These days, barely an hour goes by without a piece of news about the brutal ‘Israeli occupation’. 1000’s of outlets, whether NGOs, reputable media sources or random blogs, have their output disseminated on social media by an active group of people who simply hate Israel.
With this crowd displaying an insatiable thirst for the gruesome and inhumane, market pressures result in a spiral towards higher quantity and lower quality. With Israel already guilty in their minds, little of the readership care about the veracity of the individual claims. So bad has this become, that any article that fails to hit the ‘high note’ in claims about ‘Israeli war crimes’, does not even get passed around. If you want to make the grade as a writer on the conflict these days, the only way you will get ‘shares’ or ‘retweets’ is by casting aside any worries about accuracy and striving for the ever-more shocking.
As the permanently hungry anti-Israeli crowd swallowed any brutal occupation story they could find, the Palestinian groups that deliver the stories soon realised nobody was questioning their output. Whatever they say, whatever they claim, becomes news, and the tastier the story, the more chance it has of going viral. It has become a virtual feeding frenzy of stories that are for the most part, simply full of lies.
The NGOs operating in Palestinian areas face a particularly complex situation. These aid agencies are in a constant competition for attention, driven by the clamour for donations and funding. In essence the situation has to be dire for them to justify existence, and a failure to continually convince people of the urgency of their cause would result in financial disaster. ‘Palestinians’ have to stay on the front pages.
In the real world, for 68 years, the humanitarian aid agencies have perpetuated the Palestinian suffering. Firstly, by acquiescing to the Arab regimes refusal to push the refugees towards a permanent solution, then by accommodating the ‘no-to-normalisation’ banner. For the last 30 years it has got progressively worse, and almost all of these organisations have become politically active on the Palestinian’s behalf. Staffed on the ground almost exclusively by Palestinians and with nobody worrying about the veracity of the output, many of these NGOs have simply become another mouthpiece for highly politicised and ever-increasingly dubious claims.
Hypocrisy of the NGOs
Most of these organisations need volunteers. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to providing information on volunteering opportunities worldwide and almost all of these sites contain a section on ‘Palestine’. They provide basic information on what opportunities are available and contact details for those readers who want to follow up on their interest. One of the main concerns, wherever the NGO is based, is always safety. This is what the African Volunteer Network had to say on Somalia:
This from ‘Hand in Hand for Syria‘ on opportunities they provide:
So if very few aid agencies are ‘prepared to put the lives of their volunteer workers in danger’, how can there currently be so many aid agencies advertising for volunteers in ‘Palestine’? How can there be NGO’s claiming Israel is conducting ‘Genocide’, and engaged in ‘war crimes’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ at the same time as organisations advertise for volunteers to help plant Olive Trees, teach English and work in a refugee camp. It is a transparent and obvious contradiction and clearly an issue that was worth investigating.
A special note here as a serious H/T to Sheri Oz, who blogs from Israel Diaries and Times of Israel. Sheri came up with the central pillar for this idea and had contacted universities in the PA areas, asking them whether it was safe to come and study there. Her blog on the outcome ‘Situation in Palestine is Normal – No Need for BDS’, exposes the duplicity in Palestinian claims. It also raised my own interest in the strategy. Where Palestinian society needs to market itself as normal, safe & secure, it has no problem doing so, and where it needs to claim a genocide is taking place, it does this too. So as Sheri and I communicated about finding additional targets for investigation, I asked if I could handle the NGOs. Whilst universities and the tourism industry have a singular focus – a projection of a peaceful environment, the NGOs would have to be virtually schizophrenic to function properly. How do you advertise for volunteers to come to a land that you claim is experiencing atrocities? As the examples of Somalia and Syria shows us, you simply don’t.
Having realised that this contradiction must be publicly visible, I set about researching the issue. A friend of mine helped by contacting organisations/groups advertising for volunteers/interns to the area. He is connected with many pro-Palestinian groups and simply asked them how dangerous it was. This list included:
- Rabbi’s for Human Rights
- Physicians for Human Rights
- The Excellence Centre
- Project Hope
- International Solidarity Movement
- Camden Abu Dis Friendship
- An-Najah Uni
- Canadian Palestinian Educational Exchange
- ICG Crisis Group
- SCI Workcamps
- Christian Peacemaker Teams
- Love Volunteers
- International Service Partners
- Service Civil International
- Oxford Center
- Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists
- La Casa Learning Center
- Palestine Solidarity Project
- Medicins Sans Frontieres
- Interfaith Peace-Builders
- Women in Hebron
- Karama Organization
- Operation Groundswell
- Volunteers for Peace
- Mashjar Juthour
There were some noteworthy responses:
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is one of the more notorious Palestinian led activist groups. They deliberately seek out confrontation with Israeli troops. Although they claim to support only ‘non-violent resistance’, The Daily Telegraph has called ISM “the ‘peace’ group that embraces violence”. ISM responded quickly to the email enquiry, and they also directly dealt with the security concerns raised. Their response, signed by the ‘Ramallah Team’, makes illuminating reading.
