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6 mai 2008 2 06 /05 /mai /2008 13:50
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"Human Rights" Internships that promote conflict, not education

 

Media coverage of this report:"American Internships in Israel Promote Extremism, Report Says," April 16, 2008, Chronicle of Higher Education, Matthew Kalman; and reply: "Internships with Radical NGOs Undermine Human Rights Education," Gerald Steinberg, April 16, 2008. See also "Education or advocacy? Internships cause a stir," Riham Feshir, Minnesota Daily, May 5, 2008.




        University programs that take place under the headings of “human rights” and “international law”, and include internships with highly politicized NGOs (non-governmental organizations) active in areas of violent conflict, often cross the boundary between education and advocacy. This problem is illustrated by two such academic programs involving activist NGOs operating in the Israeli-Palestinian zone – one under the auspices of the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem [1] , for students at the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), University of Denver; and the second program run by the Center for Global Education at George Mason University (Virginia). As shown in the detailed analysis below, the NGOs involved in these internship programs are systematically biased in promoting a pro-Palestinian political agenda, and present human rights and international law in a simplistic, partisan, and misleading manner, in which the environment of terrorism and asymmetric warfare is erased.[2] And in contrast to the role of critical thinking in the academic process, such internships within academic programs also adorn NGOs with an undeserved "halo effect", in contrast to the research on NGO deficiencies and failures.[3] As noted in this literature, “There is a widespread attitude that NGOs consist of altruistic people campaigning in the general public interest, while governments consist of self-serving politicians. … such an attitude should not be adopted as an unchallenged assumption…”. [4]

I) The Minerva summer program is organized through the CORD (Center on Rights Development), and is “open to all University of Denver undergraduate and graduate students, the 8-week program immerses participants in the political dynamics and human rights issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [5] In addition to standard academic courses, the program includes an “Internship with Israeli and Palestinian Human Rights Organizations”. Many of these NGOs are highly political and partisan, such as B'Tselem, Machsom Watch, ICAHD, and Adalah. These organizations promote a Palestinian narrative, and detailed analyses of activities and publications demonstrate that their human rights activities are secondary to political agendas that emphasize opposition to Israeli government policy. The officials of these NGOs often participate in conferences "in Support of the Palestinian People” and “Marking 40 Years of Occupation of Palestinian Territory” (Geneva 2007), and similar activities. None of the internships are with NGOs that focus on or include balanced emphasis the human rights issues involving Israeli victims of Palestinian violence.
        As documented in detail by NGO Monitor, ICAHD (the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions) actively promotes academic boycotts, publishes documents that refer to Israel using demonizing terms such as “apartheid”, and participates in conferences and campaigns that promote a radical pro-Palestinian position, such as those held by Sabeel. In an August 2007 conference, Jennifer Loewenstein from ICAHD referred to "Israeli crimes, including its bloody and sadistic actions in Gaza and its atrocities…." [6] And declared that "with every action, Palestine was becoming increasingly invisible, a non-entity for non-people." These are clearly partisan positions that are entirely outside the framework of universal human rights. In addition, ICAHD officials promote their political and ideological positions through presentations to groups such as "Birthright Unplugged" – a framework which presents itself as pro-Palestinian. In its campaigning against Israeli government policies related to construction issues, the accuracy of ICAHD's claims are widely challenged. [7]
        Similarly, Adalah is very active in anti-Israel activities in the United Nations, such as a July 2006 document sent to member states asking them to convene an emergency session to condemn Israel's construction of the security barrier. This submission, and calls for sanctions and boycotts, misleading refers to the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion as a "ruling" against the "wall" and omits any mention of the barrier's role in preventing terrorist attacks.
        Machsom Watch is also a partisan political organization, openly declaring its positions and objectives, and many of its media reports and claims have been shown to be inaccurate, unverifiable or false. Claims that security measures are employed by Israelis for the sole purpose of preventing the "'free passage of Palestinian residents between their villages and towns'" absurdly erase the context of mass terror.
        B’stelem, one of the most visible and powerful Israeli NGOs, acknowledges that prime objective is to "to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories", and its focus on human rights claims is the main means to that end, and not an end in itself. As a result, Palestinian violations of the human rights of Israelis, while occasionally condemned by B'tselem, are secondary. Detailed analyses have shown that this political orientation often results in distorted reports, particularly regarding Palestinian casualties which fail to distinguish between civilians and those involved in terrorism. In response to a May 2007 publication co-authored by B’tselem, the Israeli Ministry of Justice (MOJ) issued a nine page letter detailing the questionable methodology and lack of verifiable sources. The letter notes that the report is “fraught with mistakes, groundless claims and inaccuracies.”

II) George Mason University's "Israel Palestine Internship", led by Dr. Yehuda Lukacs, includes placements with highly politicized NGOs, including some that are active in the BDS -- boycott, divestment and sanctions -- program. The list of NGOs from the summer 2007 program includes the following:

  1. I'LAM -- Palestinian Media Advocacy Center – (based in Nazareth) - This NGO has a long record of anti-Israel campaigning, including a steady barrage of press statements and reports using the language of demonization ("racist", "collective punishment", etc.) in condemning Israeli responses to Palestinian terror, while ignoring the Palestinian violence. [8] In the February 2008 "Israel Apartheid Week" Conference at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Haneen Zoubi, General Director of I'lam, spoke in a panel entitled "Media and Normalising Israeli Apartheid".
  2. Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) - Nazareth - Like I'lam, HRA often engages in anti-Israel campaigning, using the language of demonization with terms such as "apartheid". [9] During the 2006 Lebanon War [10], HRA issued a press statement (July 31, 2006) entitled 'Israel's war crimes, massacres and blatant breaches of international law continue unhindered in Lebanon and Gaza." The press release refers to "violent massacres" and "collective punishment" (with no mention of Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israeli cities, or of Hamas terrorist attacks and its prior kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit). Such ideological and political agendas are clearly incompatible with the universality of human rights norms.
  3. Mossawa Center - The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel - Haifa – Mossawa often issues reports characterizing Israel as a "racist" and non-democratic State. In November 25-December 1, 2006, Mossawa held a conference on "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," branding Israel as an “ethnocratic state” which “cannot be defined as democratic,” and repeating the claim that only “Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous people of the country.” Mossawa was also a party to a joint NGO submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which characterizes Palestinians as “indigenous” while branding Jews as “colonizers” and claims that Israel engaged in "forced expulsions" of the indigenous population. The submission, joined by radical NGOs Badil, ICAHD, and Al Haq, included a pseudo-academic article that compares the State of Israel to Nazi Germany.
  4. Amnesty International - This international superpower has become one of the leading NGOs involved in anti-Israel campaigning, as highlighted in its numerous biased statements during the 2006 Lebanon War. In January 2008, Amnesty issued a statement headlined, "Winograd Commission Report Disregards Israeli War Crimes", which greatly distorted the content of this document, particularly the chapter on international law. Amnesty has also abused international law by denouncing Israeli responses to Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza as "collective punishment" and in similar ways.
Such political campaigning by unaccountable NGOs is antithetical to academic norms and standards of conduct, and such internships are inappropriate in an educational framework. Furthermore, the role of universities in the exploitation of the rhetoric of human rights further degrades these important universal norms. NGO Monitor urges the heads of the Minerva Center, its funding organizations, the Hebrew University, the University of Denver GSIS, and George Mason University to end such biased internships, and to appoint an independent committee to review this and similar activities.

---
[1] Funders include The Minerva Foundation and The Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), The Ford Foundation and The New Israel Fund, The United States Institute of Peace, The European Commission, and others.

[2] For broader academic analysis of tendency to remove the context of terrorism in human rights discussions, see Robert Charles Blitt, "Who Will Watch the Watchdogs? Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations and the Case for Regulation," Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, Volume 10 (2004); and Don Habibi, "Human Rights and Politicized Human Rights: A Utilitarian Critique," Journal of Human Rights (Volume 6, Issue 1), January 2007, pages 3 - 35

[3] M. Edwards & D. Hulme, Beyond the Magic Bullet: NGO Performance and Accountability in the Post-Cold War World, 1996; Gerald M. Steinberg, “Soft Powers Play Hardball: NGOs Wage War against Israel”, Israel Affairs, 12:4 October 2006 pp. 748-768

[4] Peter Willetts, introduction to ‘The Conscience of the World’: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UN System, Peter Willets, ed., Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1996; see also Willetts, “The Impact of Promotional Pressure Groups in Global Politics,” in Pressure Groups in the Global System: The Transnational Relations of Issue-Oriented Non-Governmental Organizations Peter Willets, ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 1982.

[5] http://www.du.edu/gsis/programs/jerusalem

[6] United Nations International Civil Society Conference Ends with Call to Oppose Israeli Military Operations

[7] Justus Weiner, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 2003

[8] See NGO Monitor's analysis of I'lam

[9] "Proposal for Population Exchanges: Land Exchanges and the Future of the Palestinian Minority in Israel"

[10] Amnesty and HRW Claims Discredited in Detailed Report, NGO Monitor, December 28, 2006

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