A UN conference of non-government organizations (NGOs) called to discuss "civil society in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace" at the end of August has been described by an Israeli NGO watchdog as an "anti-Israel propaganda conference".
The meeting, set to take place at the European Parliament (EP) on August 30 - 31, has been organized by the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,
which describes itself as "the main UN forum where all NGOs interested in the Palestine issue can meet."
According to the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor organization, the conference and its organizers form "frameworks that promote the conflict," adding that the NGOs involved in the upcoming conference were also active in "implementing the Durban agenda of demonization," - a reference to the 2001 UN Durban conference on racism, which saw unprecedented levels of anti-Zionist rhetoric, and calls for Israel's destruction.
"This year, for the first time, the exercise is gaining the legitimacy of sponsorship by the European Parliament, further highlighting the role that the Europe Union plays in supporting the NGO campaign," NGO Monitor said in its report.
Noting that "the speakers list is (being kept) secret until the conference, highlighting the violation of transparency in the UN and EU," NGO Monitor said "past speakers have included radical figures such as... Jamal Juma' Ja'afreh, from the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. Topics include 'the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and civil society response,' and 'Strengthening campaigns to end occupation, including grassroots campaigns against the wall, rallying around Bil'in" (the site of violent attacks organized by NGOs in order to provoke Israeli responses).'"
Speaking to Ynetnews, Professor Gerald Steinberg, Executive Director of NGO Monitor, said: "What is surprising is not the UN involvement in the NGO's demonization of Israel, but that the EU Parliament is providing support and a platform for these fringe groups. This is yet another side of the absurdity of the EU's claim to support peace, whilst simultaneously promoting radical NGOs, like ICAHD, and giving them legitimacy at the EU Parliament."
A spokesperson for the European Parliament confirmed "that there will be a conference organized on the EP's premises by the UN," but added: "I am not sure in what capacity the EP itself is involved."
Wolfgang Grieger, Secretary of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, denied that the conference would be anti Israel.
"Unfortunately, the NGO Monitor misinterprets the event as an 'anti-Israel propaganda conference'. The UN Committee is not anti-Israeli, nor are its activities. The Committee welcomed the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference that launched the Middle East peace process based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of 'land for peace'," Grieger told Ynetnews.
Grieger added that the Committee "strongly supports the objective of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders, as endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1515 (2003). The Committee welcomed the Quartet's Road Map and has called on the parties to implement it."
"Through its activities, the Committee continues to advocate the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, promote a just and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and mobilize assistance to the Palestinians," he said.
He added that NGO Monitor omitted topics of discussion in the conference from its report, such as "Initiatives by the European Parliament and civil society towards facilitating a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008."
"The Committee is looking forward to an interesting conference engaging all layers of civil society, parliamentarians and diplomats for the benefit of a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Grieger said.