Opinion

Support for terrorism is not human-rights advocacy

Those who justify violence cannot be allowed to masquerade as human rights defenders.

Palestinian terrorists in Jenin, Feb. 14, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Palestinian terrorists in Jenin, Feb. 14, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Yona Schiffmiller. Credit: Courtesy.
Yona Schiffmiller
Yona Schiffmiller is director of research at NGO Monitor.

The following is an adaptation of my June 2022 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations on the subject of “Responding to Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Bias in the U.N., Palestinian Authority and NGO Community.” My testimony seems particularly salient in the context of the current IDF operation against terrorist infrastructure in Jenin. 

The increase in Palestinian violence in 2023 has exposed the attitude towards terrorism adopted by European-government funded NGOs, despite their professed dedication to the cause of “universal human rights.”

This phenomenon is exemplified by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al-Haq, based in Ramallah.

These two European-backed NGOs are among the architects of high-profile anti-Israel efforts, successfully lobbying for the U.N. to create a blacklist of companies operating beyond the 1949 Armistice Line—including American firms. They also promoted the opening of an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Israel. Al-Haq in particular is one of the leading actors seeking to apply the apartheid label to Israel, and defines the Jewish state as inherently illegitimate.

In May 2023, as Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations launched over 1,200 rockets towards Israeli population centers—each one a war crime—PCHR published a statement in which it “affirms the Palestinian people to resist the occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

Under pressure from donors, this text was amended.

Statements by PCHR’s board members and officials at Al-Haq and other NGOs reveal that such attitudes are pervasive in Palestinian civil society.

In a Facebook post published during the May fighting, PCHR board member Nadia Abu Nahla referred to Israel as the “Nazi criminal occupation,” adding, “May the resistance”—a euphemism for Palestinian terrorist organizations—“have victory.”

Following a Jan. 26 IDF operation in Jenin, in which 10 Palestinians—mostly armed members of terrorist organizations—were killed in a gun battle, she wrote, “Oh, he who guides the blood vengeances, may you guide our blood vengeance.”

Two days later, seven Israeli civilians were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist outside a Jerusalem synagogue. In an interview two days later, Mkhaimar Abusada, the deputy chair of PCHR’s board of directors, said that Palestinians are not prevented “from taking revenge against the massacres that are occurring in Palestine.” He added, “The flame of Palestinian resistance shall not end, but continue as long as there is occupation, settlement and Judaization.”

Importantly, PCHR board member Jaber Wishah travelled to Lebanon in 2013, where he met with Hezbollah operatives. While there, he declared, “We must establish a strategy to confront this Zionist enemy based on the use of force so that this enemy understands well that the Arab and Muslim nations are decisive.”

Al-Haq officials have also legitimized attacks on Israeli civilians.

Following the massacre outside the Jerusalem synagogue in January, Al-Haq legal researcher and advocacy officer Aseel Al-Bajeh wrote, “Why are settlers allowed to be in occupied Jerusalem, a war crime that the world recognizes?” She said elsewhere, “Forcing Palestinians to defend their right to resist is another complicity with Israel’s colonialism.”

On June 21, she posted, “Shedding Palestinian blood & destroying entire families and futures is Zionism.” This was accompanied by pictures of Palestinians killed in clashes with the IDF that week, including two Hamas members who murdered four Israeli civilians at a restaurant and adjacent gas station, and three members of Islamic Jihad killed after they opened fire at an Israeli border crossing.

Unfortunately, these NGOs have long been funded and feted by European governments.  In recent years, Al-Haq has received grants from the E.U., as well as the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

PCHR has received funding from the E.U. and the governments of Switzerland and Norway, as well as U.N. agencies.

Just weeks ago, Raji Sourani—who has been publicly celebrated by the U.S. and EU-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—was hosted by Dutch government officials for consultations in the Netherlands.

In addition to funding by European governments, both organizations are relied upon by U.N. agencies and mechanisms, and have interacted directly with the ICC.

Organizations like these, of which there are unfortunately many more, should be expelled from the policy-making community. They should not be funded or consulted with, nor should their publications be cited in official documents. Governments, U.N. frameworks and international legal bodies, as well as ESG firms and other corporate actors, should shun these groups and implement effective vetting measures that ensure no likeminded actors are supported or their reporting relied upon in the future.

For over 20 years, organizations that oppose Jewish self-determination and seek to isolate and ultimately dismantle the Jewish state have learned that adopting the language of human rights and international law is the most effective strategy for achieving their goals. Those justifying violence cannot be allowed to masquerade as human rights defenders.

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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