Human Rights NGOs–The World’s Most Lethal Evil-Doers by Rael Jean Isaac

The world’s most lethal evil-doers are the NGOs that fly under a false flag, claiming to be champions of human rights. Their potency comes from the fact that unlike other of the world’s worst actors—think Kim Jung Un—they are not feared and despised but admired and treated as moral arbiters. A billion dollar a year industry, these NGOs reinforce their moral with financial muscle. Gerald Steinberg, founder and director of NGO Monitor, has been alone in following these outfits for the last fifteen years. He observes that human rights NGOs show “that soft power can sometimes be more dangerous than hard power.”

And while Israel is their most obvious target, they have bigger game in their sights—the transformation of Western societies and culture through mass immigration.

Human rights NGOs bear a major responsibility for the demonizing of Israel in the West. In Catch the Jew Tuvia Tenenbom, masquerading as Tobi the German, focuses on the hundreds of so-called human rights NGOs that infest Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories in search of Israeli misdeeds—and fabricate them (sometimes stage them) as they come up short. Many of these NGOs are basically front groups for terrorists and assorted destroy-Israel groups. In 1917 Steinberg finally was able to persuade the Danish government to stop funding the Human Rights International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, an NGO framework established in 2013 at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah with an annual budget of millions of euros paid for by the governments of Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. In an interview with journalist Ruthie Blum, Steinberg says that his research has shown that of the 24 core NGOs funded by the Secretariat, six had ties to the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (on the EU’s official list of terrorist organizations) and 15 were involved in world-wide campaigns to destroy Israel by economic means.

Steinberg has found it an uphill task to persuade EU governments to pay attention to where their money goes. He observes that “all a group has to say to garner the support of many European politicians is that its mission is to promote human rights.” They are then seen automatically “as credible and above criticism or investigation.” He explains that the annual reports by NGO funding networks “are extremely short and vague”, something like “We help NGOs in the following 45 countries in the pursuit of opportunities and fairness.” Governments do not have the inclination to follow-up—and most are not happy when NGO Monitor forces them to see what they would prefer to ignore. Germany and the European Union are especially recalcitrant, says Steinberg. Confronted with information on NGO terror links and antisemitism they declare “Ah, that’s a right-wing fiction.” Any criticism is labeled “Islamophobic.”

It’s not just relatively obscure NGO networks that devote their resources to attacking Israel. The best known and highly regarded NGOs like Oxfam, Christian Aid, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch do the same. Robert Bernstein, the publisher who founded Human Rights Watch and served as its chairman for 20 years, publicly disassociated himself from the organization in a 2009 op-ed in The New York Times. What he writes of Human Rights Watch applies equally well to the others.

“At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them—through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform. That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic world.…Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies. Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records…The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepared report after report on Israel.”

Since then the assaults on Israel have only grown more blatant, with Human Rights Watch accusing Israel of war crimes. Recently its executive director Kenneth Roth tweeted a link to an article by Nadia Ellia, a Palestinian activist in the BDS movement, which declared that “white supremacy and Zionism are two of a kind.” Israeli Foreign Affairs spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon has called Human Rights Watch a “blatantly hostile anti-Israeli organization whose reports have the sole purpose of harming Israel with no consideration whatsoever for the truth or reality.” Human Rights Watch’s most recent initiative (with financial support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund) is to encourage punitive measures against banks that provide services to Israelis living in communities beyond the Green Line (the armistice lines of 1949).  It comes as no surprise that anti-Israel George Soros has donated $100 million to Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International, the other big fish in the human rights pond, assails Israel year after year. It became especially indignant when Israel finally had enough of incessant rocket attacks and invaded Gaza. Its one-sided reports ignore the years of unprovoked attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, the use by Hamas of human shields and Israeli efforts to spare civilian casualties to blithely accuse Israel for breaching the laws of war “by carrying out direct attacks on civilians.” In an interview with Voice of Israel radio Steinberg said of Amnesty: “Almost all of the reports are hearsay from Palestinian sources. All of this is a game. There is no ethical basis to their research.” Not to be outdone by Human Rights Watch’s most recent initiative on banks, Amnesty has now declared “We’ll consider whether the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories meets the international definition of apartheid” a process that “will require thorough research and a rigorous legal review of the evidence.” Given what passes for research at Amnesty and the ability to use as “evidence” the wildly distorted reports that pour from UN agencies, it’s not difficult to predict Amnesty’s conclusion. And given that “practices of apartheid” are listed as grave breaches of international humanitarian law, Amnesty will feel free to demand the most punitive international measures against Israel.

