As Israel reels from the British academic boycott against it, the gathering of NGO’s under the UN banner in 2001 in Durban, South Africa has not been forgotten.

At that precedent-setting conference prominent Israeli, Palestinian and international NGO’s first gathered to rally behind the specious idea that Israel represents a racist apartheid entity.

This week Florence, Italy is hosting yet another mass meeting of NGO’s who all concur that Israel is an illegal and oppressive occupying power. An NGO gathering in a European country with EU delegates in attendance where they will bash Israel is nothing new.

Indeed the EU, in coordination with the leading NGO’s, has just completed two weeks of intense public forums, demonstrations and activities around the world, denigrating Israel for its victory in the Six-Day War.

In “EU-Funded NGOs Lead Anti-Israel Events on Anniversary of 1967 War” Dr. Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, writes, “Many politicized and EU-funded NGOs that contribute to the demonization of Israel are holding activities and publishing reports coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 War.

These activities portray a one-sided view of events, repeating the Palestinian narrative and providing a distorted history of the war…” In its report on EU funding of NGOs, NGO Monitor provides details regarding how a number of EU-funded Palestinian and Israeli NGOs persistently campaign against Israel in international forums, employ biased rhetoric aimed at delegitimizing Israeli security policies and are fundamentally politicized organizations.

What is unique about the three-day gathering of NGO’s in Florence ending Wednesday is that this international NGO conference is being organized under the umbrella of the Peres Center for Peace, the day before the Israeli presidential elections.

The center’s namesake, Shimon Peres, is the leading candidate for that largely ceremonial post of Israeli president, which is supposed to be a non-partisan position that represents a consensus of Israeli public opinion.

The keynote speech at this week’s NGO event is being given by Avram Burg, described by the conference program as an “Israeli political personality,” despite Burg’s revealing interview with Haaretz (June 1) in which he calls for Israel to cease being a Jewish entity. Each of the Israeli organizations invited – Betselem. Combatants for Peace, Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions, Machsom Watch, Parents’ Circle, Rabbis for Human Rights and Yesh Din – carries a uniquely venomous message which describes Israel’s very presence in Judea and Samaria as a criminal violation of international law. One of those groups, the Israel Committee for Home Demolitions (ICHAD), goes so far as to compare Israeli law with Nazi law.

In a presentation in March 2000 on a Boston affiliate of National Public Radio, ICHAD head Jeff Halper alleged that Israel’s zoning and building regulations are not ordinary laws, and that Israel’s legal system resembles the Nazi Nuremberg Laws. Halper has never retracted that comparison. Arab speakers at the conference include Fatah leaders Yassir Abed Rabo and Jibril Rajub, who are unlikely to mention that Fatah continues to conduct terror operations against Israelis.

No one at the conference will remind participants that Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades is defined by the US, the EU and Israel as a terrorist organization that has not renounced its ways. “There are 120 organizations…and occasionally we bring the two sides [i.e. Israeli and Palestinian] together in order to present activities, think together and look forward,” said Peres Center Director Ron Pundak, who organized the conference.

“This is the first time we have ever organized such a large conference and we want to see how we can get Europe as a community to help us with the peace process.” Pundak acknowledged that the provincial government of Tuscany, noted as a stronghold for the Italian neo-communist party, organized the event.

Praising Shimon Peres, Pundak said Peres was the pioneer of the Peres Center, his legacy influences all Peres Center activities and he was the figure who initiated the conference.

Asked if Peres becoming president would advance the Peres Center for Peace, Pundak nodded his head, saying “I believe so, since the Peres Center represents the realization of Peres’ strategic thinking.”

In reaction to the conference the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, “The Durban conference did not advance the cause of peace for Palestinians or for Israelis and neither will those who continue to conduct such events in the future.”

But later the Ministry Spokesman said he would not have made such a statement had he known the conference was organized under the banner of the Peres Center for Peace.

This is the legacy of Shimon Peres, the new president of Israel, the man who conceived “the new Middle East”

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.