OpinionIsrael at War

‘Human rights’ as a shield for hate

NGO networks and their involvement in the ICC and ICJ allegations against Israel.

Members of the South Africa delegation at the International Court of Justice on May 24, 2024. Credit: Bastiaan Musscher/U.N. Photo/ICJ-CIJ.
Members of the South Africa delegation at the International Court of Justice on May 24, 2024. Credit: Bastiaan Musscher/U.N. Photo/ICJ-CIJ.
Olga Deutsch
Olga Deutsch
Olga Deutsch is vice president of NGO Monitor.

As Israel fights a war on multiple fronts, it also faces growing aggression on the international stage, including politically motivated charges and cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

At the ICC, a request is pending for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. At the ICJ, a case brought by South Africa accuses Israel of genocide and has led to rulings asking Israel to limit its defensive military operations in Gaza.

At both courts, there is an effort to equate Israel and its democratically elected leaders with the terrorist organizations that carried out a horrendous attack on Israel on Oct. 7, massacring 1,200 Israelis, committing systematic sexual violence and taking more than 250 hostages. 

Such legal proceedings are putting the entire State of Israel and its legitimacy on trial before global public opinion. Eighty years after the Holocaust, we are back to defending Israel’s mere right to exist.

Both of these courts are supposed to act in the name of human rights and international law, but a closer look at the charades in both courts reveals the politicized character of these proceedings.

For years, the ICC has been lobbied by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that abuse the human rights agenda in their campaigns against Israel.

Major organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have devoted significant resources to lawfare campaigns against Israel at the United Nations and in the Hague, abusing their reputation and almost unlimited access to top-tier media. Their leading officials pressured all three ICC prosecutors to investigate Israeli citizens, but they were not alone in this campaign. 

In November 2023, NGOs based in Judea, Samaria and Gaza—Al-Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al-Mezan—demanded that the ICC “issue arrest warrants” against Israel “for war crimes and crimes of genocide.”

These organizations themselves are considerably less worried by the killing of Israeli civilians. All of them show clear ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., E.U., Israel and Canada, inter alia.

Raji Sourani, founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, served a three-year prison sentence in the early 1980s for his membership in the PFLP. In 2012, he was denied entry to the U.S. in this context.

Shawan Jabarin, director-general of Al-Haq, was convicted in 1985 for recruiting members to the PFLP and organizing PFLP training outside Israel. Almost 10 years later, Jabarin was arrested again for alleged PFLP links and placed in administrative detention for six months. The Israeli Supreme Court also found evidence of Jabarin’s PFLP activity in court cases in 2007, 2008 and 2009. However, in 2016, then-ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda agreed to meet with him.

Issam Younis, Al-Mezan’s director-general, chaired a meeting on Palestinian reconciliation organized by the International Commission for Human Rights in 2020. It was attended by representatives of several terrorist groups, including senior Hamas official Taher Al-Nunu and the PFLP leader in Gaza at the time, Rabah Muhanna.

Even more troubling, these three NGOs are directly and indirectly financed by Western governments through humanitarian and human rights aid budgets.

Al-Haq is an implementing partner in projects worth hundreds of thousands of euros that are supported by Sweden and France. Germany funded this organization through Weltfriedensdienst and Brot für die Welt.

PCHR received funds from the E.U. and Switzerland, ostensibly for projects promoting human and especially women’s rights in Gaza.

Again, violating human and women’s rights appears less concerning to these organizations when the victims are Israelis. They remain silent on the incidents of rape on Oct. 7 and in captivity in Gaza, attested to by Israeli civilians.

Only five days after the most murderous pogrom directed at Jewish people since the Holocaust, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan and PCHR issued a report calling upon the ICC prosecutor to “investigate Israeli crimes, in accordance with the Rome Statute, in particular the indiscriminate targeting of civilian homes and the killing of entire families, and to prosecute and hold accountable every individual who has carried out or ordered the commission of such crimes.”

Now, it seems, the court has complied.

NGOs also played a crucial part in South Africa’s accusations against Israel before the ICJ in January. Of the 574 footnotes and citations in South Africa’s submission to the ICJ, 45 refer to NGOs that do not conceal their political agenda—including Al-Haq, Al-Mezan and PCHR.

Moreover, all three NGO leaders—Younis, Jabarin and Sourani—were members of the South African delegation in The Hague. Dr. Susan Power, Al-Haq’s head of legal research and advocacy, even served as assistant counsel. 

These three organizations published unambiguous statements before the ICC and ICJ accusations. On Oct. 7 itself, PCHR’s Fundraising and Program Officer Feda’a Murjan posted on Facebook, “We will truly step in our land. Allah, you are our protector and supporter.”

On Oct. 10, Al-Haq’s Head of the Training and Capacity Building Unit Ziad Hmaidan wrote on Facebook: “It is written in the Hadith: ‘You must wage jihad. The best jihad is preparing for war, and it is best to prepare for war in Ashkelon.’” On Oct. 15, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan and PCHR published a joint statement on X claiming that “Palestinians are facing an impending genocide.” 

Instead of striving for transparency and an analysis of the situation on the ground with the tools of international law, the ICC and ICJ do nothing but take part in a politicized campaign. The ICC with its warrants and the ICJ’s continuing acceptance of South Africa’s Hamas-driven agenda have become instruments of antisemitic and terror-affiliated NGOs that abuse human rights and whose sole purpose is discrediting Israel’s right to exist, regardless of its borders. Instead of improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population, they engage in supporting terrorist actors. 

A global reaction to this misuse of humanitarian funds is still lacking. Humanitarian aid cannot be used as a shield for a hateful agenda—too much of it already has been. The international donor community must address the dissonance between its intentions to provide humanitarian aid and the policies it supports—directly and indirectly, knowingly and unknowingly—on the ground.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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