Letter to the Editor of Foreign Policy (Unpublished)

Re: Don’t Blame Hamas for the Gaza Bloodshed (May 22, 2018)

Sari Bashi, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) “Israel/Palestine Advocacy Director,” dubs Hamas innocent and Israel guilty of the bloodshed along the Gaza border. This is the product of an invented legal standard and obfuscation of the relevant facts.

Bashi repeats HRW’s legal rhetoric of Israel’s response to the violence along its border, claiming that like police, its soldiers may only use lethal force to protect themselves from an “imminent threat.”

However, as recently noted by the Israeli Supreme Court, under international humanitarian law, countries are permitted to use force, for example to protect their border and the populations living behind it, provided that it meets the criteria of proportionality. The fact that close to 90% of the casualties were combatants for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian armed groups indicates that proportionality was indeed met.

Moreover, were masses of rioters allowed to swarm and overrun the border, even HRW’s flawed test of “imminent threat” would  inevitably be met, and would likely require Israel’s soldiers to use lethal force on a far greater scale. Bashi conveniently chooses to ignore this crucial point.

Bashi’s argument is similarly silent on Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ role in using civilians as human shields and their “recruitment and use” of children as combatants.

HRW’s representative also distorts the UN Human Rights Council’s vote. Citing the 29 “yes” to 2 “no” votes on an “independent commission of inquiry,” Bashi fails to mention that the 14 “abstention” and 2 “no” votes include Western democracies such as the US, Australia, the UK, and Japan, while “yes” votes comprised almost entirely abusive human rights regimes like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.

Bashi’s piece raises serious questions as to why the world’s largest human rights organization suggests we rely on human rights abusers as our moral compass. Her failure to tell the true story does not further human rights –neither for Israelis nor Palestinians.

Becca Wertman is Deputy Editor and Canada Desk researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.