NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg’s organization, had a statement and press release all ready in anticipation of the expected verdict in the Rachel Corrie court case in Israel.
Steinberg attacked the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) for not preventing Corrie’s death, and then went on to manipulate a quote from ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf in order to support his claim that “Leaders of the ISM movement have repeatedly made statements in support of violence.”
Having read Steinberg’s version of Shapiro and Arraf’s words, and being fairly familiar with their views, I immediately suspected that Steinberg’s quote was not kosher. While Googling to see if such a quote did in fact exist, I had to sift through hundreds of Google search results repeating the exact words found in the NGO Monitor Press Release, all having been posted in the last 24 hours by the usual collection of zealous Israel supporters and right-wing ideologues.
Here is what Steinberg said in the NGO Monitor statement:
In 2002, ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf stated, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent… Yes, people will get killed and injured,” but these deaths are “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.
Here is what Shapiro and Arraf actually wrote in a 2002 document called “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada: A Response to Ramzy Baroud”:
In actuality, nonviolence is not enough. Rather, what is needed is nonviolent direct action against the occupation. This includes roadblock removal, boycotts, refusing to obey curfew orders, blocking roads, refusing to show ID cards or even burning them. Yes, the Israeli army and settlers will use violence. Yes, people will get killed and injured. They are now also. Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers – we advocate that these men offer themselves as martyrs by standing on a settler road and blocking it from traffic. This is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah. But an action like this cannot happen once and it cannot be the only type of action. Large-scale, mass popular participation must be developed in order for a movement to have an effect.
So in fact, Shapiro and Arraf were arguing against violent acts by Hamas, advocating instead for non-violent actions, and – in the language of Hamas, not theirs – asserting that the non-violent approach was at least as noble as the violent acts that Hamas endorses.
To make it even clearer to what extent Steinberg distorted their views, here are the paragraphs by Shapiro and Arraf preceding the butchered quote:
When Mr. Baroud writes, “the nature of the resistance, its magnitude and duration, is often controlled by the behavior and response of the enemy, its brutality and inhumanity,” he gives excuse to those who find it far easier to pull a trigger or shoot a mortar while claiming their rights than to stand up, face abuse, but attempt to exercise those rights. Mr. Baroud shows a clear misunderstanding of the power of nonviolence and gives up all power by claiming that resistance is merely reaction. This is not so. Resistance must be strategic, and as such, is very much in the hands of the resistor, no matter the type, level or brutality of the oppression.
Allow us to interject with an example to explain. Violent resistance is when an armed Palestinian fighter shoots an Israeli who is oppressing him. The Palestinian fighter claims his rights, but in reality does nothing to achieve them. Another dead Israeli does not deliver a single right to a Palestinian. Alternatively, Palestinian Birzeit University students who march through a militarily-occupied area under curfew on their way to school, who confront soldiers and absorb their teargas, sound grenades and rubber bullets, are attempting to exercise their right to education and to move freely. While they may not succeed, their effort is one aimed at directly achieving rights.
The fighter, on the other hand, has used his means (the gun) to achieve his end (a dead Israeli or instilling greater fear among all Israelis) – neither rights nor justice nor freedom are a factor in this equation. The students, acting together in a disciplined manner, are directly acting in a way to achieve their rights.
NGO Monitor’s Dear Leader Professor Steinberg went on to say about the above strategy:
“ISM’s cynical and immoral strategy endangers the lives of its members. ISM co-founder Thomas Saffold showed an utter lack of regret over Corrie’s death, boasting afterwards that ‘we’re like a peace army. Generals send young men and women off to operations, and some die.’ Her bereaved parents should address the ISM for causing her wrongful death, and not target the IDF that is charged with protecting Israeli civilians against terrorism.”
If we didn’t already know how Steinberg operates, one would think he has no awareness of civil disobedience and the tactics it employs. Can you imagine the criticism Steinberg would have for Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights marchers of the sixties, not to mention the fighters against apartheid in South Africa?
No doubt Steinberg is unhappy that ISM refuses to condemn Palestinian violent actions in principle, even if it does not engage in violent actions itself. Shapiro and Arraf made that clear:
Let us reiterate, we accept that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms, as they are an occupied people upon whom force and violence is being used. The Geneva Conventions accept that armed resistance is legitimate for an occupied people, and there is no doubt that this right cannot be denied.
But why present ISM’s position in this manner, when from your hasbara perspective it sounds so much better to claim, “ISM has made no effort to hide its affiliation with organizations that seek the destruction of the State of Israel,” using examples as unreliable as his quote above.
Zionists of all persuasions demand a Palestinian commitment to non-violence. However, any request for a reciprocal pledge from the State of Israel is met with rolled eyes, letting you know how unserious you are being, for one also has to acknowledge that Israel has the right to defend itself as it sees fit (and it certainly considers it necessary to threaten and use violence on a daily basis.)
While Gerard Steinberg masquerades behind his Professor title and purports to provide analysis according to academic standards, in fact he runs a rather ruthless propaganda outfit attacking any organization that disagrees with Israeli state policy.
According to its mission statement, “NGO Monitor provides information and analysis, promotes accountability, and supports discussion on the reports and activities of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.”
Further it states,
The aim of NGO Monitor, as outlined in the mission statement, is to generate and distribute critical analysis and reports on the output of the international NGO community for the benefit of government policy makers, journalists, philanthropic organizations and the general public. We intend to publicize distortions of human rights issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict and provide information and context for the benefit of NGOs working in the Middle East. We hope this will lead to an informed public debate on the role of humanitarian NGOs.
And finally, “NGO Monitor’s objective is to end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.”
All NGOs promote some kind of political and ideologically motivated agenda. How could they not? Even a humanitarian organization promoting “universal human rights” is taking a political stand in favor of certain kinds of actions and against other kinds. A watchdog agency that points out biases and weaknesses in the activities of NGOs could certainly play a useful function. But what characterizes all NGOs is an effort to maintain some independence and to put some distance between it and state power. This is the very essence of an NGO. It is one reason states are more comfortable with NGOs operating in countries besides their own, and not so happy with NGOs peering into their own activities.
What are we to make, however, of a watchdog organization whose sole purpose is to defend one state – in this case the state of Israel – from the negative claims NGOs might make about that state, and to ridicule and demonize actions the NGOs engage in to express their opposition to the policies of that state? The index of NGOs that NGO Monitor monitors includes New Israel Fund, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Adalah, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Yesh Din, Badil, and hundreds others.
At the same time this watchdog never provides any negative information or analysis about all the so-called NGOs that support and promote Israeli state policy. These NGOs apparently never operate from politically and ideologically motivated agendas, and/or government policy makers, journalists, philanthropic organizations and the general public need not know about it (at least not from NGO Monitor).
Nor does NGO Monitor concern itself with unfair or inaccurate attacks by the Israeli government against NGOs that happens to criticize its actions and policies.
It is simple. NGO Monitor is clearly a front for Israeli propaganda, cloaking itself in the language of scholarly research. It claims to be a neutral watchdog, truthteller, and NGO enabler. Its ad hominem attacks and distortions against what it perceives to be enemies of Israel are crude and pathetic. That any responsible news organization would use NGO Monitor as a source for comment is a disgrace.