Special Edition: 18 October 2004
HRW'S REPORT ON GAZA: LACKING CREDIBILITY
AND REFLECTING A POLITICAL AGENDA
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On October 18, Kenneth Roth, leader of Human Rights Watch, and
Sarah Leah Whitson, head of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division,
held a press conference at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem
to publicize a 135-page report condemning Israeli security actions
in Gaza. (see www.hrw.org)
The press release and report reflect the style of other
HRW publications related to Israeli security actions during
the past four years of intense violence, consisting of political
and ideological claims, unsupported "military assessments", and
denunciations that downplay the context of terrorism. This press
release and report regarding IDF operations in Gaza reflect unverifiable
Palestinian allegations and unsubstantiated security judgements
for which HRW's politicized Middle East Division has no credentials.
For example, HRW claims that IDF actions were taken despite the absence of
"military necessity" and that the "IDF has apparently failed to
explore well-established methods to detect and destroy tunnels..."
However, the only evidence presented to back this claim is from
interviews with three "experts", whose personal backgrounds, professional
qualifications and assessments remain entirely hidden. Other sources
cited in the report consist of journalistic impressions, claims
by PLO-based NGOs such as Al
Mezan, and unsubstantiated claims from Palestinians and Egyptians
(on the other side of the smuggling tunnels). In many cases, these
reports are circular, with one source simply quoting another, without
verification. This closed process has been responsible for false
allegations in the past, and as a result, HRW's dismissal of legitimate
security actions are without credibility.
This report also contains numerous allegations and assumptions that reflect HRW's dominant ideology. In this context, Roth asserts that the Israeli response to the lethal missile attacks is a "pretext to justify home demolitions" and other actions are taken under the "pretext of protecting its soldiers". Such statements are clearly subjective, as is also true for claims regarding the legality of specific responses to terror.
This pattern of exploiting the rhetoric of human rights to advance
a political agenda has been used repeatedly, as in the case of HRW's
role in the 2001
Durban conference that demonized Israel; in HRW's exploitation
of the term "war crimes" to refer to the IDF offensive in Jenin
Defensive Shield following the murder of over 100 Israelis;
in its one-sided condemnations of the Israeli anti-terror
separation barrier, and in many other examples.
In addition, HRW's 135-page report focusing on Israel's security responses stands in stark contrast to this NGO's minimalist approach to terrorism. In the past four years, HRW has issued well over 100 reports, press releases, and other condemnations of Israeli defensive actions, in contrast to a handful of low-profile reactions to terror. HRW's single substantive analysis was issued in October 2002, and is never mentioned, including in the case of the current publicity campaign.
In conclusion, as this evidence indicates, HRW reports on Israel
lack substantive credibility and are driven by a clear and consistent
political and ideological agenda. Beyond contributing to the destruction
of human right norms and demonization of Israel, this agenda also
diverts attention from genuine human rights catastrophes, such as
in Sudan, which
received far less attention from HRW.