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by NGO Monitor


Summary of House of Cards: NGOs and the Goldstone Report

1. Number of NGO citations in the report

Note: The following data are based on systematic analysis of the preliminary Goldstone report, published September 15, 2009. Additionally, we note that in places, the report refers to NGO officials without mentioning their affiliation to a particular organization. These ambiguous references may not be reflected in our analysis.

The information below includes direct and indirect mechanisms by which NGO allegations are reflected in the report. In the category of direct reliance, we include NGO publications, as well as interviews with and testimony from officials. The report includes than 500 such references. The category of indirect reliance includes 120 references to or citations from UN agencies, such as OCHA. Many of their reports and information provided are based solely or primarily on NGO claims.

The direct references to the most frequently cited NGOs include:

Thus, it is clear that the report relies overwhelming on the allegations of these political NGOs, and does not constitute an independent fact-finding mission.

2. NGO Conflicts of Interest among Goldstone Mission Staff

Several members of the Goldstone Mission have had significant links to NGOs, including HRW, Amnesty International, and PCHR. These same NGOs were among the most cited in the Goldstone report. These connections, which were not disclosed by the Mission, call into question the ability of panel members and staff to objectively evaluate information submitted by these organizations. These conflicts are in clear violation of the International Bar Association's London-Lund Guidelines for Fact Finding Missions.[1]

3. Adoption of NGO Interpretations of International Law

Throughout the Gaza conflict, NGOs issued more than 500 statements alleging Israeli violations of international law. In many cases, the legal standards invoked by the NGOs do not exist, represent an extreme minority position, or were manipulated and inconsistently defined in order to encompass a wide definition of Israeli "violations," while minimizing obligations of Hamas.

Goldstone adopted many of these distorted NGO claims and standards verbatim, without independent verification or investigation, thereby providing further evidence of the dominant role played by NGOs within this one-sided framework. Additionally, the inclusion of "legal findings" and recommendations in the report are in violation of UN Rules on Fact-Finding (GA Res. 46/59, rule 17) and the standards upon which Goldstone claimed to base his inquiry (para. 158), which require that reports "should be limited to a presentation of findings of a factual nature."

This process is reflected in the following illustrations:

4. Distortion of NGO statements that did not fit Palestinian narrative

Although the Goldstone Commission received several submissions from NGOs containing exculpatory and documentary evidence that contradicted the Palestinian claims, this information was systematically ignored or distorted to fit Goldstone's pre-determined conclusions. In contrast, Goldstone accepted outrageous NGO claims at face value without further research (such as the absurd and unsourced allegation by Palestinian NGO, Addameer, that since 1967, 750,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel [or 18,000 unique detainees each year]). Sources directly affiliated with the Hamas terrorist regime were given credibility by the Mission unless the evidence stated therein corroborated Israeli claims of wrongdoing:

5. NGOs and Factual Claims

6. NGO quotes in the section on "Repression of dissent"

A section entitled "Repression of dissent in Israel, right to access to information and treatment of human rights defenders" (XXV) accuses Israel of violating the "rights of freedom of association and expression for individuals and groups." These issues are entirely tangential to the context of the fighting in Gaza. Additionally, the conclusions are speculative; the report does not provide any concrete evidence of violations of international law or failure to fulfill legal obligations by Israel.

Rather, the section seeks to defend NGOs and NGO activists, and promote their narrative regarding friction between these groups and the Israeli government. Although the NGOs, in general, were the subjects of the alleged Israeli restrictions, and therefore constitute "interested parties," Goldstone accepted their versions and interpretations of events unquestioningly.

7. Quid pro quo: The symbiotic relationship between NGOs and Goldstone

Since April 2009, when Goldstone was appointed to lead the fact-finding mission, international, Israeli, and Palestinian NGOs promoted Goldstone and his Commission, urging Israel to cooperate with the investigation and supporting the claims that the mandate was "balanced."

In turn, Goldstone bolstered the credibility of these groups by relying heavily on their publications, repeating their claims uncritically, calling NGO activists to "testify," praising their "high professional standard" while working in "extremely difficult circumstances," and defending them against "repression" from the Israeli government.

Finally, since the initial publication of the Goldstone report (September 15, 2009) and throughout the proceedings at the UN Human Rights Council, the NGOs have once again supported Goldstone, and are lobbying the US, the EU, and others to endorse the report's prejudicial conclusions and recommendations.

Given the preponderance of NGO contributions to the final product, the mutual support is particularly absurd and disingenuous; these NGOs are, in fact, promoting their own material.

See Appendix 1 below for more details.


[1] In another example of lack of transparency, the Mission did not respond to repeated NGO Monitor requests for a complete listing of staff members.

[2] For instance, HRW's September 16, 2009 press release states, "But both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating and holding accountable members of their own forces for serious laws-of-war violations." Goldstone's September 17, 2009, New York Times oped notes, "Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces."

[3] Note that Goldstone does not reference Mahmoud Daher, Director of the World Health Organization in Gaza, who testified to the commission that "during the operation the military, the Israeli military operation in Gaza Strip, equipment, drugs and medication would enter Gaza Strip on a daily basis . . . as a matter of fact a great deal of our needs were satisfied, medical needs or food needs."

[4] "Final report to the Prosecutor...", paras. 47-50. A/HRC/12/48

[5] Goldstone has refused to release copies of the NGO submissions, however, a similar report authored by HaLevi is available here.

[6] MDA's response: "It should be emphasized that, in its submission, MDA only related to ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent, which is part of the Red Cross, and not to ambulances that serve Hamas or other terror groups. Furthermore, MDA included in its submission photographic evidence of attempts by Hamas to use Red Crescent vehicles, that were rebuffed by employees of the Palestinian Red Crescent. Any other interpretation is taking our statement out of context." (translated from the original Hebrew)

Appendix 1: NGO statements of support for Goldstone

Before the report:

After the publication:


Contact NGO Monitor by email at This article was published October 1, 2009 and is archived at The original article has live links to additional material.

See also: NGO Monitor: "Made in Europe: How government funded NGOs shaped the Goldstone report" October 1, 2009, and_the_goldstone_report. It points out that the Goldstone report includes "more than 500 direct citations from highly politicized groups that lack credibility, many of which are funded by European governments."


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