Although the appalling record of the UN Human Rights Council as an attack dog on Israel (one, moreover, impervious to genuine assaults on human rights elsewhere) is widely known, few are aware of the extent to which human rights NGOs shape the Council’s actions. Says Steinberg: “In the Human Rights Council, the NGOs do everything but vote. They participate in meetings. They circulate documents. They work closely with the people who write reports. This is why you hear the same phrases used in documents and speeches….It is the NGO position that reinforces the Palestinian narrative of victimization and other myths that are so rampant at the UN.”

So pervasive is the image of human rights NGOs as made up of people working tirelessly to improve society that even critics of one or another policy position almost invariably stipulate that their “intentions are good.” No, they are not. The attempts of human rights NGOs to destroy the legitimacy of the Jewish state (and ultimately the state itself) bear witness to the fact that they are malign actors flirting with genocide.

But Israel is a small country and in the last decade human rights NGOs, while by no means neglecting Israel, have cast their net wider. Remarkably, they are biting the hands that feed them so lavishly—the countries of Europe. They are using human rights—in this case their sweeping definition of the rights of refugees–to deny Europeans the right to borders. The same romanticism of third world peoples and hostility toward the supposedly forever-guilty colonialist West that partly informs the animus against Israel pervades the effort to throw Europe open to all who would come there, whether in flight from civil unrest or in search of economic opportunity. Ironically while, under the spotlight, human rights NGOs have been no more than a major nuisance to Israel, under the radar, they have done far greater damage to the European countries that fund them. They are transforming Europe’s demography and along with changing its population, undermining Europe’s culture, values and religious traditions.

Human rights NGOs not only seize the moral high ground to shame Europe’s political elites into accepting huge numbers of uninvited migrants, but box in EU member countries through legal challenges and by deploying their own “rescue” ships at sea. Rounding out these pressures, they use the courts to make it difficult, if not impossible, for European countries to deport migrants–even those found guilty of terrorism.

The extent to which human rights NGOs have recently mobilized to physically transfer migrants to Europe’s shores is not widely appreciated. In 2014, according to the Italian coastguard, rescue boats operated by NGOs brought in less than one percent of all migrants. Thus far, in 2017, the Italian coastguard reports NGOs have picked up more than a third of all migrants. (Frontex, the EU border protection agency, provides an even larger estimate of 40%.) The NGOs are aided by a legal ruling in 2012 by the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR) in Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, known familiarly as the Hirsi ruling (in which Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and two other NGOs participated as “third parties” and were liberally quoted). The suit was on behalf of 24 migrants from Somalia and Eritrea, part of a group of 200 who had been rescued from drowning at sea by ships of the Italian Revenue Police which transferred them to an Italian military ship.

The lawsuit challenged the Italian policy that had sent the migrants back to their point of departure in Libya with the cooperation of the Libyan government (then headed by Moammar Gaddafi). The 17-man ECHR court ruled unanimously that migrants were on Italian soil as soon as they stepped on an Italian ship and each individual had the right to “independent and rigorous scrutiny” of his asylum claims plus a right to appeal the initial decision. The court awarded 15,000 euros (plus legal costs) to each of the migrants, a princely sum in their countries of origin. Not surprisingly Amnesty hailed the ruling as “historic.” As Belgian author Drieu Godefridi has pointed out, in Africa everyone now understood that if they could reach the Mediterranean Europe’s navies would be obliged to ferry them directly to Europe. The objective was no longer to reach Europe but to be intercepted.

