Lawfare and its responses in the Middle East

Terrorism is generally associated with images of violence. However, there has been a trend of attributing the operations of human rights organizations as terrorist acts.

These groups are currently accused of using lawfare, or a method of warfare where law is used as a means of realizing a military objective.

These accusations in the Middle East are what brought Neve Gordon, a political science professor at Ben-Gurion University, to the Business Building lounge last Thursday.

Gordon focused on the smear campaign run by right-wing Israeli groups and government agencies against international human rights groups.

The groups were targeted because their contributions to international reports, such as the UN Goldstone report, allegedly undermined anti-terrorist initiatives.

The negative response from the anti-human rights group movement was characterized in three steps by Gordon.  The anti-human rights groups believe that the lawfare they used is a form of terrorism and that human rights groups enable lawfare, thus they believe that the human rights groups are part of the terrorist network.

According to Gordon, this blowback from the anti-human rights group movement produced a large negative change in Israel’s public opinion of human rights groups, like Amnesty International from 2003 to 2011.  He presented data that highlighted a huge swing against human right groups that supported Palestinian rights.

Gordon made a comparison between this anti-human rights group movement and the sentiments of Edmund Burke’s statement in the 1800s that there is no such thing as abstract rights of man, only the rights of the Englishman, or that the welfare of the state is being put above general rights of humans.

Gordon highlights how the accusations of lawfare have drastically altered public opinion in Israel. (Photo courtesy of Danny Olivarez)