The European Union’s Subcommittee on Human Rights on Monday heard expert testimony from two terror-affiliated NGOs, despite having been made aware in advance of the organizations’ problematic histories.
The session, titled, “Exchange of views on the situation of children in Gaza,” heard testimony from Issam Younis, director general of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, as well as from Jason Lee, Save the Children’s local country director.
According to Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, both organizations have a history of anti-Israel distortion.
“Our concern is when elected officials solicit information from organizations that have terrorist affiliations, this elevates and promotes such organizations, but also ensures that these officials get very biased and distorted information,” said Yona Schiffmiller, head of research at NGO Monitor.
While linkages between the E.U. Parliament and terror-affiliated groups were nothing new, added Schiffmiller, “It is still important to address it and try to prevent it whenever possible.”
To that end, the research institute sent a letter to the subcommittee warning of the organizations’ unethical affiliations.
“Based on detailed evidence, committee members should be alarmed by the obviously false claims, omissions and distortions that will likely characterize the presentations,” the letter stated.
The letter goes on to document how Al-Mezan has collaborated with and given a platform to E.U.-designated terrorist organizations including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
It also notes that Al-Mezan is the leading NGO signatory to the petition against Israel filed to the International Criminal Court.
According to NGO Monitor, in March of 2023, Nafez al-Madhoun, a board member of Al-Mezan, participated in an event organized by the Hamas-affiliated International Center for Law Studies. Speakers included Hamas political bureau members Mahmoud al-Zahar and Musa Abu Marzouq, and Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council member Mohammed Faraj Al-Ghoul.
Madhoun also served for 10 years as director general of the Hamas-controlled PLC, the letter notes.
He has on many occasions denied Israel’s right to exist, saying at one Al-Mezan workshop for example that “this entity [Israel], by its nature, is temporary … It does not have a territory nor sovereignty, and its existence is contrary to international law decisions … It is forbidden that anyone forgives even an inch of Palestine to the occupation.”
Furthermore, the letter notes, in 2015 Al Menza hosted a conference in Gaza featuring a panel titled, “The Vision of the Palestinian Factions,” and featuring Hamas, PIJ and PFLP representatives. Al-Mezan’s description of the event included these organizations as legitimate participants.
NGO monitor also brought forth concerns regarding Save the Children, citing the example of a 2018 workshop it sponsored with other partners at the Dar al Huda kindergarten in Gaza.
A week after that workshop, the kindergarten hosted a graduation event that included “the mock killing and kidnapping of Israelis by children dressed as combatants. The simulation included sophisticated equipment such as drones, body cameras, military fatigues, body armor, and sniper camouflage. Children wore Palestinian Islamic Jihad headbands,” the letter states.
Despite being made aware of these facts, the Subcommittee on Human Rights went ahead with the testimony, and also failed to respond to the letter, according to NGO Monitor.
During his testimony, Younis made a number of false and distorted claims about the conflict in Gaza, the institute told JNS. He claimed for example that Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip are unrelated to terrorist activity in the enclave.
“Before Hamas and after Hamas Israel has destroyed homes and families; this phenomenon has nothing to do with terror,” said Younis. “The goal of the Gaza blockade has nothing to do with security, it is exclusively to isolate Gaza and to fragment the territory,” he added.
“The occupation is the only factor responsible for all the deaths, saying otherwise is victim blaming,” he continued.
He further misrepresented a number of statistics during his presentation, going so far as to inflate the number of Jews living in Judea and Samaria by 50%, according to NGO Monitor.
Subcommittee chairman Udo Bullman of Germany thanked Younis for his testimony, saying, “We know that you give us a clear picture of the situation in the occupied territories, and especially of the children.”
Jason Lee’s testimony was more focused on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and less overtly political, according to NGO Monitor. However, he too called for “enforcement of consequences for [Israel’s] violations in international law and the rights of children,” and did not respond when questioned by representative Dietmar Koster of Germany about the impact of Gaza rocket fire on Israeli children living near the border with the Gaza Strip.