Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
In the final days before the American presidential election, sources inside the Trump government indicated that the administration might declare three major human rights organizations—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam—antisemitic. These organizations practice what might be called “do-gooder” antisemitism, a widespread yet rarely mentioned form of this hatred. The prime operator of do-gooder antisemitism is the United Nations.
In the final days before the American presidential election, there were indications that the US State Department might declare Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam antisemitic organizations. To antisemitism experts this justified accusation was not new, but to hear it expressed by American government figures was a radical innovation.
The concept of “do-gooder antisemitism” is simple. If an organization mainly undertakes actions that are perceived as meritorious, it is sometimes given leeway to misbehave in the margins, even to an extreme degree, on other issues. This is what has been done for years by many more than the aforementioned three major NGOs in regard to Israel. These “do-gooder” bodies frequently incite, malign, and defame Israel while remaining almost entirely silent about the criminality and death culture that permeate Palestinian society and leadership.
These three NGOs are humanitarian racists, in that they attribute intrinsically reduced responsibility to certain ethnic or national groups for their actions. This is a sub-category of what might be called progressive perversity.
NGO Monitor and its founding president, Professor Gerald Steinberg, have—with exceptional perseverance—exposed the misbehavior of these three NGOs for many years. NGO Monitor should be given credit for the fact that this has now reached the public domain via the US administration.
NGO Monitor has written that Human Rights Watch is a “powerful NGO, with a massive budget, close links to Western governments, and significant influence in international institutions. Its publications reflect the absence of professional standards, research methodologies, and military and legal expertise, as well as a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel.”
About Amnesty International, NGO Monitor wrote that it “disproportionately singles out Israel for condemnation, focusing solely on the conflict with the Palestinians, misrepresenting the complexity of the conflict, and ignoring more severe human rights violations in the region.”
NGO Monitor has published examples of the way Amnesty International defends people linked to terror, and has accused the organization of distorting international law and misusing terms like collective punishment. NGO Monitor pointed out that Amnesty International is a national partner for the campaign No Way to Treat a Child, a vehicle for exploiting children for political warfare against Israel.
Concerning Oxfam, NGO Monitor wrote that it “consistently paints a highly misleading picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, departing from its humanitarian mission focused on poverty. Most Oxfam statements erase all complexity and blame Israel exclusively for the situation, and these distortions and their impacts contribute significantly to the conflict. Oxfam also distorts economic analysis of the West Bank and Gaza, repeatedly arguing that the sole impediment to Palestinian development is Israeli policy, ignoring intra-Palestinian limitations and factors.”
There is a huge difference between the exposure of antisemitic do-gooders by an Israeli organization such as NGO Monitor and their exposure by a US administration. As soon as the news about a possible US condemnation of some do-gooder antisemitic NGOs appeared, apologists and whitewashers of antisemitism appeared. One of them was Andy Levin, a Democratic congressman from Michigan who used to work for Human Rights Watch. He wrote on Twitter that criticism of Israeli policies is not antisemitism, explaining that: “I know because I do so out of love for a country I want to survive.” He added that the groups do essential, often dangerous work to protect human rights. This is a non-starter because that work often enables and legitimizes them (in their own eyes) as do-gooder antisemites.
Far more important and problematic is the attitude of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on this issue. It was quoted as stating: “We strongly believe that these organizations are crucial to ensuring robust civil society and democratic protections worldwide.” At the same time, it hedged that there was “significant disagreement” between it and the three groups on Israeli policy.
The ADL said calling the groups antisemitic “is neither accurate nor helpful in the fight against antisemitism.” Yet one only has to put statements issued by the three NGOs next to the International Holocaust Remembrance definition of antisemitism to see that these bodies are antisemitic.
The ADL also stated that calling these groups antisemitic would politicize efforts to combat antisemitism. This statement borders on the absurd, as the three NGOs as well as many others have greatly politicized their discriminatory attacks on Israel—hence the antisemitism issue.
The ADL position has two components. It is in part a whitewashing of the three human rights organizations, and in part a recommendation not to act against them—a recommendation that should be strongly condemned.
In a lengthy 2018 article in Commentary, Seth Mandel, executive editor of The Washington Examiner, heavily criticized the current head of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt. Mandel wrote, “To be clear, then, antisemitism is an integral part of the various ideologies underpinning American leftism in 2018. Greenblatt adamantly refuses to confront this, an unconscionable abdication of his responsibilities.”
One can only wonder what kind of judgment the ADL board exercised in hiring Greenblatt as successor to Abe Foxman, who was national director of the ADL from 1987 to 2015. Greenblatt was part of the Obama administration. That president was, if not entirely intentionally, a great threat to the future of the Jewish people, mainly through the JCPOA agreement with the genocidally intentioned Iranians. This agreement made possible a huge outpouring of Iranian support for terrorism and mayhem in the Middle East.
The ADL’s position on these three antisemitic do-gooder NGOs is one more indication that it is becoming increasingly tainted in the arena of antisemitism. This can be seen in another radical act. The ADL co-signed an advertisement published by 600 Jewish organizations in The New York Times. The signatories identified themselves with the anti-white racist Black Lives Matter movement, which was created by neo-Marxists and is permeated by antisemitism. Signing that ad was tantamount to committing a major whitewashing of antisemitism.
The signatories of The New York Tines ad included not only the tiny anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace but also 19 of its even smaller affiliates. It was a serious misjudgment for an organization as major as the ADL to co-sign a text with such a collection of insignificance.
It is not clear whether or not there will be an official American follow-up to the Trump administration’s statement about the do-gooder antisemites prior to the transition. Yet by raising the issue, the administration did the Jewish people a great favor. It brought into the public domain the huge problem of “do-gooder” antisemitism, a widespread yet rarely mentioned form of this hatred. This incitement is far from limited to human rights NGOs—indeed, the prime operator of do-gooder antisemitism is the United Nations.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a regular contributor to Blitz is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center, a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and author of The War of a Million Cuts. Among the honors he has received was the 2019 International Lion of Judah Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism.