NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS VERSUS ISRAEL
By Ben-Dror Yemini
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has historically attracted extraordinary, and largely disproportionate, international attention. Not because of its ferocity: The number of Palestinians killed by Israelis (and vice versa) over the past six decades is probably smaller than the 9,000 Muslim Bosnians massacred in Srebrenica in July, 1995, by their Serb and Croatian compatriots  and decidedly smaller than the death toll from other conflicts throughout the globe that range in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. 
Nor has this obsession been driven by humanitarian considerations. Not only is the Gaza Strip not in the throes of a deep crisis, but the humanitarian situation there is better than in some of the countries whose ships have been sent on occasion to break "the siege" of Gaza. Infant mortality in the Gaza Strip, for example, is 17.71 per thousand births compared to Turkey's 24.84 or the global average of 44; life expectancy in Turkey is 72.23 years whereas in Gaza it is 73.68, much higher than the global average of 66.12, not to mention such Arab or Islamic countries as Yemen (63.36), Sudan (52.52), or Somalia (50).  Even by more advanced indicators, such as personal computer use or Internet access, Gazans are in a much better position than many of the world's inhabitants.  In the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj iek, no Israel-lover by any stretch of imagination, "an average Congolese citizen would probably have sold his mother into slavery to be able to move to the West Bank." 
But, whatever its underlying causes, the intense international meddling in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, whether by governments or by NGOs, has become a major obstacle to the peaceful resolution of this century-long feud.
More specifically, the European Union as a whole and the European states individually finance a long list of associations dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that are part of a wider conglomerate seeking to perpetuate the conflict.  The political discourse has fundamentally changed, and this is no longer the era of peace organizations, but, rather that of human rights organizations, many of which are deeply involved in protecting Palestinian "rights."
Granted, there are Palestinian rights that deserve support and protection. But there are just as many false claims for rights that are designed to harm Israel and prevent reconciliation rather than improve the Palestinian condition. Foremost among them is "the right of return" the standard Arab and Palestinian euphemism for Israel's destruction through demographic subversion. For example, in an internal meeting in March, 2009, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged that the repatriation of even one million Palestinian refugees "would mean the end of Israel."  In fact, there is no such right. It does not exist; nor has it been recognized or implemented on the political level, virtually anywhere in the world, and certainly not as a tool to destroy an existing nation-state. Only last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a Greek demand for a "right to return" to the Turkish part of Cyprus, stating that there is no such absolute right.  But this does not prevent many groups from cultivating this destructive fantasy.
For argument's sake, imagine that PA President Abbas wishes to return to the negotiations table, and that news of an agreement leaks out. The broad contours of such an agreement would presumably be along the principles laid down by President Bill Clinton in December, 2000, (about 95 percent of the West Bank given to the Palestinians with Israeli compensation in kind for annexed territories; Jerusalem partitioned on a demographic basis; no return of refugees to Israel with the problem solved by an international effort) or the not-so-different Ehud Olmert proposals at the 2007 Annapolis summit, most of which were apparently accepted by the Palestinian leadership in the ensuing negotiations.  Would this breakthrough be welcomed by these NGOs? Hardly. A significant number of human rights groups will do precisely what they have been doing in previous years: They will conduct an international campaign against the agreement, claiming it "fails to address the basic rights of the Palestinian people," first and foremost, the "right of return."
These groups are part of a new empire an empire comprised of official, international bodies such as the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, the U.N. General Assembly, and the many "human rights" groups that voice a similar position. The automatic majority bloc of non-democratic, non-constitutional states in international bodies is a sad testament to the state of the world community; the identification of human rights organizations with this dark majority is a tragedy for world human rights. There is little discussion of the lack of human rights in such brutal dictatorships as Syria or Libya; but there is a disproportionate focus on Israel by these bodies,  which, in turn, creates the false impression that Israel, and not such states as Sudan or Iran (or North Korea for that matter), is the foremost threat to world peace.
How has this come to pass? The West finances an extensive network of NGOs with funding often going to projects feigning defense of human rights. In reality, the absolute majority of these groups has a radical, political agenda, which, at times, is not only anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, but also anti-West.  There are many in the West who hope that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will help resolve the wider conflict between East and West. This is an illusion. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban or al-Qa'ida terrorists would have difficulty finding Israel on the map.
Consider the Israeli-Arab groups Adalah  and Mossawa  both of which are openly opposed to Israel's existence as a Jewish state that is, to its very existence and support the "right of return." Or consider the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, headed by Jeff Halper, who roams the world lambasting not only Israel, but also "global capitalism." He has gone so far as to deride the 2002 Saudi peace proposal as an attempt "to placate the Arab street" and to accuse Arab leaders of seeking Israel's regional hegemony in order to tighten their grip over their oppressed masses.  Furthermore, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions publicly supports the "right of return" and the total boycotting of Israel. Yet this radical group is financed by the EU to the tune of 169,661 (US$232,198, for the years 2010-2012). 
