Following the release of its flawed and one-sided report "Razing Rafah", (analyzed by NGO Monitor on 18 October 2004), Human Rights Watch has turned its attention to the US-based Caterpillar Inc. In a 23 November 2004 press release, HRW calls upon Caterpillar to suspend sales of its D9 bulldozer, which would deprive Israel of the means for legitimate self-defense against terrorism.
HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson, who demonstrated her anti-Israel agenda while working for MADRE, wrote : "Caterpillar betrays its stated values when it sells bulldozers to Israel knowing that they are being used to illegally destroy Palestinian homes. Until Israel stops these practices, Caterpillar's continued sales will make the company complicit in human rights abuses." HRW sent a letter to Caterpillar on 29 October 2004 with a similar content.
This ideological assertion builds upon HRW's "Razing Rafah" report which charged that the IDF's clearing of residential structures in the Gaza Strip were carried out "without the military necessity required by international humanitarian law". As noted in NGO Monitor's analysis, this report condemning IDF anti-terror operations in Gaza was based on unverifiable Palestinian allegations and unsubstantiated security judgments for which HRW's politicized Middle East Division has no credentials. Instead, it served to emphasize HRW's continuing anti-Israel political agenda, as also demonstrated in Kenneth Roth's interview in the Jerusalem Post. The latest press release continues and expands such distortions.
Beyond the specific issue, HRW's decision to play an active role in the boycott campaign is also part of the broader political strategy based on the "South African model" to delegitimize and demonize Israel, and prepare the path for its ultimate destruction. This strategy was articulated at the 2001 Durban conference in which HRW played a prominent role.
Although the attempts to pressure Caterpillar to comply with this political measure have failed (the company's 14 April 2004 Annual Meeting of Stockholders voted down a motion to examine Israeli usage of D9s), the issue here is HRW's role in the demonization campaign. The combination of the 135 page report alleging IDF abuses in Gaza and the campaign to force Caterpillar to stop sales of defensive equipment to Israel again highlights HRW's policy of allocating highly disproportionate resources on demonization of Israel, while giving far less attention to genuine human rights abuses such as Sudan.