Firstly, they point out that injuries can occur at demonstrations. They suggest this is natural, and would occur if you were to take such actions in ‘many places in the world’. There is therefore no suggestion here that Israel acts out of the ordinary, rather the opposite. In trying to entice the volunteer, ISM lower their guard and let the truth shine through.
Secondly they state that when you are working in the field, either at checkpoints, schools or in the towns, the risk of any injury is ‘low or non-existent’. Once more ISM clearly state that if you just go about your daily business, you are very unlikely to run into trouble.
When you place these two clear-cut statements together, it logically creates a problem for ISM’s position. Clearly Israel are not attacking the Palestinians, but rather in areas where Palestinians choose to confront Israelis, violence can occur. But if you follow the logic, the inevitable conclusion is worse.
As people can go about their daily business without risk of harm, the place and time of the violence must almost always be of the Palestinian’s choosing. If as ISM claim in the email, you face risks when the Israelis are intending to be provocative and cause violence, how can everyone also be safe? Unless these provocations and acts of violence are predictable in time and place, any claim of safety becomes absurd. Therefore, the only logical answer becomes, that the acts of violence occur only as an when ISM and groups like ISM create them. There is no other logical translation for the statements.
Having realised that the face ISM uses to attract volunteers clearly exposes both that ‘Palestine’ is relatively safe and that the Israelis are responding to aggression rather than starting it, I began to look at the ISM’s other face, the one it projects to the wider community, the one of the ‘brutal occupation’. This from an ISM journal in October 2015:
“Among the first victims of this genocide is the truth, so it is our duty to prevent mass media outlets from turning Palestinians into “terrorists” who always “die” in an “ongoing terror attack.”
There is the brutal claim of genocide, from an organisation who had just told me that general risk of any injury is almost non-existent. Given the content of the email, one of the headlines on the website couldn’t have been more outrageous:
Front page news about ‘Daily violence on the way to school’ from an organisation who had just told me specifically that violence on the way to school doesn’t happen. Go ISM! The article itself, on violence in Hebron, is not unusual in that it is full of distortion. Because of the complex and tense situation, Hebron is almost always on the agenda, and all tours that try to skew perception never forget to stop there. The intention is to go to the ‘worst’ and pretend that is the ‘average’. With the time and place of these tours always known in advance, it isn’t difficult for extremists who want to project an image of Hebron being violent, to make sure that this is what the groups see when they come. As always, cameras will be there to make sure the ‘spontaneous demonstration’ becomes headline news.
So is Hebron as bad as they all keep telling us it is? This question is best answered by another of the responses received from the Palestinians themselves. This from the Excellence Centre.
“At first one may think that Palestine, Hebron in particular, is an unsafe destination for an international visitor. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly; the fact that Hebron is a conservative community and secondly; due to the presence of the Israeli occupation soldiers who patrol the checkpoints which mark the division of the Old City of Hebron. However, this image of Hebron is unfounded. In reality it is very safe for internationals, both men and women, to visit, live and work.
The fact that Hebron is a religious and conservative city does not mean that it is unsafe for young western visitors. Rather, it only demands that they should be respectful in the way that they act and dress. Much of this is simple common sense, as Patrick Magee from Ireland, an international volunteer who was participated in the Volunteer in Palestine program summer 2015 at the Excellence Centre commented; “it is not a dangerous place for western men or women to visit, because if you respect the people and their culture, everyone will welcome you. They want to demonstrate to visitors and the rest of the world that Palestine is a peaceful and happy country.”
Regarding the occupation, one 15 year old student, Shahad, brushed off a question about the presence of Israeli troops; explaining how they are a part of everyday life and that she is not afraid of them when she is walking in the street. As an international, the troops have little to no impact on your daily life. Indeed, in the New City, where the Excellence Centre is located, you never meet any settlers as it is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.”
The Excellence Centre, in a desperate attempt to show the ‘real face’ of life in Hebron, also produces a video of volunteers talking about their experiences. These are two of those volunteers:
It is important to note that both of the volunteers arrived at the time the 3 bodies of the kidnapped Israelis were found near Hebron. They were therefore present throughout the Gaza conflict. This had to have been a time of increased tension. And yet both of them talk about how safe it is and both explicitly mention media hype and sensationalism. Whether they were instructed to say this or not is irrelevant. The Excellence Centre clearly know that the image their society projects to the global community to receive the attention they need is grossly exaggerated and they need to counter that image with the truth to attract volunteers. For those wishing to see more videos of volunteers talking about safety in Hebron, the Excellence Centre have produced several on their YouTube channel.
Because of their reputation, proximity to violence and claims of ongoing Genocide, the ISM email was the most outstanding, but in truth, it simply fits into the general pattern of other emails and messages received. There were simple reassurances from the Oxford Centre, another group offering volunteer opportunities in Hebron:
Some of the organisations email addresses did not work, some did not respond at all. Others did not read my email properly and invited me anyway without answering the questions. I am still in ongoing communication with several others. But most, clearly wanted to press home the safety of volunteering. This from the program Manager at Love Volunteer:
“We have been working in Palestine for many years and it is a popular program for volunteers. In this time there haven’t been any cases of volunteers raising safety or security concerns. Past volunteers have in fact found Palestine to be much safer than they expected and many have extended their placements.”
There is clearly not just a global deceit taking place, but one that is created in a strategically deliberate fashion. The image of a ‘brutal occupation’ is a lie and they know it is. We know this for sure because sometimes, when they need to, some of them tell us the truth.
*Of all the messages received to the emails and FB contacts (50% response rate), not a single group or NGO has suggested that a random ‘danger’ really exists, or that safety should be a part of the decision making process when deciding whether to volunteer in ‘Palestine’.*
This is the ‘schizophrenia’ of Palestinian N’GOneering.
Where the Palestinian movements differ from other volunteer programs across the globe, is in what they expect from volunteers after they return home. There is clearly a co-ordinated effort to entice volunteers to remain pro-active and to utilise them long after they have left the region. See this example from Project Hope:
This ‘after Palestine’ is a major driver behind many of the different groups activities and subsidies, see this from the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association:
The Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA), is actually another organisation that has faced a lot of criticism, being called ‘a highly politicised charity with a history of support for terror’. The report goes on to claim CADFA has openly described suicide bombers as “martyrs”. CADFA too have no problem describing the ‘dangers’ faced by the resident population. This from a statement by CADFA about schools in Abu Dis (one of the places the volunteers work):
Just three months ago, CADFA launched a petition to announce an emergency, that *the people of ‘Palestine’ are seriously in need of protection*, and that the situation in ‘Palestine’ is fast getting worse and worse:
Well with tear gas all over the West Bank, surely CADFA would have a stern warning for any potential volunteers. Wouldn’t they? CADFA actually have downloadable information documents for any potential recruits, and even a special document for ‘health and safety issues relating to the Israeli occupation’. These, like the ISM documents, suggest the wares they are trying to sell do not reflect reality at all:
That extract clearly suggests that violence is neither widespread, nor unpredictable. Additionally, it seems to imply that trouble occurs almost exclusively when demonstrators provoke it. With groups like ISM specifically turning up at potential trouble spots, these ‘peace groups’ actually encourage violent confrontations. The second part of the CADFA safety document worth noting is this:
And this is also highly informative. It basically acknowledges that after they wind up volunteers with propaganda, they understand the need these people may have to confront military personnel. But it goes on to tell them that the Palestinians they accompany do not want that confrontation. Or in other words Palestinians know that trouble only occurs when they start it. They cannot tell the volunteers this directly, without highlighting the flaw in their entire position, so they simply suggest it will cause ‘anxiety’. This is basically the same admission as the ISM gave, so it is no surprise this was reconfirmed in an email from the group:
What is really scary about the CADFA group is that they attempt to attach themselves to the UK school system too, and arrange for their propaganda to enter our community via ‘witnesses’ who come to spread disinformation amongst us. That this ‘twinning’ is even considered given the clear and public contradiction between the amount of violence CADFA pretend occurs, the ‘grave emergency’ they create a petition for, and the ‘don’t worry, just come’ attitude they advertise to potential volunteers, is simply mind numbing.
So what of these volunteers? Those that having spent goodwill, money and time in an attempt to help people, find they now ‘owe’ the Palestinians a duty to fight for their cause.
Well for them there is an opportunity to score serious virtue points in a world that places value on such signalling. These areas are close to Europe, cheap to get to, incredible to travel around, sunny and most of all ‘secure’. Why should there be a shortage of people who want to go? Given the proximity and cost, there are few better alternatives today to volunteering in ‘Palestine’ and none working on the premise of humanitarian aid are anywhere near as safe.
