Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Eventually, All Humans Will Be Palestine Refugees"

From The Washington Times, February 21, 2012, by Daniel Pipes:

Of all the issues that drive the Arab-Israeli conflict, none is more central, malign, primal, enduring, emotional, and complex than the status of those persons known as Palestine refugees.
The origins of this unique case, notes Nitza Nachmias of Tel Aviv University, goes back to Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Security Council's mediator. Referring to those Arabs who fled the British mandate of Palestine, he argued in 1948 that the UN had a "responsibility for their relief" because it was a UN decision, the establishment of Israel, that had made them refugees. However inaccurate his view, it still remains alive and potent and helps explain why the UN devotes unique attention to Palestine refugees pending their own state.
Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg (1895-1948), whose legacy still guides United Nations policy vis-à-vis Palestinians.

True to Bernadotte's legacy, the UN set up a range of special institutions exclusively for Palestine refugees. Of these, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, founded in 1949, stands out as the most important. It is both the only refugee organization to deal with a specific people (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees takes care of all non-Palestinian refugees) and the largest UN organization (in terms of staff).
UNRWA seemingly defines its wards with great specificity: "Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict." The ranks of these refugees (who initially included some Jews) have, of course, much diminished over the past 64 years. Accepting UNRWA's (exaggerated) number of 750,000 original Palestine refugees, only a fraction of that number, about 150,000 persons, remain alive.
UNRWA's staff has taken three major steps over the years to expand the definition of Palestine refugees. First, and contrary to universal practice, it continued the refugee status of those who became citizens of an Arab state (Jordan in particular). Second, it made a little-noticed decision in 1965 that extended the definition of "Palestine refugee" to the descendants of those refugees who are male, a shift that permits Palestine refugees uniquely to pass their refugee status on to subsequent generations. The U.S. government, the agency's largest donor, only mildly protested this momentous change. The UN General Assembly endorsed it in 1982, so that now the definition of a Palestine refugee officially includes "descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children." Third, UNRWA in 1967 added refugees from the Six-Day War to its rolls; today they constitute about a fifth of the Palestine refugee total.
These changes had dramatic results. In contrast to all other refugee populations, which diminish in number as people settle down or die, the Palestine refugee population has grown over time. UNRWA acknowledges this bizarre phenomenon: "When the Agency started working in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services." Further, according to James G. Lindsay, a former UNRWA general counsel, under UNRWA's definition, that 5 million figure represents only half of those potentially eligible for Palestine refugee status.
In other words, rather than diminish 5-fold over six decades, UNRWA has the population of refugees increase almost 7-fold. That number could grow faster yet due to the growing sentiment that female refugees should also pass on their refugee status. Even when, in about 40 years, the last actual refugee from mandatory Palestine dies, pseudo-refugees will continue to proliferate. Thus is the "Palestine refugee" status set to swell indefinitely. Put differently, as Steven J. Rosen of the Middle East Forum notes, "given UNRWA's standards, eventually all humans will be Palestine refugees."
Were the Palestine refugee status a healthy one, this infinite expansion would hardly matter. But the status has destructive implications for two parties: Israel, which suffers from the depredations of a category of persons whose lives are truncated and distorted by an impossible dream of return to their great-grandparents' houses; and the "refugees" themselves, whose status implies a culture of dependency, grievance, rage, and futility.
A giant key (said to be the world's largest) sits atop the entrance to the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, reminding residents to insist on their "right of return."

All other refugees from the World War II era (including my own parents) have been long settled; the Palestine refugee status has already endured too long and needs to be narrowed down to actual refugees before it does further damage.

*Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. This article is based on a recent MEF seminar in Jerusalem on UNRWA.© 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

The watchdogs

photo by Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

If Israel is bashed, if anti-Zionism rages, if anti-Semitism is allowed to run rampant without response, we have only ourselves to blame.

The audience that had gathered for a special showing of the new documentary by Gloria Greenfield, Unmasked: Judeophobia, at Jerusalem’s Cinematheque on Thursday, February 16, was quite upset. The scenes that had been shown from campuses, media reports, pockets of progressive politics and centers of Islamic extremism as well as the delegitimization campaigns and the testimonies from many experts had a very depressing effect.
After the lights came back on, the panel discussion participants found themselves, with ever increasing intensity, responding to questions and complaints. These were not so much related to the real threat from anti-Semitism as documented by the film, but rather about the fact that Israel’s governments have done very little in counteracting it.

