of “war crimes.”
The political biases that underlie these NGOs’ activities and distort their
factual claims and interpretations of international law are very visible.
Mossawa and Adalah routinely refer to Israel as “racist” and call for changing
the Israeli flag and national anthem, “abolishing the Jewish elements of
Israel” and implementing a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians claiming
And PCATI is the sole source for the State Department claim that the Israel
Security Agency used “torture” in 20 percent of its interrogations. No
evidence or sources are provided, and the report failed to note that members of
PCATI’s staff and board campaign for radical causes, such as the “Free Tali
Fahima” campaign. Fahima was convicted for assisting Zakaria Zubeidi, a
Palestinian terrorist and head of the Al-Aksa Brigades in Jenin.
HRW is another example of a powerful NGO that lacks credibility and balance
on Israel. The State Department report repeats HRW statements that “claimed
that between May 30 and June 20, IDF forces attacked Palestinian medical
emergency personnel on at least six separate occasions in Gaza, including two
attacks by missile-firing drone aircraft.”
HRW’s reports are based on “eyewitness testimony” of Palestinians and
selected journalists, and strip away both the context and the numerous examples in
which Palestinians have used medical vehicles and clothing in terror attacks.
HRW’s blatantly false reports during last summer’s war with Hezbollah,
including the claim to have found “no cases” of Hezbollah activity during its
investigations, further lower this organization’s credibility.
In many places, the language of the State Department report imitates the
rhetoric of the anti-Israel NGO network. Atomic spy Mordechai Vanunu is
incorrectly termed a “whistleblower,” adopting the term used by Amnesty International
and other groups. A “whistleblower” reveals illegal behavior by others,
while Vanunu acted illegally in revealing sensitive national security
information. Such actions are illegal under U.S. law, and the report’s characterization
reflects the double standards applied to Israel that have been copied from
These and other flaws in this report do not mean that Israel should be
immune from criticism for real violations of human rights when they occur. In
responding to terror, Israelis, Americans and others make mistakes and should be
But this objective is inconsistent with the exploitation of human rights for
demonization and political warfare by politicized NGOs, and the U.S. State
Department should not be part of this process.