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Physicians For Human Rights Or For Anti-Semitism?    

Jewish Newspaper Syndicate, November 15, 2002

Gerald M. Steinberg


The flood of anti-Israel propaganda released in the past two years has begun to subside, and while progress is slow, some people are rethinking their positions in the face of brutal bus bombings and murderous attacks.  The massive letter-writing campaigns and boycotts against virulent Israel-bashers in the media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are having an impact.  Major newspapers have removed non-professional journalists whose support for Palestinian terrorism was their main calling-card.  The Economist, often described as the most prestigious news publication in the world, published a detailed article rejecting the canard of "double standards" regarding United Nations actions on Israel.  Human Rights Watch, which joined in publicizing the "Jenin massacre" that never happened, is attempting to atone by issuing a (belated and limited) condemnation of Palestinian suicide bombing.

However, there is still a long way to go to defeat the disinformation campaigns at the core of the movement to demonize Israel.  A new example was produced and distributed recently by an NGO known as "Physicians for Human Rights."  In an eight-page cartoon pamphlet that can only be described as anti-Semitic, this organization displayed caricatures of heavily-armed Israeli soldiers "oppressing" innocent-looking Palestinians.  In one cartoon, two Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint are portrayed as mocking a pregnant Palestinian woman.  The ambulances used to carry suicide bombers and explosives are conveniently erased in this crude propaganda, and inhuman Palestinian terrorism is not even mentioned.  The pamphlet, distributed in Hebrew in the effort to propagandize Israelis through emotional manipulation, is a disgrace.   (The English version can be viewed on the internet at: http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=10&art=478)

While the Israeli branch of this organization is relatively small and of little importance, these marginal activities receive attention as a result of the advertising money that they collect spend.  15  sponsors are listed as having provided funds to produce, print, and distribute this crude propaganda.  Among these, some are governments, led by the European Commission, Switzerland, and the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv.  In addition to the dubious practice of using taxpayer's money for propagandizing against the policies of a democratically elected government, these officials have already been indicted for providing billions of dollars in aid (no strings attached) to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.  Some of these funds were diverted for the purchase of weapons, ammunition and explosives (as in the case of the Karine-A arms ship) used to murder Israelis, and other money disappeared into the bank accounts of corrupt officials.  Undaunted, these governments as well as the Ford Foundation, which some people consider to be a government in itself) are also actively supporting in the demonization campaign against Israel and the Jewish people.

While many of the sponsors are NGOs with the usual anti-Israel and "Palestinians as victims" agenda, others are clearly Jewish and linked to Israel.  This group includes the well-known New Israel Fund as well as the Naomi and Nehemia Cohen Foundation, and a group of radical and highly vocal anti-Israel Jews in the Netherlands known as SIVMO.

Such Jewish sponsorship has long provided cover and legitimacy for anti-Semitic propaganda thinly disguised as "criticism of Israeli atrocities."  At least three of the other sponsors of this pamphlet are Christian and church organizations, including as the Global Ministries of the Uniting Churches, a group known as Diakonia (both based in the Netherlands), and EPER -Swiss Interchurch Aid.  To avoid evidence of continuing European Christian anti-Semitism, even after the Holocaust, they can conveniently point to the links with other Jewish groups involved in this outrage.  Diakonia's website proclaims its devotion to the service of reconciliation in the world with the word of faith and the action of love.  This love apparently does not extend to the citizens of the Jewish state and does not prevent anti-Semitism.

In order to fight back against this campaign, each of the sponsors must be challenged.  For over ten years, Israelis and Jews were silent while the Palestinians built up their propaganda machine, and the results are tragically self-evident.  It will take us at least as long to undo the damage.