Op-Ed: NGO's Against Israel: Interview with Gerald Steinberg
“Among Israel’s many attackers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the least subject to external monitoring. These anti-Israel NGOs claim to promote human rights and humanitarian aid, yet are characterized by a lack of professionalism and a post-colonial ideological agenda. In some cases, theological anti-Semitism is an additional factor.
“The research organization NGO Monitor has documented anti-Israel acts for a number of major NGOs in detail. This includes the Israel-related activities of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and many other organizations.”
Professor Gerald Steinberg teaches political science and international relations at Bar Ilan University. He has headed NGO Monitor since its founding in 2002. It is the only independent research framework which systematically examines the claims, and challenges the power of the NGO political network.
Steinberg says: “One can monitor the bias of NGOs objectively. One quantitative method is counting the number of pages, individual reports, press conferences and other similar measures over the past decade devoted to various subjects. The research shows a huge discrepancy between the frequent condemnations of Israel and lesser attention paid to closed dictatorial regimes, or to other countries involved in violent conflicts.
“There are also qualitative methods. Anti-Israel NGOs prefer to use a certain language to attack Israel. This includes terms such as ‘war crimes,’ ‘collective punishment,’ ‘impunity’ and so on. They use these much less against other countries. This highlights the violation of universal principles of human rights by these NGOs.
“Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, (HRW) Oxfam and various church-based international aid groups based in Europe are very well funded. They therefore exercise much political power. These NGOs are also the worst offenders of the moral principles they falsely claim to promote. HRW hired people to run its Middle East and North Africa division who are profoundly stained by a history of crude anti-Israel bias. NGO Monitor has documented this frequently.
“These NGOs have taken over major international platforms in the spheres of human rights and humanitarian aid. Many European governments outsource these activities by providing large sums of money, with little supervision over private ‘charities’ and NGOs. In addition, journalists, academics and other members of the ‘foreign policy elite’ are often closely involved with such organizations, or accept their claims and agendas without question. In 2002, Amnesty ‘expert’ Derek Pounder told the BBC that he could confirm a huge Jenin ‘massacre’ committed by the Israeli Defense Forces. The myth he created was only exposed after it had been repeated hundreds of times and the damage to Israel was done.
“Furthermore, diplomats and politicians in the United Nations often abdicate their responsibility in dealing with complex human rights claims to NGOs. They rely on them for drafts of speeches, reports and other services. One particularly egregious case was the 2009 Goldstone report on the Gaza war. Journalists often tend to copy NGO press releases without any independent examination of the factual claims or pseudo-legal arguments.
“In the most blatant cases of NGO bias against Israel, there are four factors.
"First, officials at the head of international NGOs are often tainted by a strong anti-Western post-colonial ideology. Since 1967, they have assigned Israel to the nationalist and capitalist Western camp, which is by definition, guilty.
"A second reason that NGOs focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it is ever-present in the media. This helps their marketing strategy by giving them visibility in the competition for funds and influence.
“A third factor is that the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is controlled by Arab and Islamic blocs. To be seen as having influence there, NGOs must toe the ‘political line,’ which means an intense anti-Israel position.
" The fourth factor is classic Christian theological anti-Semitism and replacement theology. These are prominent in U.K.-based NGOs such as War on Want, Christian Aid, and Amnesty. They are also found in the activities of church-based humanitarian aid groups in Scandinavia and Ireland.
“These powerful organizations are difficult to defeat. Yet NGO Monitor has shown in a number of important cases that success is possible. To mention a few examples:
"In 2009, our detailed refutation of unfounded NGO allegations at the core of the Goldstone report led its author to disavow his own publication.
"HRW founder Robert Bernstein denounced this organization after NGO Monitor systematically exposed the deeply biased agenda of its Middle East and North Africa Division and HRW’s efforts to raise money from members of the Saudi elite while ignoring that regime’s severe human rights abuses.
“Furthermore, NGO Monitor’s reports on the destructive contribution from funders of these organizations – such as the New Israel Fund and European governments – have led them to gradually end their support for the most egregious NGOs involved in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as well as other hate-based activities against Israel. Similar monitoring is or could be applied to many other Israel-hate organizations outside of the NGO field.”