Thursday, June 18, 2015

  • Thursday, June 18, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
This story from 2012 received very little attention in Western media, although independent Palestinian media has been all over it again lately:
The Palestinian Authority has plans to use an international human rights organization as a front for intelligence gathering and discrediting Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, according to documents leaked to a number of Palestinian news websites over the weekend.

The documents also appeared on the PA’s official news agency Wafa, but were quickly removed under the pretext that they are “fabrications.”

The agency claimed that hackers infiltrated its website and posted the documents.

Earlier, the agency announced that the PA has decided to establish a commission of inquiry to look into the documents out of fear that the case could embarrass the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. Later, however, the agency removed the report, again claiming that it had been planted on its website by hackers.

There was no way to verify the authenticity of the leaked documents.

According to the documents, the PA’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank is planning to use the Global Network for Rights and Development as a front for espionage activities.

GNRD was established in Geneva in 2008 with the aim of enhancing and supporting human rights and development by adopting new, creative strategies and policies to achieve lasting change.

The documents are said to be part of a “classified report” prepared by the PA’s General Department of Palestinian External Security.

The plan envisages using GNRD as a front for the establishment of an “effective and credible international human rights group that would be based in Geneva and whose goal would be to defend Palestinian causes” and collect information.

The cost of the project is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

The report points out the important role of NGOs’ in shaping public opinion and affecting decision-making worldwide.

“These NGOs have a green card to enter any place in the world and operate freely under various pretexts,” the report said. “But we in Palestine are lacking many elements of power.”

The report claimed that many Western countries, including France, Britain and the US, have been using human rights organizations as a “striking arm” to affect policies around the world and remove governments from power. The report referred specifically to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and claims that they are funded and backed by Britain and the US, respectively.

The report recommended that the PA set up a similar “striking arm” that would operate out of Geneva and have representation in at least 50 countries. It said that the main mission would be to gather intelligence with the help of Western nationals.
The Global Network for Rights and Development is already a fake human rights organization. Brian Whitaker at Al-Bab has an impressive series of articles exposing them.
  • GNRD has connections with the United Arab Emirates and portrays the UAE's human rights policies in an undeservedly favourable light.
  • Its founder and president, Loai Deeb, previously set up a fake university in Norway which closed under threats of legal action from the Norwegian authorities.
  • Deeb also uses hundreds of fake Twitter accounts to promote himself and his activities.
  • GNRD's "High Commissioner for Europe" is a discredited Belgian politician with a conviction for electoral malpractice.

Last Friday, however, new questions arose about the activities of Deeb's strange human rights organisation. It emerged that GNRD was at the centre of a money-laundering investigation launched by the Norwegian authorities and that Deeb had been arrested. The amount of money involved is said to be $13 million.

Stavanger university has now decided that GNRD does not "meet the requirements" for partnership and has cancelled the agreement.

Universities were not the only institutions fooled by GNRD. Others include the United Nations, the European Parliament and the African Union. Even before the money-laundering case (which has yet to be tested in court) there were plenty of reasons to stay well clear of Deeb and GNRD.

In the seven years since it was founded, GNRD has made a particular point of trying to associate itself with other organisations and institutions. Sometimes there were formal agreements and a signing ceremony which was photographed for GNRD's website. Developing these ties helped to build an air of credibility.

Many of its ties, though, were much less formal but GNRD exaggerated their importance. It spent a lot of time "participating" in activities organised by other groups – which often required nothing more than attending a conference or meeting and posting a report of it on the GNRD website. Again, this helped to build credibility by association and, through the website posts, created an impression of GNRD as a busy, active organisation even when it wasn't actually doing very much.

GNRD's website carries the logos of 27 "collaborators and sponsors" (scroll down to the bottom of this page). They look impressive but the names are difficult to read – which is perhaps just as well because two of them are businesses owned by Loai Deeb. They also include two hotel companies and a travel agent (presumably used by GNRD) and several NGOs in Latin America which GNRD staff have reported meeting on their travels. Almun (the Arab League Model United Nations) is included too – apparently because GNRD attended one of its events in Cairo last year.
This "human rights NGO" is a scam - a scam that has fooled the EU, the UN and many NGOs.

The founder, Loai Deeb,  is a Palestinian who now lives in Norway.

The idea that Abbas could have wanted to effectively rent out this fake organization, run by a Palestinian, which had already collaborated with known human rights NGOs and governments, is plausible indeed. It seems far-fetched that such an elaborate plan could have been fabricated by Abbas' enemies, but the idea that Abbas would want to use a human rights organization that can travel the world without scrutiny as an espionage operation  - as well as another venue to bash Israel - is not too implausible.

UPDATE: I misread the date of the JPost article; it was 2012, not this year.

(h/t Ibn Boutros)

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