Prof. Gerald Steinberg, of BIU’s Department of Political Studies, who has researched NGOs involvement in political processes, says that the agenda of many of the so-called human rights organizations like BDS is political. “They don’t really want to change any particular policy; they want to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s existence, and to paint Israel as an apartheid state. This is dangerous because it could lead to Israel’s political isolation.”
Steinberg has been a longtime critic of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam and other organizations that he accuses of having “contributed to the hatred, rather than supporting peace”.
A UK native, Steinberg obtained an MA and a PhD in Government from Cornell University, and a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Berkeley. He joined BIU’s Department of Political Science in 1982, and founded BIU’s Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation. He currently also serves as a member of Israel Council of Foreign Affairs, and is the co-author of Best Practices for Human Rights and Humanitarian NGO Fact-Finding.
In 2002, Steinberg founded the Jerusalem based NGO Monitor, an institute whose stated aim is “to generate and distribute critical analysis and reports on the output of the international NGO community and to publicize distortions of human rights issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict and provide information and context for the benefit of NGOs working in the Middle East.”
As to the EU’s recent decision to label products imported from Israel, Steinberg stresses that the political danger is much greater than the economic threat. “Many Israeli decision-makers have not yet realized that these delegitimization attempts are a type of warfare and pose a severe threat.” He warns that if such sanctions pass without an adequate Israeli political response they could bring about Israel’s isolation and significantly damage Israel’s political standing. “Such isolation could determine the fate of Israel no less than terrorist attacks. It starts with product labeling but could eventually lead to a total boycott of Israel.”
A counter-attack, says Steinberg, should be launched on at least three fronts – by the government, the Knesset, and the wider public.
“Knesset members need to confront their counterparts, particularly in Europe. Many European officials who have supported product labeling and other forms of BDS confuse propaganda with information. They routinely sign off on funding of tens of millions of sterling, euros and krona every year for NGOs that sell the myths behind BDS, under the facade of human rights.” As for what any Israeli can contribute to the fight against these organizations’ activities, Steinberg recommends using informal exchanges. “Informing the public abroad, providing them with true facts, can help change Israel’s image and weaken BDS’ efforts.”
For more information about Prof. Steinberg’s research refer to his website.