Traffickers no longer bothered to fill the tanks on the unseaworthy boats and rafts they crammed with humanity—they just had to make it beyond territorial waters. In the last four years, more than 600,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria is the largest single source), have reached Italy. In the first six months of 2017 85,000 arrived, 9% above the number in 2016, with 10,000 in the last week of June alone. In July an increasingly desperate Italy, now that the rest of Europe blocked the path of the migrants northward, pushed back, demanding the human rights NGOs operating in the Mediterranean (among them Medecin sans Frontieres, Jugend Rettet, Save the Children, SOS Mediterranee and Sea Watch) agree to a code of conduct. The code is designed to stop the NGOs from in effect partnering with human smuggling rings.

Thus, to take a few items, the code prohibits the NGOs’ ships from turning off their tracking devices (with the devices turned off they can go undetected into Libyan territorial waters), bans light-signal communications used to signal traffickers a good moment to launch their boats, requires NGO boats that pick up refugees to take them to ports in Italy (not unload them onto larger ships and immediately engage in further close-to-Libya “rescues”), and requires NGOs to allow Italian police on board their vessels (ostensibly to check for the presence of smugglers aboard the refugee boats but whose effect would also be to impede violations of the code). Predictably Amnesty and Human Rights Watch mounted their virtuous high horse, declaring that “attempts to restrict NGO search and rescue operations risk endangering thousands of lives.” Four of the eight NGOs active in the Mediterranean refused to sign on to the code. But Italy showed it meant business by impounding the ship Iuventa, operated by one of the refusers, the German Jugend Rettet (Rescue the Youth), on the grounds, according to public prosecutor Ambrogio Cartosio, that “there were contacts, meetings, understandings” between the boat and the traffickers, and migrants were “handed over” to the Iuventa by smugglers rather than being “rescued.”

The number of migrants trafficked out of Libya has fallen dramatically since this summer. The Italian code of conduct plays a role, but the chief factor is probably Italy’s renewed cooperation with Libya, this time in the form of technical and operational assistance to its coastguard. Half of the over $103 million the EU has allotted for the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean route is going to provide the Libyan coast guard with weapons and training. Three of the eight NGOs devoted to rescuing migrants at sea—Medecins sans Frontieres, Save the Children and Germany’s Sea Eye–have suspended operations in response to explicit threats by the Libyan coast guard to shoot at their ships.

Frustrated human rights NGOs plan more lawsuits. Claiming that migrants are subject to “systematic abuse” in Libyan detention centers, Amnesty International declares that “by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they [European leaders] are complicit in these crimes.” Amnesty says it now has sufficient evidence to take leaders of EU states to international courts over failure to live up to their obligations under human rights conventions. If Amnesty is successful (and it has a strong record in these courts) profit-hungry traffickers are in the wings as are migrants eager for their services. Gatestone Institute Fellow Soeren Kern reports that according to a (leaked) classified German government report more than six million migrants are waiting in countries around the Mediterranean to cross into Europe. The report says one million are waiting in Libya, another million in Egypt, 720,000 in Jordan, 430,000 in Algeria, 160,000 in Tunisia and 50,000 in Morocco. More than three million waiting in Turkey are currently prevented from crossing over to Europe by Erdogan in accordance with the deal he struck with the EU. If Erdogan’s relations with the EU deteriorate further, he could open the spigot at any time.

European leaders appear barren of new ideas. An African Union-European Union summit that brought 55 African and 28 European leaders to the Ivory Coast on Nov. 29-30, 2017 to come up with longer-term measures to stem the refugee flow came up empty, the only concrete decision to evacuate 3,800 migrants stranded in Libya.

