Articles about Israel frequently mention the term nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which play an inordinate role in shaping the way Israel is portrayed in the media. Few people know why NGOs exist, how they function, the underlying motivation of each organization or how they are funded.
The UN uses the term to differentiate between government institutions and private organizations. An article published by Harvard University Law School described some of the positive contributions NGOs have made: the collapse of apartheid regime in South Africa, the overthrow of the dictatorship in Chile, the political revolution in the Philippines, the demise of the Communist governments in Central Europe;, the establishment of an international treaty outlawing land mines and the creation of an international criminal court.
Gerald M. Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, which documents questionable funding and actions of many Israeli NGOs, explains that NGOs are established ostensibly to focus on human rights and legal, environmental and media issues. Those involved in Israel have clear political agendas, with legal NGOs using lawfare having the most profound influence.
The NGOs are in the vanguard of the organizations demonizing Israel such as BDS and Breaking the Silence and promoting anti-Semitism. In their reports and public statements, and with their clout in the UN, the media and the academic and diplomatic world, many NGOs misrepresent facts to advance their objectives without any external accountability.
Lawfare is a weapon used in U.S. and European courts to initiate civil law suits and criminal investigations to thwart Israel’s ability to fight terror by accusing her of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project notes, “The object is as much to win a public relations victory as a court case.”
By framing political attacks in legal terms, Steinberg and Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor’s Legal Advisor, assert that NGOs attempt to create “a veneer of credibility and expertise for their claims. Since 2001, this process has repeated itself numerous times—Jenin in 2002, the ICJ [International Court of Justice] case against Israel’s security barrier in 2004, the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2010 Gaza flotilla.”