The incomprehensible brutality of the 7 October Hamas pogrom launched a full scale war, both on the battlefield and in the parallel realm of soft-power and propaganda. Following the pattern developed over the past 20 years, the claimants to expertise and moral authority focused and continue to focus primarily on delegitimising the Israeli military response and preventing the defeat of Hamas. Using the language of human rights and international law, NGO officials are making repeated appearances on major media platforms, accompanied by thousands of social media posts and a torrent of authoritative-sounding statements. And as in the past, the vast majority condemn Israel for ‘war crimes,’ ‘disproportionate force’, ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘deliberate killing of civilians’, and similar accusations, join demands for an immediate ceasefire, and occasionally add a few token remarks on Israeli victims.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a key leader in this campaign. With an annual income of more than $100 million, HRW’s public relations team has been working full time to book their ‘experts’ on numerous television news programs, and marketing their propaganda campaign to journalists, politicians, and diplomats. When mobs attack Jewish targets on university campuses and on the streets of London, New York, Toronto, and Sydney, their chants and signs echo the HRW slogans.
The team of Sari Bashi (HRW’s senior program director) and Omar Shakir (Israel/Palestine Director) are leading this attack. Shakir and Bashi were hired by Ken Roth, HRW’s Executive Director from 1993 to 2022, and are continuing his legacy of using human rights and international law to promote the systematic demonisation of Israel. (In 2009, HRW founder Robert Bernstein condemned Roth and the organization for ‘turning Israel into a pariah state.’)