JERUSALEM - NGO Monitor has filed a submission to the UN Human Rights Council's (HRC) "independent international fact-finding Mission on the Israeli Settlements," expressing concern over the Mission's working methods and calling for compliance with fact-finding standards and ethical principles. The submission demands, at a minimum, strict adherence to the principles of impartiality and objectivity, transparency in all interactions with NGOs, and professional guidelines for assessing the credibility, and factual and legal claims of NGOs.
"Already, contrary to principles of impartiality, the Mission's mandate presumes guilt on Israel's part,while failing to address the wider context, including the systematic terror campaign against Israeli civilians," said Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor's Legal Advisor. "Our submission reminds the fact-finding mission of its obligation to comply with standards of transparency, impartiality, and independence in conducting its work. Otherwise, this Mission risks being discredited like the infamous fact-finding mission to Gaza, which produced the 'Goldstone Report.'"
NGO Monitor's submission highlights concerns regarding NGO involvement in the Mission and transparency. In particular, in violation of best practices, the Mission's Terms of Reference state that all submissions will be kept confidential. The failure to disclose these submissions makes it impossible to verify independently materials that will undoubtedly form the bulk of the Mission's report. The Goldstone committee did not make all submissions public, despite pledges to do so.
Like previous UN inquiries of Israel, based on the "Durban strategy" of demonization and delegitimization, the latest UNHRC mission appears to be the direct result of a lobbying campaign by several European government-funded NGOs in conjunction with the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Arab League, Cuba, and Venezuela. These NGOs, such as Al-Haq and BADIL and many others, frequently use highly offensive and one-sided rhetoric in their politicized campaigns against Israel. Yesh Din, funded by the New Israel Fund and the European Union, has stated that it will present their one-sided allegations to the fact-finding mission. Based on the model of the Goldstone Report and other such initiatives, these groups will likely be prominent in their work bringing into question the Missions adherence to fact-finding standards and ethical principles.
NGO Monitor also notes that the Mission requires approval of an extra-budget expenditure of nearly $300,000. "The UNHRC has yet to explain why, in a time of global economic crisis, while ignoring real human rights concerns, it would waste the UN budget on yet another politicized exercise targeting Israel," continued Herzberg. "The excess includes a proposed payment of $105,300 for two months of work from an unidentified 'thematic expert.'"
NGO Monitor also notes with concern prejudicial statements made by Mission head Christine Chanet that "it is very difficult to have a real dialogue (with Israel)."Additionally, the Mission has yet to disclose the names of the support staff, making it impossible to independently evaluate whether these individuals are objective, free from conflicts of interest, and have the requisite expertise.
NGO Monitor, based in Jerusalem, was founded to promote critical debate and accountability regarding the political activities of non-governmental organizations claiming a human rights agenda that are active in the Arab-Israel conflict. NGO Monitor's independent research reports and analysis are quoted frequently in the press, academic publications, by NGO officials and donors, and in governmental and parliamentary discussions.