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An Eye on the Haters By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 05, 2006

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Gerald Steinberg, the founder and editor of NGO Monitor, a website that promotes critical debate and accountability of human rights non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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FP: Gerald Steinberg, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Steinberg: Thank you.

FP: Tell us about a bit about NGO Monitor and your mission.

Steinberg:  NGO Monitor was formed following the September 2001 UN Conference on Racism (the “Durban conference”), and the realization that the network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were distorting and exploiting universal human rights norms to pursue a narrow anti-Israel and anti-democracy agenda.  These NGOs largely ignored the profound impact of terrorism on human rights, and the need for moral priorities, beginning with the right to life. 
When we began to try and examine how these agendas were set, we found that the hundreds of very powerful NGOs, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid (UK), and Medecins Sans Frontieres, as well as dozens based in the Palestinian Authority, with very large budgets, do not practice transparency (to understate the case), and their activities and credibility have not been subject to any form of monitoring of their objectivity and accuracy.  NGO Monitor was founded to fill this vacuum, particularly with respect to the Middle East, and to apply a single standard to all human rights issues.  
FP: Why do these NGOs pursue their anti-Israel and anti-democracy agenda? What motivates them?


Steinberg: The officials who control the activities and agendas of political NGOs -- both the superpowers such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Christian Aid, etc. -- are often low-level politicians who exploit the huge budgets provided to non-governmental organizations (particularly from Europe), they have access to PR and influence, without the burden of accountability. 


NGOs also provide powerful vehicles to promote extremist post-colonial, post-nationalist, and basically anti-Western and anti-democratic ideologies.  Many NGO officials have a visceral hostility to Israel and the US, sometimes resulting from personal psychological factors and in other cases, because this provides them with quick and easy access to funds, media attention, and they are able to bring in others with similar agendas and interests. 


For example, at HRW, Kenneth Roth used his power to hire Joe Stork, who had previously promoted extremist pro-PLO policies at MERIP, and, more recently, Lucy Meir, who wrote crude Palestinian propaganda for the Electronic Intifada.  Similarly, the board of Christian Aid (a powerful NGO based in London) includes members of the Anglican hierarchy who promote a consistent anti-Israel and at times anti-Semitic agenda (as in their 2004 "Child of Bethlehem" Christmas campaign), who also have close links to Naim Atik, a major purveyor of Palestinian rejectionism through an NGO known as Sabeel.  George Galloway, the pro-Saddam politician from Scotland is one of the prime movers behind War on Want, another viciously anti Israel and anti-democratic NGO that also exploits the rhetoric of human rights.  And his Belgium equivalent, Pierre Galand, used his position as head of Oxfam Belgium to gain media attention, parlaying this into an appointment to the Belgian Senate, where is able to promote his extremist agenda with even greater access and resources. And there are dozens of additional examples.


FP: Illuminate for us some of the ways NGOs play a role in exploiting human rights to promote hatred and justify terrorism. 


Steinberg: The primary target audience for NGO Monitor is the “human rights community”, beginning with officials of the major NGOs, donors, diplomats, journalists and academics.  For this core group, the objective is to demonstrate the degree to which the norms of universal human rights are being distorted and destroyed through the politicized agendas and biased reports. 


For example, NGO Monitor's analysis on the ways in which Amnesty International distorts domestic violence against Palestinian women to demonize Israel (August 2005).


Another example is the NGO Monitor report demonstrating the extreme imbalance in the stream of reports issued by Human Rights Watch between 2001 and 2005 add link.  In addition, NGO Monitor is designed to reach general audiences interested in human rights, international events, and the Middle East

NGO Monitor publishes an average of 4 reports monthly, covering specific NGOs and their activities plus a monthly digest with additional links, correspondence and summaries.  Over 90 NGOs and funding groups have been targeted in the reports, with greater emphasis on the NGOs with the greatest political impact (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, International Commission of Jurists, Oxfam, etc.) as well as funders such as the Ford Foundation, the European Union, USAID, Swiss Development, etc.  These publications are also emailed to over 7,300 addresses, including journalists, foundations, individual donors, NGO officials, diplomats, academics etc

As a direct result of NGO Monitor reports, Kenneth Roth and his hand-picked friends that run Human Rights Watch have been forced to alter their allocation of resources away from the obsessive focus on allegations of Israeli violations of human rights, and the repetition of the Palestinian political agenda.  In the first half of 2005, major reports and press conferences targeting only Israel decreased, and HRW announced plans to hire new researchers with expertise in other fields, indicating a continuing shift towards balance in HRW’s activities. 

In Britain, NGO Monitor's reports have highlighted Christian Aid’s extremist anti-Israel and anti-American political agenda.  As a result of the media reports based on NGO Monitor, Christian Aid has been increasing seen as antiSemitic, including the 2004
"Child of Bethlehem" campaign. CA officials were placed on the defensive for the first time, and, in an effort to prevent repetition of "past controversies", have agreed to consult with British Jewish organizations. 


FP: Tell us a bit about the domestic violence against Palestinian women and how Amnesty International distorts the reality to blame Israel.

Steinberg: Like the other NGOs, Amnesty uses most of its funding to promote major "reports" and public relations campaigns, and the topics are chosen on the basis of trendiness and media impact.  The Amnesty report issue on March 31 2004 is a good example highlighting the lack of research, and the exploitation of violence against women to demonize Israel.  This report, headlined
"Israel and the Occupied Territories: Conflict, occupation and patriarchy - Women carry the burden", patronizingly denied Palestinian society the maturity to act responsibly, instead blaming Israeli policies for domestic violence against women.  Referring to "Life under siege" and all but ignoring Palestinian terrorism and the impact on Israeli women and families, Amnesty repeated the standard propaganda lines. The authors of this report condemned Israeli measures as "disproportionate and discriminatory - they are imposed on all Palestinians because they are Palestinians, and not on Israeli settlers who live illegally in the Occupied Territories...They are broad and indiscriminate in their application and as such are unlawful." 


Lacking an independent research capability, Amnesty relied on sources that are either politically biased or simply unreliable. The report, for example, quotes the highly politicized Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which claims that "the rate of survival of breast cancer patients in the Gaza Strip is only 30-40%, compared to 70-75% in Israel", ignoring the obvious differences between the advanced medical facilities of Israel and those of the Palestinian Authority irrespective of conflict conditions. Many of the allegations cite anonymous Palestinians, and photos and quotes are provided by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Palestine Monitor, neither of which can be considered credible.  The absurd claims of an anonymous "Head of Palestinian Police Investigations in a West Bank town" are repeated at face value: "The Israeli army comes into the town every day, killing and abducting people, destroying houses and so on… So how can we help people there?"  The focus on Palestinian women was only a facade for further political attacks on Israel.


FP: Gerald Steinberg, thank you for visiting us today. You are doing crucial work in exposing these destructive agendas of NGOs. Keep up the great work.


Steinberg: And thank you for providing a much needed platform for exposing their agendas. There is a great deal of work still to be done.


Previous Interviews:


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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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