Netanyahu Takes His Siege Against Human Rights NGOs to the US
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NGO Monitor legal advisor Anne Herzberg was featured prominently at the conference. During a panel discussion, she accused the European Union of “pouring hundreds of millions into these NGO’s…that are actually in favor of a one-state solution.” Without naming those NGO’s or explaining why accepting foreign money was such a crime, Herzberg boasted of suing human rights groups to force them disclose their donors. She accused Israeli NGO’s like B’tselem of causing “a breach of sovereignty” against Israel by contributing data to the Goldstone Report — an insinuation that Israeli human rights workers were traitors.
An NGO Monitor report was distributed to conference attendees identifying groups supposedly promoting “post-colonial ideology” as “anti-state,” “anti-democracy” and “anti-American.” The report identified NGO Monitor’s top targets: the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al-Haq. Al-Haq was singled out because, along with a staffer from the Israeli group B’Tselem, it filed an expert opinion in the case to move a section of the separation wall annexing thousands of acres of farmland from the Palestinian town of Bil’in to a nearby Jewish settlement.
The attack on Al Haq highlights part of NGO’s Monitor’s not-so-hidden agenda: to allow the settler movement to usurp land in the West Bank without limitations. As Didi Remez reported, NGO Monitor has partnered with the Institute for Zionist Strategies, led by Yisrael Harel, who helped to found the Gush Emunim settler movement and lives in the religious nationalist settlement of Ofra. Remez also pointed out that NGO Monitor has made no demand for financial transparency from pro-settler organizations which are also engaged in what it would call “lawfare.”
NGO Monitor has also targeted US-based human rights group. It has gone after Human Rights Watch on the basis of the group’s contribution of reporting to the Goldstone Report and because Goldstone was at one point a HRW board member. The Center for Constitutional Rights was singled out because its founder, Michael Ratner, went on the recent Viva Palestina mission with Code Pink. None of the factual documentation these groups released was challenged by the NGO Monitor report or in Herzberg’s presentation. Instead, the groups and their leadership are being targeted with a scattershot of accusations that recall McCarthyism in its crudest form.
As a consequence of his zeal, NGO Monitor director Gerald Steinberg was hauled into an Israeli court this month and forced to apologize for claiming a Palestinian human rights group “justified violence.” Yossi Alpher, a former advisor to Ehud Barak, has condemned Steinberg’s activities, writing that NGO Monitor “seems dead set on eliminating human rights monitoring of Israel entirely and smearing anyone who supports this vital activity.”
The NGO Monitor report and the speakers at the Lawfare Project event expressed alarm about the effectiveness of the global BDS movement and its success in exposing apartheid practices in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Speaker Richard Heidemann, the Honorary Chairman of B’nai Brith, said that the fight against BDS was essential to the Lawfare Project. “We have to stand up against slander, we have to stand up against boycott,” he proclaimed. “If you were accused of apartheid, wouldn’t you consider taking action?” However, he proposed no specific measures or tactics other than making vehement statements.
Francois-Henri Briard, a conservative French attorney, voiced his outrage that the BDS movement had successfully pressured the French company Veolia to pull out of an Israeli light rail project that would have connected illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem. He called the initiative against the rail line “an attack on Israeli sovereignty” even though it specifically targeted the settlement enterprise across the Green Line.