The panel included Yisrael Ne’eman, of the University of Haifa’s International School, Manfred Gerstenfeld, of Jerusalem’s Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, Robert Wistrich, director of the Hebrew University- based Vidal Sassoon International Center for Study of Antisemitism, Andrea Levin, head of CAMERA, Daniel Diker, Secretary-General of the WorldJewish Congress and Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini. All, in one form or another, had to agree that Israel’s governmentshad, for all they attempted to accomplish, a sorry record in the face of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, and to a great extent underestimated their influence on the resurgent anti-Semitism.

The audience’s secondary target was the role of the media, and especially Israel’s own media, in facilitating and pushing the BDS and delegitimization efforts. Our media was even perceived as lending support, intentionally or through lack of professionalism, to enemies of the Jewish people and Israel. Too many media outlets, here and abroad, have become forums for the discourse of narratives rather than for the reporting of facts.

One of the many sponsors of the film as well as a host of the screening was CAMERA, a media monitor with a 30-year record. Present also were representatives from Honest Reporting, Comment-is-Free at The Guardian Watch as well as Israel’s Media Watch. The past 25 years have seen an unprecedented growth of Jewish media review organizations seeking to counteract bias, demand accountability and assure that the mainstream media will not unjustifiably defame Israel and the Jewish people.

Although the Israeli governments and their bureaucracies have been on the sidelines, many individuals have decided to “do something.”

On the other side of the globe, Australian Jewry has created AIJAC, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, “to highlight and counteract instances of anti-Israel bias and misinformation in the Australian media and the wider public debate.” AIJAC’s executive director Dr. Colin Rubinstein is one of the leaders in this struggle to keep the record straight.

Anti-Israel bias in the European media has been researched recently by Elad Segev and Regula Miesch from Tel Aviv University. In their paper, published in the International Journal of Communications, they find that “news reports are largely critical and negative toward Israel, with British news being the most critical, Italian news the most sensational, and German, French and Swiss news relatively more neutral. Opinions featured in the news are not in line with public opinion as presented in annual surveys of each country.”

The anti-Israel biases of the BBC are today well documented. The pioneer of BBC review is Trevor Asserson and his BBC Watch reports, which first appeared in the year 2000. His work led in part to the BBC’s commissioning the “Balen report” to investigate accusations of bias in its Middle East reporting. The BBC to this day has refused to make the 2004 report public, and the UK Supreme Court, adjudicating a complaint by the late Steven Sugar, has now unfortunately concurred.

Honest Reporting is another well-known media review organization. It monitors the news for bias, inaccuracy, or other breaches of journalistic standards in coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The organization mobilizes the public to take issue with false reporting, as for example in the June 2011 report by the BBC alleging that a rabbinical court in Jerusalem sentenced a dog to be stoned to death. Public protest led to a BBC retraction of the false story and an apology, in which it stated specifically “We failed to make the right checks.”

German Media Watch and Honestly Concerned are two organizations formed at the turn of the 21st century to combat anti-Israel media bias in German- speaking countries. GMW describes itself as replacing the question “Why didn’t you do anything?” in response to Nazism with the question “What can we do today?”

Eye on the Post is a media review organization which has taken upon itself the job of assuring accuracy and fairness in The Washington Post’s coverage of Middle East events. An original method of combat is the “Bad News Movement.”

Bad News blogs exist in 10 countries. For example, Bad News from the Netherlands, which was prompted by Manfred Gerstenfeld, describes itself as setting out “to demonstrate that media coverage can degrade a country’s image by using selective news without context... It is a reaction to the frequent misrepresentations of Israel in many ways in major media..., including those of the Netherlands.” And, of course, there was the late David Bar-Illan and his hard-hitting Jerusalem Post“Eye of the Media” column, focusing on the foreign journalists working from Israel.

Dr. Yehuda David is a prime example of a concerned citizen who could not accept the worldwide Israel bashing induced by the false Muhammed al- Dura story as had others like Phillip Karsenty and Nahum Shahaf. Dr. David exposed the lies that the father Jammal’s scars were IDF-caused, winning his French court case last week. David devoted time, finances and probably health to defend Israel. On Sunday, he will be given a special citation by Israel’s Media Watch for his effort.

Should the government be doing more to defend Israel’s name? Certainly. But a government cannot do it all. Its responses will always be considered propaganda. Private, non-political organizations such as the few of many mentioned in this article are at least as effective, and have led the battle to clear Israel’s name. Perhaps the true question which should be answered is why is our government, our philanthropists and the public at large not doing more to provide the necessary funding for such organizations to do their good work? Why do we find an Israel Prize in Chemistry and even Media but none for media review? If Israel is bashed, if anti-Zionism rages, if anti-Semitism is allowed to run rampant without response, we have only ourselves to blame.

