Is All Criticism Anti-Israel? A Question for NGO Monitor

Gershom Gorenberg

NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg’s group, which tracks human-rights groups for anti-Israel bias, sent me its annual report. I don’t claim the resources to monitor every detail of its monitoring. But a section in the report on B’Tselem helps illuminate an underlying bias in the work of the bias-hunter.

The report quotes B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell as acknowledging

that Israel is held to a higher standard within the international community and “in some ways Israel is discriminated against and disproportionately criticized.” But she also stated, “Israel is a democracy that holds itself to a higher standard. And I think that’s appropriate,” a comment which denies the universality of human rights. [my emphasis]

Does holding Israel to a higher standard in fact defy the universality of human rights? Sometimes, depending on context. Some groups, especially foreign ones, notice only Israeli offenses, because they begin by being offended that Israel exists.

But there are three essential flaws in the NGO Monitor argument against B’Tselem on this point.

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Israeli Right Supports Right of Return

Gershom Gorenberg

One of the bizarre ironies of Israeli politics is revealed once more in a response by NGO Monitor* to Nicholas Kristof’s recent column on Hebron and the price of occupation.

Kristof wrote of the particular burden imposed on Palestinians – and on Israel itself – by maintaining Jewish settlers inside Hebron:

The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

For anyone who has visited Hebron with open eyes, Kristof’s description will appear accurate, even understated. (My own account of a recent trip to that town is here.)

However, NGO Monitor was not happy.

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