EU Parliament endorses Goldstone report, supports Israeli NGOs

Monday, 15 March, 2010 - 05:57
London, UK
EP, Maariv, ACRI, NIF

In a resolution adopted on 10 March, the European Parliament (EP) endorsed the recommendations of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza (the Goldstone report) and called upon the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, to publicly demand their implementation and ensure ‘accountability for all violations of international law, including war crimes’.

The resolution, passed with 335 MEPs voting for and 287 against, was adopted as a compromise text following a concerted lobbying campaign against its key demands by the European Jewish Congress.

Echoing a resolution passed on 26 February by the UN General Assembly, the EP called upon Israelis and Palestinians to conduct proper domestic investigations into the allegations made in the report within 5 months, and asked that the EU and Ashton take on an active monitoring role by requesting information from “EU external missions and NGOs in the field,” and reporting back to the Parliament with an assessment of the results.

The resolution also expressed concern over recent attacks against NGOs that had submitted information to the Goldstone mission, stressing the importance of non-governmental organizations to the investigations and calling on “authorities on all sides” to refrain from any restrictive measures towards these organizations.

This demand refers to a law proposal due to be voted on in the Israeli Knesset that, if passed, would re-define numerous Israeli civil society charities as “political,” revoke their tax-exempt status and require public disclosure of any funding by foreign political entities, including the EU. Such legislation would seriously damage the financial viability and public credibility of the organizations.

Some days prior to the EP vote, on March 5, Israeli journalist Ben Caspit published a second installment in a series of articles in Israel’s Maariv newspaper attacking the New Israel Fund and its beneficiaries. The NIF is a key funder of progressive civil society organisations in Israel and draws major support from Jews around the world.

The first article, published in February, had accused sixteen NIF-funded organizations of providing the main bulk of Goldstone’s evidence for war crimes allegations against Israel.

In the new article, Caspit goes on the offensive against Israeli organisations that had spoken before the ‘Goldberg Inquiry,’ a state-appointed committee commissioned by the Israeli government to investigate the rights of Bedouin citizens of Israel, as well as the Israeli peace group Coalition of Women for Peace and an NIF-funded project for gender-mainstreaming in the Israeli army (IDF).

In the article, Caspit outlines what he sees to be the limits of legitimate criticism of Israel, stating that criticism is not legitimate if it “undermines the foundations of the existence of the only Jewish state. It has a right to exist, it has a right to defend itself.”

Caspit claims in conclusion that “[a] large number of the extremist organizations funded by the NIF do exactly that. In a very poisonous way, very skillfully and with generous funding by donors, most of whom are unaware of who and what they are funding.”

Israeli organizations have expressed shock and anger at recent attacks against them. NIF Chair, former MK Prof Naomi Chazan called the attacks “McCarthyist.” Hadas Ziv, Director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, responded to Caspit’s article, saying “What right does anyone have to tell citizens what positions they are allowed to hold, or to limit what they are allowed to think and say?”

On 21 March, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) will hold a panel discussion in Tel Aviv in which members of NIF, ACRI, soldiers’ group Breaking the Silence, Migrant rights group Hotline for Migrant Workers and two school directors - one Arab, one Jewish - will discuss the implications of current anti-democratic trends in Israel.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source.

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