PCHR Proves That NGOs’ “Eyewitness Testimonies” Are Worthless
On June 23, 2020, Ahmed Erekat rammed his car into Israeli Border Police Officers stationed at a checkpoint outside of the town of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. One officer was wounded, and Erekat was shot dead.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned Israel in a statement (June 24), purporting to be based on “PCHR’s investigations and eyewitnesses’ testimonies.” However, PCHR’s account is rife with falsehoods. Crucially, key elements were obviously contradicted by security camera footage published by the Israel Police later that day.
This episode exemplifies the unreliability of agenda-driven NGO reports and claims of “eyewitness testimony.”
In addition, PCHR is linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel. (For more on PCHR’s ties to the PFLP, see NGO Monitor’s report, “Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
Mistakes in PCHR’s Account
- PCHR Claim: “Erekat (sic) vehicle approached the checkpoint, it deviated from its path and collided into the traffic island opposite the glass room where Israeli border guard soldiers stationed.”
Security Camera Footage: The video clearly shows the vehicle accelerate and make a sharp turn towards the Israeli officers. The video shows that an Israeli officer is flung in the air (not from hitting “the traffic island”), a detail crucially omitted by PCHR.
- PCHR Claim: “The soldiers immediately opened fire at the vehicle, wounding Erekat with several live bullets in his upper body. They pulled him out of the vehicle, [and] threw him on the ground.”
Security Camera Footage: Israeli officers never approach the car, much less make physical contact with Erekat. Footage shows Erekat exit the vehicle prior to being hit.
- PCHR Claim: Israel “claimed that the victim attempted to carry out a run-over attack, but according to the information collected by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) the victim was in fact was en route to pick up his mother, in preparation for his sister’s wedding” (emphasis added).
Logic: There is no contradiction between the two clauses in the sentence. Erekat could have attempted to carry out a ramming attack even though he was on his way to pick up family members.
As the video clearly shows, the best case scenario is that PCHR’s “investigation” was shoddy, distorted, and missing key details. Either the organization failed to properly verify the details provided by eyewitnesses, or it went along with and cherry-picked their misrepresentations (if not wholesale fabrications). PCHR’s report has no credibility, and this should call into question other such allegations by NGOs.
It is also noteworthy that PCHR rushed to put out a statement before all the evidence was available. Such premature reporting may establish mistaken narratives of events, which are later difficult to replace.
Previous PCHR manipulations of terror attacks
PCHR has a history of grossly misrepresenting attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli civilians and security personnel.
- On October 13, 2015, the group condemned Israel for repelling a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, claiming that Israeli forces shot Palestinians “on suspicion of carrying out stabbings.” Again, PCHR ignored security footage clearly establishing the presence of armed terrorists chasing and assaulting Israeli civilians.
- On September 29, 2017, PCHR described an attack in which an Israeli police officer and two civilian security guards were shot to death as “Israeli forces killed Nemer Mahmoud Jamal…when 4 Israeli Border Guard officers at the entrance to ‘Har Adar’ settlement opened fire at him. Moreover, three Israeli soldiers were killed and the fourth was wounded.”
These examples highlight the dangers of relying on PCHR specifically, and other similarly motivated NGOs more broadly, on the issues of fact-finding and reporting. When filtered by PCHR and others to fit their own agendas, eyewitness testimony easily inverts and manipulates events on the ground in order to advance politicized goals.