I want to speak about the role of human rights and humanitarian aid groups in the conflict and how unfortunately, they have been engaged in immoral campaigns that have degraded human rights frameworks and have been responsible for spreading misinformation about the laws of war, which has served to embolden Hamas and entrench the conflict. We have seen this pattern play out many times, but the events of the past week have put these issues into stark relief.
The atrocities committed by Hamas were on a level of brutality in both scale and scope akin to the slaughter of the Tustsi in Rwanda, massacres by ISIS, and of course, the Holocaust. There is no doubt that the death toll would have been many times higher had exceedingly brave civilians, first responders, and the IDF not been able to regain control of the Gaza border when they did.
Hamas crimes violate almost every precept of the laws of war in the most shocking ways: planned attacks on civilians, murder, mutilation, torture, rape, psychological terrorism, perfidy, kidnapping, targeting medical workers, rocketing populations centers, and on and on. These acts, documented by the Palestinian perpetrators themselves, constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide.
Yet, human rights NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, high ranking UN officials, humanitarian agencies like MSF and the Norwegian Refugee Council, groups and individuals that proclaim to lead the movement to promote human rights and international law globally should have been outraged – condemning the atrocities, demanding the disarmament of Hamas, and ceaselessly campaigning for the release of the 150 Israelis including children and the elderly, being held captive. Instead, they were largely silent. When their exceedingly sparse and late-coming statements were made, they were devoid of emotion, lacking of any detailed substance, and devoted large chunks to condemning Israel and blaming the thousands of victims for the horrors perpetrated against them.
And true to form, as soon as Israel began with its military response, their websites and twitter feeds lit up and were flooded with premature condemnations of Israel, blatantly false claims regarding international law, and anti-humanitarian appeals.
For instance, these groups falsely accused Israel of committing war crimes for targeting Hamas installations where civilians might be killed, without doing any military necessity or proportionality analysis as required by international law.
They re-upped their lies from the 2008-09 conflict about white phosphorous implying Israel was using prohibited chemical weapons, when this is a legal smoke munition.
They demand Israel take feasible precautions to protect civilians, but when Israel does so by providing warnings to Gazans via roof knocks, flyers, and SMS messages, they attack Israel for sowing panic.
They have condemned Israel for calling for the evacuation of Northern Gaza, claiming this is impossible, when Israel itself has evacuated parts of its civilian population from the Gazan and Northern borders in order to abide by the law requiring the separating of combatants from civilians. In other conflicts like Ukraine, these groups would be and did help civilians evacuate. In Gaza, these groups are enabling Hamas’ agenda of using the civilian population as human shields.
They complain about Israel’s cutting off water and electricity even though a significant portion comes from elsewhere, and Gaza shares a border with Egypt. Yet, they are silent about Hamas stealing diesel and water from its civilian population and stockpiling them to carry out its on-going atrocities.
And we have seen little to no efforts by these groups to campaign for the Israeli hostages, they do not condemn Hamas’ human shield policies, they say nothing about its mass diversion of aid and co-locating troops and arms in civilian infrastructure, and they refuse to document the recruitment and use of child soldiers – even though these are all grave violations of international law and humanitarian principles.
These groups are similarly silent on the role of Iran and Hezbollah. Iran has been funding and arming both Hamas and Hezbollah, allowing them to stockpile weaponry in civilian locations to be used to commit atrocities against Israelis and to destroy Gaza and Southern Lebanon, yet these groups have never spoken out. Instead, they have devoted their immense resources to campaign for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
And finally, these groups have excluded antisemitism as a human rights issue. They have said nothing about the mass antisemitic mobs that have been seen all over North America and Europe in the past week inciting more violence against Jews. Not only have they not sought to protect Jews, for the past two years, they have been involved in an intensive campaign to block the adoption of policies, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism, that would enhance the protection of Jews globally.
So I would throw the onus back on these groups – Why do they fail to engage in any work to combat antisemitism? why do they ignore Palestinian atrocities committed against Israelis? Why are they misrepresenting international law in a matter that advances Hamas propaganda? If they truly are interested in protecting civilians, advancing human rights, humanitarian goals, and international law, then why are they promoting policies and engaging in practices that seeks to further conflict and embolden evil actors like Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah?