How Objective Are Human Rights NGOs When it Comes to Israel?
© Photo : PixabayThe flag of Israel
© Photo : Pixabay
In 2020, the Jewish state was hailed as the world's most condemned country. Much of that criticism stemmed from local human rights groups and international bodies but an analyst says the real abusers have been largely overlooked.
Israel is no stranger to criticism. In 2021 it was blasted for its operation Guardian of the Walls that kicked off in May following a barrage of rockets that were launched by Hamas militants.
Then it was criticised for the violence that broke out in cities following the confrontation in Gaza. And, more recently, it was rebuked for its ongoing settlement activity in the West Bank.
Some of this criticism stems from Israeli human rights organisations such as Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem, and Gisha. Much of it also comes from international bodies, including various United Nations bodies, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Amnesty International.
The Roots of the Bias
Mitchell Bard, an American foreign policy analyst and author who specialises in US-Middle East policy, says this "bias" has been "consistent for many years now."
"There is a desire to fight for the underdogs and the Palestinians are seen as victims of a stronger neighbour," said the expert.
"[Also] there is an element of anti-Semitism [in these bodies] as Israel is singled out far more often than true human rights abusers," he added.
Both HRW and Amnesty International dedicate entire reports to the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2019, it was reported that the head of Amnesty devoted 70 percent of his tweets to the "illegal" acts of the Jewish state.
But the problem does not stop there, believes Bard. Over the years international human rights organisations have also been slammed for a lack of independence.
Amnesty International, for example, has been accused of bias against non-western countries, including Israel.
The Human Rights Watch has been condemned for releasing reports that are based primarily on Palestinian eyewitnesses testimony. It has been accused of suspecting anyone wearing a uniform, of relying on poor research and receiving information from elements that are hostile to Israel, like the militants of Hamas or various Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment groups.
Money Dictates Policies?
These groups' sources of income have also been questioned. NGO Monitor, an Israeli organisation that scrutinises the activities of such bodies, claims the funding of HRW has not been fully transparent.
Although the organisation doesn't accept any governmental funds, throughout the years it was revealed that it received a number of generous donations.
Some of those poured in from individual donors from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which don't maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
Those major investments have eventually borne fruit. In 2018, Israel became the most condemned country in the world at the UN General Assembly, with the international body passing at least 20 resolutions against the Jewish state.
"[These organisations] are very damaging to Israel because their reports are accepted by the media without any questions so their views are parrotted and amplified. [And the practical meaning of this is] that Israel's detractors can always point to their conclusions as supposedly objective to validate their opinions," argued Bard.
Such was the case with the HRW's false comparison of Israel to apartheid, with its claims that the Jewish state carried legal obligations to provide 4.5 million Palestinians with vaccines, or with their coverage of the conflicts with Gaza, where the attacks of Hamas have been overlooked, whereas the retaliation of the IDF has been harshly criticised.
However, the future doesn't look promising for Israel, thinks the author, primarily because it cannot do much to change the situation: "Israel can disseminate the facts but they are not always reported in the media. Frequently, government statements are deemed to have less credibility than the supposedly objective NGOs. Israel can expose their biases but they have a halo effect of the false image of neutrality."