last updated: September 15, 2011
Please note: The Militarist Monitor neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.
1 Ben-Maimon Blvd
“The aim of NGO Monitor, as outlined in the mission statement, is to generate and distribute critical analysis and reports on the output of the international NGO community for the benefit of government policy makers, journalists, philanthropic organizations and the general public. We intend 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. We hope this will lead to an informed public debate on the role of humanitarian NGOs. NGO Monitor's objective is to end the practice used by certain self-declared 'humanitarian NGOs' of exploiting the label 'universal human rights values' to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.”
International Advisory Board
- Elliott Abrams
- Yehuda Avner
- Alan Dershowitz
- Tom Gross
- Richard Kemp
- Douglas Murray
- Fiamma Nirenstein
- Judea Pearl
- Abraham Sofaer
- Elie Wiesel
- Ruth Wisse
- R. James Woolsey
NGO Monitor is a Jerusalem-based organization linked to right-wing and neoconservative sectors in the United States and Israel that aims to curb what it regards as the undue influence of human rights groups critical of Israeli policies. Similar in purpose and ideological outlook to UN Watch (affiliated with the American Jewish Committee) and Global Governance Watch (a joint project of the Federalist Society and the American Enterprise Institute), NGO Monitor endeavors to marginalize the influence of certain human rights groups by claiming that they are biased, hypocritical, and/or anti-Semitic.
The organization claims on its website that it has “revealed” how “established humanitarian NGOs produce reports and launch campaigns that stand in sharp contradiction to their own noble mission statements claiming to uphold universal human rights values. Selective morality, as evidenced in the obscuring or simply the removal of context alongside highly misleading reporting, often through incomplete images, have made widespread gross distortions of the humanitarian dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The group’s core activity appears to be producing dossiers on selected NGOs and their funders, which are prominently posted on its website. The website also publishes monographs, factsheets, and “academic publications.” Among the targeted groups are nearly all the major international human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as several groups from the Middle East, including liberal-leaning Israeli groups. Noticeably absent from NGO Monitor’s archive are any reports on neoconservative-connected groups such as Freedom House.
The group is overseen by an “International Board of Directors” that includes several high-profile neoconservative figures, including former CIA director James Woolsey and George W. Bush administration Middle East advisor Elliott Abrams. Other board members include Harvard Yiddish professor Ruth Wisse; the controversial lawyer Alan Dershowitz, known for his outspoken attacks on public figures who criticize Israel; the Nobel Prize-winning author Eli Wiesel; Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian parliamentarian who is a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s the People of Freedom party and a contributor to the neoconservative mouthpiece Commentary; and Douglass Murray, the associate director of the Henry Jackson Society and author of the book Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.
Like UN Watch, NGO Monitor claims to be broadly interested in issues of accountability and transparency. However, the group’s agenda is squarely aimed at critiquing organizations that are critical of Israel, which makes its own accusations about the political biases of other organizations appear disingenuous. The justification for this focus is the purported “obsession” that NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) have with tracking Israel. NGO Watch claims in a January 2011 report that its “systematic qualitative analysis” of HRW’s Middle East work “demonstrates continued neglect of the most egregious and systematic abuses in closed societies (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Algeria, etc.). One of three major reports on Israel in 2010 consisted of 166 pages, while ten years of research on human rights violations in Syria produced a 35-page report.”
Responding to similar NGO Monitor criticism from 2007, HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said, “NGO Monitor should have a better understanding of international law. Israel today is the only country committing collective punishment by blockade because it is the only country that, directly and through its pressure on Egypt, is blocking all borders of a territory in order to squeeze its civilian population.” She added, “It’s hard to comprehend how NGO Monitor thinks that merely devoting an alleged 9% of Human Rights Watch’s energies in the Middle East to Israel constitutes a disproportionate focus. Since NGO Monitor has never endorsed any criticism of Israeli abuses, it seems to be content only when there is no attention paid to Israel at all.”
NGO Watch also targets the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) campaigns both in and outside Israel aimed at pressuring the country to change its policies toward the Palestinians. Calling the BDS effort immoral and anti-Semitic, the NGO Monitor website provides a chart identifying key groups promoting BDS and their funders, including the well-regarded Palestinian NGO Al Haq (funded by a number of European governments as well as the Ford Foundation and Diakonia) and HRW. NGO Watch states that “many” of these groups “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination”; “use the symbols and images associated with classic anti-semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis”; and “draw comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Ironically, some of the people associated with NGO Watch have used these kinds of embellished analogies to compare Islam with Nazism and fascism, in part as an effort to paint the “war on terror” as an existential conflict threatening western society. Several members of its “International Advisory Board”—including Alan Dershowitz and James Woolsey—have explicitly been associated with such efforts. Dershowitz once termed the “Iran-Hezbollah axis” as “the greatest threat to world peace, to Jewish survival, to western values, and to civilization.” Woolsey championed the notion—first promoted by Eliot Cohen—that the “war on terror” was really a world war against Middle East totalitarian regimes (he later defined it as the “Long War of the 21st Century”).
NGO Monitor has also targeted Israeli human rights groups, particularly progressive groups like B’Tselem. In its profile of the group, NGO Monitor decries B’Tselem for “categoriz[ing] suicide bombings and rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians as ‘war crimes’ and ‘a grave breach of the right to life,’” as well as for “minimiz[ing] Israeli security concerns and ignor[ing] the fact that checkpoints … have been instrumental in preventing attacks against civilians within Israel.”
NGO Monitor is supported in part by a New Jersey-based group called Friends of NGO Monitor, Inc. The group has a website called REPORT, which states that it supports NGO Monitor and the Israel Research Fellowship. According to the website: “REPORT's mission is to educate about and advance civic responsibility through systematic research and analysis of the activities and transparency of governments and non-governmental organizations, their funders, and associated frameworks.”
The philanthropy-tracking website Guidestar.com reports that Friends of NGO Monitor was founded in 2004 and its board members have included Joshua Katzen, Rita Emerson, Debbie Quintal, Nina Rosenwald, Charles Small, Harry Teichman, Joseph Shier, and Sandy Rosenblum. Guidestar lists Dov Yarden—CEO of NGO Monitor—as the executive director of Friends of NGO Monitor. Yarden is also the CEO of NGO Monitor.