Yet most of these people have never seen conflict and have never left first world comfort. For them, the experience of volunteering with NGOs in ‘Palestine’ is as foreign as it is shocking. They cannot compare it to Syria, Somalia or anywhere truly ravaged by war, because they have never been. All they can do is compare Nablus, Jericho and Hebron to London, Madrid or Berlin. So in addressing these people, it is important to understand this in context. Someone coming from the west, would view the life of the Palestinians as being harder than anything they have seen.
With nothing else even remotely comparable in their own personal history, these people are vulnerable, unworldly and walking into a propaganda machine without equal in the world today. For however long they stay, they are fed stories, distortions and blatant lies. They see the ‘occupation’, therefore the ‘occupation’ must be responsible for all the hardship they witness. That the lives of those in the West Bank may be better than almost everyone else in the region does not cross their minds. They are not in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or Jordan or Lebanon to make the comparison. The twisted history they learn, is the raw Palestinian narrative.
Enticed originally into ‘Palestine’ by the warm encouraging words of the friendly adverts from NGOs, once back home, these ex-volunteers become important ambassadors for the pro-Palestinian crowd. Suddenly the source of their information is not the warm adverts seeking volunteers, but the far more aggressive tales spun by the solidarity campaign machinery, pro-Palestinian news sites and Facebook groups. As they hear horrific tales of what is happening to the people who they dined and shared jokes with, they are driven to ever more extreme positions against Israel.
If you look today at the social media output of these ex-volunteers, people who lived in safety in the NGOs ‘Palestine’, many now spread and share the false tales of genocide and ethnic cleansing. To further increase the value of the virtue signalling, they begin to retell their own time in ‘peaceful Palestine’ somewhat differently. Many become naive foot soldiers of the Palestinian cause in the west, a functioning part of the propaganda machine themselves.
Then there are those who do not wait until they return home. One wonders just which West Bank Wendy was blogging from:
This one, from an ex-volunteer called Katie is extremely informative:
Katie’s post highlights how full-on the propaganda and conversion process is, Katie notes that from ‘the outset’, she hasn’t been helping, or assisting the locals as the funders of the program no doubt intended, but rather, the locals have been using the time to attack the underpinnings of the very society that sent her there (the UK). In another post of hers, she comments that within the first day or two, she had begun to be shown propaganda videos (although clearly she didn’t label them as such).
Kim seems to have been to the same West Bank as Katie, Anna and Wendy (but not the same West Bank that all the NGOs seek volunteers to go to):
In conclusion, these blogs are not written by people on the ground who ‘know the truth’, but rather naive young adults who have swallowed the propaganda whole. These people are sought out to ‘spread the word’, and as the email from CADFA highlights, these blogs are not a consequence of the NGOs activity but rather a required and advertised activity that provides a vital service in spreading the disinformation.
What is certain is that these bloggers, these ex-volunteers can cross lines that the NGOs cannot. They are also incredibly seen as more impartial and trusthworthy than either Arab or Jew. As the Palestinians know the truth, these volunteers do not, and filled with disinformation and propaganda, these people form a major part of the engine creating truly ridiculous descriptions of what is happening. And they come with the added strength of being part of a ‘witness statement’. One wonders if these people are aware that they push peace further away with every blog they write?
So what we have are NGOs that knowingly distort information and mislead good minded people who may truly believe the Palestinians are randomly being murdered in the streets and are not in control of their own destiny. These contradictions are not unusual. It is the same whenever you begin to dig for knowledge in the Israeli/Arab conflict. You barely have to scratch the surface to uncover the real truth. And these Palestinian groups and NGOs know that with nobody caring what the real truth is, they don’t even have to hide it. They can say one thing with one face and something different with another. They can even put both faces on the same website and still receive funding from Western governments.
It is time to say enough of this deception. It is time to state that many of these groups are openly and knowingly lying, with the intent of presenting an image that is simply not remotely supportable by the facts on the ground. It is time to call for an investigation into this practice, which prolongs Palestinian suffering and perpetuates the conflict. These groups are not about peace, they are about war. Not a single one of these groups is actively calling on the Palestinians to negotiate, to talk peace, to stand behind a call for a multilateral cessation of all violence. What they do is deliberate, they provoke, they strengthen those elements of the Palestinian society that seek conflict and weaken those that do not. They are shameful, barefaced liars who dupe people into donating. Some of our own tax money even ends up in their pockets. If you want peace in the region, you have to start by stopping all those that incite and benefit from the continuing violence. And cutting the funding of these NGOs would be a great place to start.
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