*The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Israel Fund: End the secrecy!!

by GERALD M. STEINBERG, 20 Feb 2012:

NGO Monitor brought to NIF's attention that one of their major grantees was scheduled to speak at this year's "Apartheid Week"

‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” This adage might have occurred to the officials, donors and supporters of the New Israel Fund (NIF) when they learned that an official from Adalah – one of their major grantees – was scheduled to speak at this year’s “Apartheid Week” at an event sponsored by BDS Geneva.

Suhad Bishara, the director of Adalah’s Land and Planning Rights Unit, was featured prominently in the publicity for the event. After NGO Monitor brought this to NIF’s attention, Bishara’s name and affiliation were removed from some of the advertising, and was replaced by a statement reading, “For security reasons, we do not mention [the speaker’s] name on the site.”

NIF officials should not have been surprised by Adalah’s ongoing role in promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) and other forms of political warfare. The organization has made no secret of its agenda, including the participation in the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 UN Durban Conference.

The NGO Forum’s “Final Declaration,” which is still posted on Adalah’s website, calls for the “complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.”

Expanding on this theme, Adalah’s so-called “Democratic Constitution” (2007) called for replacing the Jewish state with a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” framework and for a redefinition of the “symbols of the state.” Jewish immigration would be restricted solely for “humanitarian reasons.”

And following the publication of the Goldstone Report, Adalah joined Palestinian NGOs in urging governments to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel.”

Such activities are in direct contradiction of NIF’s recently adopted funding guidelines and principles, which explicitly exclude groups that “work to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel” and other forms of anti-Israel demonization. But for some reason, the NIF funding for Adalah – $475,950 authorized in 2010 – has continued.

For many years, the organization has had trouble implementing “red lines,” and in a number of cases, has been embarrassed and forced to backpedal before taking action. In 2004, the NIF awarded a fellowship to Shamai Leibowitz, who went to the US and promoted BDS, among other activities inconsistent with NIF’s declared objectives. (Last week, a current NIF fellow, Moriel Rothman, noted in an op-ed, “I have become deeply frustrated by the political manipulation of the Holocaust to distract from Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.”) NIF also provided seed funding for a radical NGO known as ICAHD, which violates nearly all of NIF’s guidelines and principles, only ending funding after the damage had been done.

More recently, it took two years for NIF to finally end support for the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), which is centrally involved in the BDS campaigns. Another group – Mada al-Carmel – which is also a major source of delegitimization and advocates for a “one-state” solution, was still listed in NIF’s latest published budget (for 2010), although incoming president Brian Lurie has stated that the funding has now ended. In each of these cases, NIF did not make any public statement warning others not to repeat the mistakes, and seems to have learned no lessons, which is apparent in the case of funding for Adalah.

Although, or perhaps because, NIF is an extremely powerful political institution, with an annual budget of over $30 million, whose policies and activities affect the lives of all Israelis, its leaders are out of touch and very slow to react. The organization’s inability to properly monitor its grantees’ activities creates an environment ripe for major mistakes, which have been very costly for Israel.

When the contrast between NIF’s promotional claims and the reality of its political activities and funding is noted, they lash out angrily. For an organization claiming a “liberal and progressive” agenda, the NIF is particularly hostile to any form of criticism. When caught, as in each of the examples cited above, NIF’s public relations team resorts to vicious personal attacks against whistle-blowers for “speaking truth to power.”

This was also the case with Adalah’s scheduled role in the Apartheid Week event in Switzerland. When NGO Monitor sent a letter to NIF officials to bring this to their attention, the response was a public attack accusing NGO Monitor of “smearing” the organization and attempting to deflect attention from Adalah’s false “apartheid” and “racism” rhetoric.

The “fool me” adage stops after the second occurrence, but NIF is now well beyond this. And the personal, vindictive attacks are unconstructive, to understate the case, creating a contentious relationship.

Instead of lashing out, NIF has the opportunity to demonstrate that its guidelines are serious.

Given the extensive public evidence of Adalah’s true agenda, if NIF chooses to not sever ties with the NGO, one would have to assume that NIF is knowingly being fooled and is happy to go along for the ride.

The writer is president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and to encouraging civil discussion on the reports and activities of non-governmental organizations, particularly in the Middle East.