To protect human rights, governments must stop funding the NGO campaign against Israel

It is time for the world to confront this existential threat head-on, lest history repeat itself with devastating consequences


Yasser Arafat (right) with other delegates at the opening of the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, in Durban 31 August 2001 (Photo by PPO / AFP) (Photo by -/PPO/AFP via Getty Images)

April 09, 2024 10:18

A few weeks ago, nurses at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, wearing pro-Palestinian stickers, were accused of removing a nine-year-old Jewish boy, easily identified as such by his traditional attire, from his bed. He was apparently forced to endure a transfusion from the floor of his hospital room.

This incident, now being investigated by the hospital, is just one example of the many dehumanising acts targeting Jews since the attacks that led Israel into war with Hamas on October 7. Segregation, discrimination, double standards, and antisemitic harassment have become commonplace in many Western societies.

But these are not a series of random, isolated events; rather, Israel and the Jewish people are facing a carefully orchestrated campaign, led, at least partly, by Western government-funded NGOs that claim to act in the name of human rights.

This situation is unfolding in three distinct phases. We are currently witnessing the transition from the first to the second phase of this pernicious campaign, which will head to an unimaginably darker place if left unchecked.

The first phase of this agenda, beginning two decades ago, involved a focused, deliberate effort to delegitimise, demonise, and dehumanise Israel as the nation of the Jewish people, with a twisted misuse of the international language of human rights. The assault, whose underlying philosophy had its roots in 1970s-era Soviet attempts to disempower its own Jews, was crystallised at the UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

Utilising age-old tropes about Jews and directly them against Israel, appalling displays of antisemitism were rampant. Antisemitic marchers flooded the streets, hate materials promoting Hitler's ideology were distributed, and crowds proudly held signs displaying the Star of David juxtaposed with Nazi swastikas. Representatives of international NGOs threatened Jewish speakers who dared to oppose the anti-Israel propaganda. The conference culminated in a final declaration singling out Israel and targeting it with baseless accusations of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and even genocide. This declaration outlined a strategic action plan aimed at the complete international isolation of Israel – singling out Israel while ignoring atrocities committed elsewhere.

The agenda that grew out of that conference included the BDS campaign, lawfare, demonisation, the apartheid slur, terror justification, double standards and the automatic blaming of diaspora Jews regarding any development in the conflict. NGOs from around the world, cynically purporting to champion human rights, have been enthusiastically implementing this campaign in the two decades since.

The events of October 7 highlighted the hypocrisy of these “human rights” NGOs, which often turn a blind eye to atrocities elsewhere while disproportionately scrutinising Israel. These groups’ responses to the gruesome massacre, from ignoring it to appearing to support it, were the final act of the first phase and marked the initiation of phase two.

Once the programme of dehumanisation ended, the systematic erosion of basic human rights for Israelis and Jews began, ushering in phase two. Beyond stripping down the State of Israel’s right to self-defence in its war against terrorism, NGOs and antisemitic individuals have now turned to the individual level - marking a challenge to the basic rights of Jewish people everywhere. This erosion includes selective condemnation, denial of rape, and the justification or outright ignoring of atrocities committed against innocent civilians.

These strategies are apparent in the Al-Quds day rallies, funded by Iran and taking place across Europe, violent demonstrations across Western cities in which Hamas supporters shout “Gas the Jews” or “From the River to the Sea”, the poisonous environment for Jews in the most liberal campuses, and the denial of the atrocities of October 7.

The fact that antisemitic incidents have multiplied by a factor of four all over the US and Europe should serve as stark reminders of the urgency of this issue and the West's apparent tolerance of such activities.

Phase 2 also involves the normalisation of blood libels against Israel, with venomous rhetoric increasingly espoused by mainstream leaders, feeding the hateful environment on the ground. History already showed us how such rhetoric contributes to the rise of violent antisemitism, posing a direct threat to European and American citizens, particularly Jews.

Therefore, if left unchecked, Phase 2 can escalate into Phase 3 – widespread violence, reminiscent of the darkest chapters of history. Phase 3 portends a reality where Jews and Israelis face indiscriminate violence in the streets, public and official discrimination, denial of basic human rights, and a clear path to the justification of further atrocities.

It is striking to note that despite official opposition to those activities from some governments, significant government funding continues to flow to biased and politicised groups and NGOs. This ultimately contributes to complicity in failing to protect their own citizens, and encouraging the spread of baseless defamatory allegations, perpetuating the agenda of the NGO network.

Governments (including the Israeli government and its failure to respond effectively to the worrying developments) must urgently reassess their approaches, particularly towards those hiding behind the facade of human rights advocacy - before it is too late. Measures must be taken not only to stop the impunity and complicity of the authorities but also to ensure that taxpayer funds do not support antisemitism, selective human rights agendas, rape denial, and lawfare.

It is time for the world to confront this existential threat head-on, lest history repeat itself with devastating consequences. A reality where testimonies of brutal rape are dismissed only because the victims are Jewish, a reality where demanding the release of a one-year-old Israeli hostage is “a political issue,” and a reality where wearing a yarmulke and Star of David can get you killed - is a reality that reflects a deep comprehensive social and moral failure. Not only are Jews endangered, but this reality also threatens the fabric of democracy and universal human rights.

Professor Gerald Steinberg is founder and president of NGO Monitor and Itai Reuveni is Director of Communications

April 09, 2024 10:18

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