Sunday, June 9, 2013

The hypocrisy of Human Rights NGOs in Israel

Human rights are not just ideals. They are not simply philosophical concepts. They are real. The 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the source for all modern human rights expression--identifies more than forty rights which should be available to all people.  These rights are, for the most part, clearly stated and easily understood. For example, everyone is entitled to an elementary education. Every woman is entitled to marry based on her own consent. We are all entitled to a fair trial, etc.

Human rights speak to fundamental personal freedoms. They apply to our daily life—work, school, marriage, religion, etc.

If the goal of human rights is individual freedom, the goal of human rights organizations—particularly those called non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—is to monitor and advocate for these freedoms. Through advocacy, these organizations seek to transform the world we inhabit.

NGOs have a noble goal. They want to transform the world from a place where repression, torture and arbitrary detention seem commonplace, to a world where each individual is granted personal freedom, opportunity and the right to feel safe. But noble goals create responsibility. If you pursue the noble, you travel a higher road: you become accountable for your nobility. This means that, at the very least, NGOs should demonstrate that the human rights they advertise are the human rights they monitor.

Unfortunately, many Israel-based human rights NGOs which advertise human rights for Arabs appear mostly to fail this accountability test.  They do not live up to what they advertise. They say one thing but do something else.

 Here are some examples; all information listed below comes directly from NGO Homepages as of May, 2013:

B’Tselem: the advertised mission statement for this NGO is to champion human rights for Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. While that is their stated goal, the abuses they track are by far Israeli abuses, not Arab-on-Arab abuse. Their 2011 human rights report for Gaza and the ‘territories’ says nothing about Arab-on-Arab abuses in either Gaza or the territories—even as both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) reference hundreds of serious Arab-on-Arab abuses in these locations.

Defense of Children International—Palestine section: this organization was registered in Israel in 1996 and then in the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2003. Its website is not clear if it is now Arab-only, or if it continues to maintain its Israeli registration. Its advertised mission is to protect PA and Gaza children. Among other issues, it tracks deaths of children since 2000 and the use of children as human shields since 2004. As of May, 2013, the only such abuses listed are by Israel. Since 2000, world news media, HRW and AI have reported multiple instances of children killed by Arabs--and children used by Arabs as human shields. This website, however, ignores those Arab-on-Arab rights violations.

Gisha: its advertised goal is to promote awareness and sensitivity for human rights in the ‘occupied Palestinian territories’. It has a lot to say about allegations against Israel. It says nothing about rights offenses by Arab authorities.

Mandela Institute for Prisoners: this NGO appears to be registered in Israel under one of several variant names. Its advertised goal is to advocate for prisoners held in prison who experience harsh conditions. The only offenses against Arabs listed are by Israel. This website ignores all Arab-on-Arab offenses, even as AI and HRW identify dozens of instances of harsh treatment against Arabs detained by Arab police and security forces.

Physicians for Human Rights—Israel: this NGO advertises that it stands ‘at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian territory.’ But their struggle for human rights does not include defending Arabs from abuse by fellow Arabs. They appear to ignore those abuses.

It would be more honest—and more moral—were these NGOs to declare that they are anti-Israel organizations dedicated to accusing Israel of Human Rights violations. But they don’t make that claim.  Instead, they speak of human rights for Arab citizens; then they accuse Israel of--and excuse Arabs from—those crimes.

This behaviour endangers Arabs. The goal of human rights –in this case, for Arabs in Gaza and the PA--is to facilitate   personal freedom and safety. If every alleged Israeli abuse stopped today, Arabs in those places would still have no freedom or safety.  These NGOs do next-to-nothing to monitor and publicize Arab-on-Arab rights violations. Take Israel out of the picture and you still have massive, pervasive and official Arab-on-Arab brutality—leaving Arabs bereft of Rights.  

Worst of all, when these NGOs do not do what they advertise, those who need them most are increasingly brutalized by fellow-Arabs who have become empowered by NGO neglect. NGO neglect, in other words, actually facilitates and protects the very brutality they claim to stand against.

That’s not human rights work. That’s hypocrisy—and it kills.

These NGOs advertise they help Arabs. But if their hypocrisy facilitates torture and murder, does that mean they have Arab blood on their hands?

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