OpinionIsrael at War

NGO Gaza lawsuits exploit Western courts and help Hamas

It’s time to expose these cases as corrupt and exploitative attempts to delegitimize Israel.

The International Court of Justice courtroom at The Hague. Photo by Ankor Light/Shutterstock.
The International Court of Justice courtroom at The Hague. Photo by Ankor Light/Shutterstock.
Anne Herzberg
Anne Herzberg
Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.

Duly constituted courts are meant to uphold the rule of law and protect democratic values. Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, however, NGOs that claim to promote human rights have not been working to hold the Palestinian perpetrators accountable. Instead, they are exploiting Western courts in order to protect those perpetrators.

In the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere, these NGOs have filed lawsuits seeking rulings or injunctions that will block allied military support for Israel. These actions are unlikely to succeed on the merits, but they do serve to legitimize terrorist propaganda and influence public opinion to Israel’s detriment.

Such “lawfare” seeks to achieve by legal means military objectives that cannot be attained on the battlefield. In its fight against Hamas, Israel has military superiority and broad Western support. The NGOs responsible for filing these lawsuits seek erode this support by persuading the courts to force their governments to halt weapons shipments and aid to Israel.

The lawsuits are also an attempt to declare Israeli officials guilty of war crimes against Palestinians. In other words, they are solely intended to hamper Israel’s ability to fight and win the war against Hamas and other Iranian terror proxies. They having nothing to do with the law; they are a weapon.

It is not surprising, then, that the groups behind the lawsuits have long promoted discriminatory BDS campaigns. Moreover, some are closely affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which the countries where these suits have been filed have designated a terror organization. PFLP operatives participated in the Oct. 7 atrocities and are reported to be holding Israeli hostages.

A paradigmatic example of such lawfare is a suit against the U.S. government filed on Nov. 13 by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of two PFLP-affiliated NGOs: the Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and Al-Haq. The filing makes multiple false claims of war crimes and alleges that President Joe Biden and others are complicit in these non-existent crimes.

The complaint further demands that the court stop the U.S. government from funding, aiding or cooperating militarily with Israel, including by supplying weapons and equipment. The filing declares that its intention is to prevent “the unfolding genocide of Palestinian people in Gaza.” Besides the outrageous claims made against President Biden, the egregious charge of “genocide” is not only blatantly false, but a deplorable inversion of the real genocidal violence carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The lawsuit goes so far as to whitewash Hamas, calling it “a political party” made up largely of civilians. It dismisses the participation of thousands of Hamas terrorists in the Oct. 7 massacre as a small rogue element. It ignores that Israeli military actions in Gaza are not undertaken to harm Palestinians but are specifically aimed at preventing further mass terror attacks, which Hamas leaders have openly stated they intend to commit over and over again.

The NGOs involved in the lawsuit also obscure Israel’s unprecedented efforts to avoid civilian casualties, which put IDF soldiers at considerable risk. They also obfuscate that the extensive damage to Gaza neighborhoods is directly attributable to Hamas’s use of schools, mosques, hospitals, homes and other civilian infrastructure for military purposes, as well as its nefarious and illegal strategy of exploiting civilians as human shields.

While it is likely that the courts will dismiss these cases in the preliminary stages—a suit filed in the Netherlands by Oxfam Novib, Amnesty International, PAX and the Rights Forum to block the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel has already been thrown out—the NGOs will still garner many benefits from their filings. These benefits include extensive media coverage, not only for the organizations but also for their false claims, which increases negative rhetoric against Israel and entrenches the NGOs’ distortions of international law. The cases also provide a platform for and legitimize designated terrorist affiliates, intentionally degrading counterterror laws and policies.

Given these exploitative aims, judges in these cases should consider levying sanctions against those filing such lawsuits.

This blatant manipulation of Western court systems should give donors serious pause. CCR is an American NGO funded by the Tides Foundation, Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations. Al-Haq is funded by Sweden, France, Germany, the E.U., Denmark and Norway. DCI-P is funded by Sweden, Germany, Norway, Spain and Belgium. Paying for these lawsuits not only runs against government interests, but it is immoral and may even violate material support laws if terrorist actors are involved.

It is time for these cases to be exposed for what they are: corrupt and exploitative attempts to delegitimize Israel.

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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