The ‘human rights’ scam at the heart of the NGO controversy

Israel was slammed for shutting down groups connected to a terror organization. The real problem is the way the international community funds and promotes anti-Semitism via these entities.

Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) take part in a military show in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the group's founding, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) take part in a military show in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the group's founding, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

To listen to the U.S. State Department and many in the international human-rights community, Israel has done it again. The outrage over the decision by Defense Minister Benny Gantz to designate six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terrorist groups centers on the charge that his decision was merely a way for the Israeli government to shut down dissent about what it does in the West Bank.

While the Israelis are said to be sharing documentary proof that the six in question are directly tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—a radical left-wing group with a long record of bloody terrorism dating back to the 1970s, the material they produce will be widely discounted. That’s not so much because the international community, liberal media, anti-Zionist organizations and even those who count themselves as pro-Israel, but still deeply critical of the Jewish state’s policies, will be able to debunk the evidence. Rather, it’s because the very idea of seeking to shut down groups that purport to represent the interests of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, children, women and agricultural workers is considered illegitimate.

These Palestinian NGOs are being described by their allies and apologists abroad, as well as newspapers like The New York Times and State Department spokesman Ned Price, as “civil society organizations.” This language seeks to depict them as just your ordinary good government groups whose work is a philanthropic effort to improve the lives of disadvantaged people. And that is the way they are treated by an international network of human-rights organizations, in addition to newspapers like the Times that regard their members as credible sources for articles skewed towards bolstering the “apartheid state” lie about Israel.

But those who will focus solely on whether the proof of their links to the PFLP is definitive are making a mistake.

Doubtless, many of those involved with these groups are linked to terror groups. Indeed, so pervasive is the influence of the array of terror organizations and their political wings in Palestinian society, it would be shocking if most of them weren’t. Indeed, a connection to one of the factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization is more or less a prerequisite for participation in public life in the West Bank.

Their purpose, after all, is not to make the lives of Palestinians better. If it were, they would be advocating for peace, not the destruction of the Jewish state, as all do. They wouldn’t be obsessed with efforts to maintain the struggle against Israel, both in terms of violence and propaganda aimed at delegitimizing it. Instead, they would be building the infrastructure of Palestinian society and trying to make their own government more accountable and less corrupt. Palestinians who actually care about creating a civil society would be seeking to promote normalization and cooperation with Israel not opposing it and treating those who seek peace as traitors.

The groups now labeled as linked to terrorism are part of the failed struggle of the PFLP or even its larger rivals within Palestinian society like Fatah to aid terror by supporting those imprisoned by Israel and similar efforts. But, more importantly, they are also part of a network of international groups that pose a far greater threat to Israel than even terrorists.

What even all too many of those who count themselves as friends of Israel don’t understand is that the purpose of those groups that claim to promote human rights is, at least with respect to the Middle East, not philanthropic. Well-meaning Americans hear the words “civil society” and “human rights,” and make unfounded assumptions.

That’s especially true with respect to organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, whose origins are both rooted in a genuine concern for the struggle against authoritarianism worldwide. Both entities, however, have long since left behind their idealistic principles and become part of a network whose main purpose in recent years is to slander and delegitimize the one Jewish state on the planet.

Nor is it any coincidence that among the loudest voices denouncing the Israeli government’s revelations about these NGOs ties to terror were both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, which regarded all six of them as partners. HRW made headlines this past summer by releasing a report claiming to prove that Israel is an apartheid state. It was a farrago of myths, distortions and skewed claims, yet was still treated as a serious indictment by mainstream outlets like the Times. Though it has long been apparent, it’s now joined the war on Zionism full time and abandoned actual civil society work.

That the propaganda these groups produce is anti-Semitic in nature is illustrated by their obsession with supporting terror groups and undermining not only Israel’s right to self-defense but smearing and lying about the nature of Israeli society, the one pluralistic democracy in the region. Like any democracy, Israel isn’t perfect, but the tunnel vision of the human-rights community on attacking it while ignoring or giving short shrift to real human-rights catastrophes going on elsewhere is telling.

The problem doesn’t stop with these NGOs that help promote the work of Palestinian groups. The heart of the international human-rights scam that is now just a thinly disguised cover for Jew-hatred is the United Nations and its Human Rights Council, which lends a facade of legitimacy to these efforts to libel the Jewish state.

Sadly, the Biden administration reversed the decision of its predecessor and rejoined the Human Rights Council this year. While it says it will fight to reform it, such an attempt to do so was proved to be a fool’s errand a long time ago. Instead, it just shows how the foreign-policy establishment, which is back in charge in Washington, is hopelessly compromised by its faith in diplomacy and multilateral engagement as an end in itself. In doing so, it also helps promote the credibility of a world body that became a safe place for anti-Semitism decades ago and shows no signs of changing.

Part of this is also linked to the growing popularity among liberal American elites of Intersectionality and critical race theory. Those toxic ideas falsely label Israel to be a function of “white privilege” and colonialism rather than an expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people, and they lie at the heart of the campaign against Israel that has been gaining traction in the international community since the 2001 Durban “anti-racism” conference that turned into a hate fest of anti-Semitism.

The UNHRC is at the heart of a web of groups acting in concert to attack Israel in this fashion of which HRW and Amnesty are major players. The six PFLP-associated Palestinian NGOs are essential for providing fodder for their smears.

It’s long past time for those who care about human rights to reject the scam being perpetrated on a gullible world by those who parade under that banner. It can start with putting Palestinian terror NGOs out of business. But it will also require all decent people to treat HRW and Amnesty as the frauds that they truly are as opposed to giving lip service to the notion that they are human-rights groups. It will also require the United States and the rest of the West to thoroughly reject the organization at the top of this fraudulent scheme: the United Nations. Until that happens, Jewish groups, Israel and the United States will be acquiescing to the most overt expression of anti-Semitism on the globe rather than opposing it.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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