While seeking to ease the entry of migrants via the courts, human rights NGOs also exploit the courts to make it as difficult as possible to deport migrants. That even includes those suspected or found guilty of terrorist activities, precisely the individuals one would think there would be universal agreement did not merit asylum. The NGO rationale here is that the countries from which these people came have dubious human rights records which are not adequate to prevent the possibility of torture if they return. In one of the best-known cases, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (along with a group called JUSTICE) sued to prevent the return to Jordan of Omar Othman (otherwise known as Abu Qatada) who had been sentenced in absentia in Jordan to life in prison in two separate trials for terrorist activities. When the highest English court (after a bumpy ride through appeals courts) ruled Qatada could be sent back to Jordan, Amnesty and the others took the case to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled Othman could not be deported on the grounds that any trial in Jordan would probably involve the use of testimony from other people who had been tortured amounting to a “flagrant denial” of his right to a fair trial. Despite winning the case, Amnesty was dissatisfied because the court also ruled that deportations based on diplomatic assurances of humane treatment negotiated between the Jordanian and UK governments were in principle permissible. As far as the human rights NGOs were concerned, any assurances, even if they included monitoring by Britain, were inherently unreliable.

There is hypocrisy aplenty here. Human rights NGOs are in the forefront of multiculturalism, with its equal valuing of all cultures, yet their suits against deportations are based on the assumption that European cultures operate on a much higher plane than those of the Middle East and Africa whose leaders torture their citizens with impunity and whose word cannot be trusted.

There have been thoughtful proposals to control the refugee flow, as for example in Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe. But little will be achieved unless Europe’s decision makers and opinion shapers change their attitude to human rights NGOs. For many of Europe’s political, academic and journalistic elite, human rights have taken the place of Christianity as the wellspring of morality. As Steinberg puts it, the NGOs have “become holy in Europe.” The first step is for European leaders to recognize that far from being directed by holy humanitarians, these NGOs operate according to an ideology that has scant concern for the rights of citizens of European countries to maintain what is most important to them–their legal and political systems, their cultures and traditions. In the perspective of the human rights NGOs, citizens have no better claim to their country than foreigners who demand to enter, whether genuine refugees (although major NGOs have shown little concern for Yazidis and Christians, truly in need of refuge) or people fleeing conflict zones or escaping poverty. Add them all up and the vast majority of the peoples of Africa and the Middle East have valid claims to a life in Europe.

There are layers of irony here. The NGOs draw upon Europe’s feelings of guilt for its colonial past and above all for the Holocaust. Indeed the laws and rulings invoked by the various EU courts on behalf of the refugees are for the most part based on rulings made to assure that Europe would not again close its doors to those fleeing for their lives, as it closed them to the Jews. Germany, as the perpetrator of mass murder, obviously bears the chief guilt and as a result Angela Merkel has been in the forefront in welcoming the newcomers— “we can do this.” Yet it is precisely the huge wave of Moslems, the vast majority of migrants, with their entrenched anti-Semitism, that will ensure that Jews are forced to flee a hostile Europe.

If only for self-preservation, European elites would do well to examine human rights NGOs more critically. At present European governments cower when attacked by them. When Amnesty sent out its news release accusing EU leaders of being “complicit in torture of refugees and migrants” it was faithfully reported by almost every news outlet. There was no pushback by the targets of the release. Yet the views of these NGOs are very far from all but a small group on the far left in European societies. The “solution” of European elites has been to tar all those opposed to the basic premises of the NGOs as Islamophobic or neo-Nazis and this has worked up to a point: anti-immigration parties have been contained in France, Germany and Holland. But sweeping dissent under the rug is no long-term answer. Immigration issues were a major factor in Brexit. In Austria a right-wing coalition is now actually in power. A wave of populism could well sweep away elites who refuse to listen.

Do human rights NGOs like Amnesty do some good? Yes, in documenting as best can be done the human rights abuses in places like Iran, Venezuela and Syria. These NGOS have to be sent back to their original mission, to the principles by which they claim to operate, but from which they have strayed very far.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say they do not accept government money. But European countries have financial clout when it comes to most NGOs. They can insist that they will provide funds only to those that live up to certain principles—that abide by a code of behavior like the one Italy fashioned for the NGO ships on the Mediterranean. Some human rights NGOs may decide to reform under financial pressure and might actually confine themselves to genuine human rights advocacy. Those who are unwilling to change their ways will have to rely on private donations. In the worst case, with millions, they will do less damage than with the billions they presently command. Even more important, human rights NGOs would be subject to much needed moral challenge, which they escape now.

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Editor: Rael Jean Isaac
Editorial Board: Herbert Zweibon, Ruth King

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