On the Palestinian side, the Dutch government funds the militant website The Electronic Intifada,  whose cofounder, Ali Abunimah, considers PA President Abbas a "collaborator." Not surprisingly, Abunimah is fiercely opposed to the peace process, subscribing instead to the "one state solution"  the replacement of Israel by an Arab and Muslim state in which Jews would be reduced to a permanent minority as dhimmis, historically accorded a legally and socially inferior existence in Islam.
Likewise, the Ramallah-based Palestinian group al-Haq receives support from the Swedish, Dutch, and Canadian governments,  presumably to bolster its formal human rights agenda. Yet, this organization is openly committed to the "right of return,"  as is the Ramallah-based, Palestinian-run NGO Development Center. Funded by the World Bank and a string of European states, including France, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands, it disburses millions of dollars to Israeli and Palestinian associations, supposedly for the protection of human rights. But a glance at the list of the supported groups or their leaders readily reveals that most of them are also involved in political activism  including promotion of the "right of return" and many of them support the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This hydra-like BDS is supported by dozens of different organizations. The EU or individual Western states do not directly finance the movement, yet they fund numerous groups that subsidize and support it. What makes this matter particularly galling is that the ultimate goal of the BDS movement is not just the end of the Israeli "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza, but, rather, Israel's demise.  The leaders and members of the BDS movement travel around the world and speak on human rights, democracy, and equality. But behind this lip service to universal values underlie the same extremist objectives preached by al-Qa'ida, the Iranian Ayatollahs, or Hamas: rejection of the two-state solution and castigation of any Israeli-Palestinian cooperation or Palestinian concessions for the sake of peace, as collaboration with one of the world's worst ever regimes. As one of the movement's leaders, Omar Barghouti, candidly admitted: "The end of the occupation is not the end of our struggle."  Paradoxically, Barghouti is a student at Tel Aviv University, the same university he wishes to have boycotted.
 The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2004.
 This has also applied to the wider conflict between Israel and the Arab states. See Gunnar Heinsohn and Daniel Pipes, "Arab-Israeli Fatalities Rank 49th," FrontPage Magazine, Oct. 8, 2007.
 "Infant Mortality Rate," The World Factbook 2011, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), McLean, Va., accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
 "Life Expectancy at Birth," The World Factbook 2011, CIA, accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
 "Internet Users," The World Factbook 2011, CIA, accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
 "Violence and Left in Dark Times: Bernard-Henri-Levy and Slavoj iek," Intelligence2: The World of Debate, Sept. 16, 2008.
 Steven J. Rosen, "The Arab Lobby: The European Component," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2010, pp. 17-32.
 The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2011; see, also, Saeb Erekat, "The Returning Issue of Palestine's Refugees," The Guardian (London), Dec. 10, 2010.
 Demopoulos v. Turkey, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France, Mar. 1, 2010.
 Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), Jan. 24, 2011.
 See, for instance, Bat Ye'or, "Delegitimizing the Jewish State," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2011, pp. 3-14. It was only on January 26, 2011, after Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi had been slaughtering his subjects in full view of the world for some time, that Libya was expelled from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
 Gerald M. Steinberg, "NGOs Make War on Israel," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2004, pp. 13-25.
 "Adalah," NGO Monitor, Jerusalem, accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
 "About Mossawa," Mossawa, Haifa, accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
 Jeff Halper, "A Just Street or Apartheid?" Counterpunch, May 3, 2007; YouTube, "Peace in the Middle East: Jeff Halper speaks at UCI, Part 3 of 8," accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "Why BDS?" The Israeli Committee against House Demolition, Jerusalem, accessed Feb. 9, 2011; "Projects: Home Demolitions and the Law," Delegation of the European Union to Israel, Ramat Gan, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "Vragen en Antwoorden over Partnerorganisatie Electronic Intifada," Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Utrecht, Netherlands, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 Ali Abunimah, "Why Israel Won't Survive," The Electronic Intifada, Jan. 19, 2009; "One Country: A New Book from EI Cofounder Ali Abunimah," The Electronic Intifada, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "Donors for 2005/2006," al-Haq, Ramallah, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "A Joint Open Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly from Palestinian Human Rights Organizations," al-Haq, Ramallah, Oct. 1, 2009.
 "Human Rights and Good Governance Secretariat (HR/GG) NGO Grant Recipients 2010-2012," NGO Development Center, Ramallah and al-Rimal, Gaza, accessed Feb. 9, 2011; "Donors," idem, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "Palestinian United Call for BDS against Israel," Palestinian BDS National Committee, July 9, 2005.
 "Boycott Divestment Sanction Israel," YouTube, accessed Feb. 9, 2011.
 "Overview of European Governmental Funding for NGOs," NGO Monitor, Jerusalem, June 10, 2010.
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
Islamism & Jihadism -- Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
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International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Ben-Dror Yemini, a journalist and essayist, is currently serving as the Opinion-Editor of the Israeli daily newspaper, Maariv. His articles and essays have been published in Maariv, as well as in other journals and newspapers.
The foregoing article by Ben-Dror Yemini was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly, Spring, 2011, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (URL: http://www.meforum.org/2919/ngos-vs-israel)
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