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NGO Monitor: Sucking the life out of Civil society

By       Message Bahija Reghai     Permalink
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For some, the problem with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and humanitarian law is that it sets the same international standard for all. Powerful states prefer to be exempt from these provisions which were intended to create a more level playing field between the powerful and the weak. The powerful resist the dictates of higher moral and legal codes and use their power in various ways to act with impunity and above the law. Now, elements of the Conservative government have turned Canada as a battleground for this ideology, which many view as an anathema to what Canada should stand for.

When confronted with legitimate criticism of its policies and actions based on universal international standards and principles, Israel chose to maintain its policies and launch a war against all organizations that expose the violations ignore the message, kill the messenger. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has instructed his officials to seek ways to change the laws that he finds constricting and directs international attacks on all who question or criticize. The Israeli choice "crushes truth and right into the dust" endangering not only democracy in Israel but civil society as a whole, returning us to rule by "might is right.'

As it attempts to maintain the perpetual self-ascribed "can-do-no-wrong" image, Israel is helped by umpteen foot soldiers. Beside the Reut Institute and the Israel Project, watchdog groups, "monitor" and "watch" human rights organizations and academia, "report" on the media and claim that justifiable criticism of Israeli policies "delegitimizes' the state of Israel and is therefore antisemitic.

The Canadian government has relied on some of these groups, in particular the self-appointed international regulator called NGO Monitor (NGOM), as sources of information to sever long-term working partnerships with respected Canadian and international organizations. Some information regarding NGOM and one of its parent organizations, the Jerusalem Center for Political Affairs (JCPA), may aid in understanding their impact on our political establishment, and why Canadians should care.

NGOM is the brainchild of the top brass of two Israeli organizations which have been presenting Israel's case, the Jerusalem Center for Political Affairs (JCPA) and B'nai Brith. It was formed because the vast array of already existing pro-Israel organizations seemed unable to contain the worldwide criticism of Israeli extremist policies. Organizations that had no partisan stake in the Palestine/Israel conflict were hard to discredit and, since they based their criticism on human rights and international law, they were deemed dangerous.

As JCPA put it, "[T]he challenges that Israel faces today are not only military. They extend to the United Nations, the mass media, foreign universities, and non-governmental organizations." The United Nations itself was covered by UN Watch, but NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other well-respected human rights organizations were producing damning reports that needed to be neutralized. And so NGOM was created as a JCPA project, another spoke in the well-oiled Hasbara spin machine which, along with JCPA, NGOM, and UN Watch, includes various other "think tanks" that cross-pollinate both in terms of information, researchers and/or board members.

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Bahija Reghai is a Canadian Human Rights activist and a former president of the National COuncil on Canada-Arab Relations (NCCAR).

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