We’re barely two months into 2021, but the anti-Israel propaganda machine is already running at full speed.
First, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote human rights launched a libelous campaign, claiming that Israel, in the midst of the world’s most efficient COVID-19 vaccination drive, had failed to fulfill its obligation to distribute vaccines to Palestinians. The NGOs ignored the facts: No such obligation exists, and at the time, by the Palestinian Authority’s own admission, it had not requested vaccines from Israel.
Then, in mid-January, the Israeli group B’Tselem published a report declaring that Israel maintains an apartheid regime not only in the “occupied Palestinian territories,” but “from the river to the sea.” Thus, B’Tselem conferred on Israel the distinction of being the first apartheid state to have minority rights enshrined in its founding document.
And earlier this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, a decision hailed by human rights organizations as “a major breakthrough” and “a long-overdue step towards justice.”
The common thread in each of these incidents is that they were catalyzed by NGOs, either directly or indirectly funded by European governments, that pursue an agenda of delegitimization and demonization of the State of Israel.
While each of these campaigns has the same benefactors, they nevertheless are full of inconsistencies. The ICC ruling, for example, cites the Palestinian government’s 2015 accession, following an aggressive NGO campaign, as the legal basis for its presumed jurisdiction. For more than a decade, international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and their Palestinian counterparts such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, repeatedly lobbied the court to open an investigation into Israel, advocating for the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state entity which can refer cases to the court.
Contrast that with the rhetoric of those same organizations on the topic of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In a Dec. 23 statement, Amnesty and other European-funded NGOs called on Israel to “fulfill its duties and moral responsibilities to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank” and to “provide full financial support [for the purchase of vaccines].” The NGOs also noted their “grave concern” regarding reports that the P.A. intended to independently purchase vaccines from Russia, stating unequivocally, “Israel must ensure that the vaccines delivered to Palestinians in the OPT also meet the approvals of the Israeli health system.” In other words, they are arguing that the P.A. was not, in fact, an independent state, and could not be trusted with the public health of its own citizens.
Similar contradictions can be found in the “apartheid” report of B’Tselem, another European grantee. On the one hand, B’Tselem insists that any annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be illegal, and on the other, it advocates for a unified legal framework “between the river and the sea.” More egregiously, B’Tselem went a step further, using very loaded phrases such as apartheid, racism and even “Jewish supremacy,” which is an expression that finds its roots in white supremacy and has been used by the likes of David Duke.
Ironically, B’Tselem’s incendiary report was released during the same week when thousands of Arab citizens joined other Israelis to be among the first in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Funding organizations, including governments, that pay groups seeking to unilaterally redefine concepts such as “statehood” and “apartheid” will not improve the lot of either Palestinians or Israelis. This tactic has proved itself time and time again to be woefully ineffective. In fact, those who gain the most from the spread of inconsistencies and disinformation are those who profit from the continuation of the conflict—the NGOs themselves.
David Schiff is deputy editor at NGO Monitor.