Here’s how it works. Many Palestinians have poor, hard lives—high birth rates, low job qualifications, few income sources. Politically, they are caught between hammer and anvil: They are subject to both a traditionally Arabic “hamoola” system of lawless tribal power and the Palestinian Authority, which Finkelstein has called, not without reason, a “gang of corrupt, wretched collaborators.” Industries that bring in work and foreign money will thrive.
One such industry is international charity. Large, mostly Western donations flow through a web of international organizations to fund the fight against Palestinian suffering, distress, and brutalization under Israeli occupation. The more suffering, distress, and brutalization, the more money. The army of one-man NGOs is the fruit of this incentive system. If you’re the first to report injustice by Jews to Palestinians, you attract the cash.
So, low-level NGOs gather, report, and pay for these stories, true and false. The stories are picked up by larger human rights NGOs, like Amnesty International, B’tselem, Gush Shalom, and Human Rights Watch, whose staffers are not too picky about including uncorroborated testimony in their reports. The reports then go to UN agencies. They become the “facts” of media coverage, public debate, further UN actions. A story unearthed by a one-man NGO in Ramallah may reverberate throughout the international system.
If someone happens to double-check, he asks the same one-man Palestinian NGOs to supply the research. There is little risk of exposure: The entire process, bottom to top, is controlled by anti-Israel personnel, many of whom are actually Palestinians. Who was ever punished for fabricating allegations of Israeli human rights violations? In sum, heavily relying on local Palestinians to supply information, this system of incentives rewards and propagates almost all stories without providing sanctions for fabrication.
This is terrible news for the good, concerned people who want to understand the reality of the occupation: One cannot tell the difference between a true and a false human rights report. A hate industry manufactures the product; the West buys it, providing incentives for further production. We know the most notorious examples: the Goldstone report, the “murder” of Muhammad Al-Durah, the alleged Jenin massacre. But these are only symbols of a fabrication process that taints all human rights activity in Israel.
Then there is Finkelstein’s second accusation—that groups like BDS are effectively led by the “gurus in Ramallah.” It is true. European politicians and human rights organizations make pilgrimages to Ramallah and provide loyal soldiers for the Palestinian propaganda war machine. The real question is, why do we not hear about these relationships?