The erasure of Jewish victims: NGOs on violence in Israeli cities

While the overall atmosphere and specific incidents are deserving of condemnation from human-rights organizations, many have focused solely on Arab victims.

Israeli medics evacuate an injured man during Arab-Jewish riots in Akko on May 12, 2021. Photo by Roni Ofer/Flash90.
Israeli medics evacuate an injured man during Arab-Jewish riots in Akko on May 12, 2021. Photo by Roni Ofer/Flash90.
Naftali Balanson
Naftali Balanson

When it comes to Israel, there is an easy test to determine if a non-governmental organization (NGO) truly believes in universal human rights, in contrast to empty virtue-signaling. Ask: What does this group say when Jews are the victims of Palestinian violations?

More often than not, NGO officials who purport to promote morality ignore or downplay Palestinian attacks targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, and even blame Jewish victims for the assaults. In so doing, they reveal their exploitation of human rights as a rhetorical or ideological bludgeon to demonize Israel.

This disturbing phenomenon has reappeared over the past week, with the resumption of armed conflict. Significant attention, with good cause, has been given to the double standards of NGOs and ignorant celebrities who castigate Israel and exonerate Hamas.

NGO Monitor research shows the very same dynamic when looking at NGO reactions to the intense violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities throughout Israel.

In Lod, Bat Yam, Jaffa, Haifa, Akko and elsewhere, there have been lynchings, firebombs, beatings, stabbings, riots and other forms of nationalistically motivated violence. While there were also some brutal, despicable attacks by Jewish extremists against Arab citizens, the majority of incidents have involved Arabs targeting Jews (or what they thought to be Jewish homes) and synagogues. These attacks have led to a number of deaths.

Certainly, the overall atmosphere and specific incidents are deserving of attention and condemnation from human-rights organizations. Unfortunately, in their statements on the violence in Israeli cities and reflecting their inherent bias, many NGOs have focused solely on Arab victims.

For instance, Amnesty International, which some might still view as an impartial outside observer, proceeded as if Jewish victims could not possibly exist. Instead, it tweeted, without any evidence, that “Palestinians in Israel have been attacked & denied their rights to peacefully protest while Jewish Israeli right-wing groups have been allowed to attack Palestinians & their properties with impunity.”

Haifa-based Adalah, which gets its budget from European governments and the New Israel Fund (NIF), despite its long history of polarizing political advocacy based on false allegations of racism, also completely erases the existence of violence against Jews. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Adalah deputy director-general Sawsan Zaher rejected the media’s portrayal of the unrest “as ‘inter-communal violence.’” Rather, she falsely insisted, “much of the violence has been largely characterized by systematic Israeli racial discrimination against Palestinians, with Israeli police even accompanying settlers while they attacked Palestinians in cities such as Lod.”

Adalah also issued a false statement alleging that “Israeli law enforcement is turning a blind eye as armed, racist Jewish militia groups are marching through the streets attacking Palestinians.”

Adding to the blatant bias, Adalah created a dedicated web page on the situation that does not mention Arab violence at all, and the NGO sent multiple public letters to police officials and the attorney general alleging Jewish incitement, with no mention of Arab violence or incitement.

Another Arab-sector NGO, Mossawa, released a statement calling to “on the international community to take immediate and concrete action to put an end to aggression escalation against the Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel” (emphasis in original). It proffered a conspiratorial explanation of the violence: “Netanyahu’s government, in order to avoid giving up his seat of power, continues to use excessive force.”

Mossawa also claimed, apparently without any shame, that “the Palestinian Arab protestors have shown no interest in an escalation of violence or unrest unless acting in self-defense.”

Some NGOs have gone even further in adding to the tensions. They have used the explosive situation to advance their ongoing campaigns based on accusations of “apartheid.”

B’Tselem (also funded by Europe and the NIF), which refuses to let reality get in the way of its ideological agenda, took out advertisements in Haaretz to announce: “The current violence throughout Israel/Palestine is an outcome of the apartheid regime that controls the entire area. … The range of measures the Israeli regime employs to ensure Jewish supremacy throughout the area is inherently violent.”

Not to be outdone, Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir tweeted, “Forcible takeovers of homes. State-sanctioned mob violence. Raining fire on residential buildings. Gunning down demonstrators. All efforts to maintain apartheid. Mass mobilization threatens this repressive system. The fight against apartheid won’t stop. #Courage2FightApartheid.”

At NGO Monitor, which for almost 20 years has documented this type of demonization and double standards—all too often crossing the line into outright anti-Semitism—we have learned not to be shocked by the divisive agendas of groups that claim to promote human rights.

Yet time and again, we are perplexed by the funders of these NGOs, both European governments and private foundations. They claim to be supporting human-rights work.

However, their money continues to flow, despite the growing evidence that they are actually funding distorted, one-sided political advocacy.

Naftali Balanson is Chief of Staff at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.

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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