HRW's Gaza Campaign: Advocacy not Accuracy
Release date: March 25, 2009
(Jerusalem) – Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor today rejected Human Rights Watch’s latest report on the Gaza conflict, "Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorous in Gaza," as inaccurate and distorted, revealing a readiness to manipulate "evidence" to match pre-determined ideological conclusions.
HRW’s record exhibits a strong anti-Israel bias. Its reporting in 2008 reflected the portrayal of Israel as the second worst abuser of human rights in the Middle East. Even before the renewal of the military conflict on December 27, 2008, HRW focused disproportionately on Gaza: 18 out of 27 HRW statements in 2008 dealing with Israel addressed Gaza, accusing Israel of "collective punishment," "continued occupation,” and contributing to a "humanitarian crisis" – charges that are inconsistent with international law and lack supporting evidence.
HRW also has a history of inaccurate reporting. During the Second Lebanon War (2006), HRW promoted the myth of a Qana massacre, inflating the death toll to 54, although officials knew at the time that the Red Cross was only reporting 28 casualties. HRW eventually retracted its false report. Similarly, HRW’s major report on the conflict, "Fatal Strikes" (August 2006), claimed the NGO "found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians" – i.e., operated from civilian areas – despite a wealth of documentary and video proof of the extensive Hezbollah activity in many of the specific villages where HRW claimed it was absent. Nine out of 21 cases described in "Fatal Strikes" were contradicted by later HRW reports – a remarkable inaccuracy rate of 43% – even before independent analysis of the evidence.
The latest report on the use of white phosphorus continues HRW’s pattern, including:
- Complete omission of the context of the broader conflict, including Hamas’ deliberate exploitation of civilian areas to launch attacks. For example, HRW claims that there was no Hamas activity around the Al-Quds Hospital in Tel al-Hawa, yet, a Gazan ambulance driver reported that Hamas operatives "made several attempts to hijack the Al-Qud’s Hospital’s fleet of ambulances." In another instance, HRW alleges there was "no indication" of "Palestinian armed groups" operating in Beit Lahiya; photographic evidence shows Hamas fortifications in the town.
- Reliance on Palestinian eye witnesses whose credibility or links to Hamas cannot be verified: "Palestinian de-miners showed Human Rights Watch an additional 48 shells that they said they had removed from civilian areas, although the precise location where they found these shells is unclear. It is unlikely that the de-miners collected any of these shells from open areas near the Gaza-Israel armistice line."
- The main claim of "evidence of war crimes" stems from HRW’s allegation that the IDF intended to "willfully-that is, deliberately or recklessly" harm civilians (despite a complete absence of evidence regarding IDF motives).
- The authors include Marc Garlasco, who has a significant record of anti-Israel bias in reporting at HRW; Fares Akram, who publicly stated "I am finding it hard to distinguish between what the Israelis call terrorists and the Israeli pilots and tank crews who are invading Gaza;" and Darryl Li, whose inflammatory pseudo-legal arguments published in the pro-Palestinian propaganda journal, MERIP, describes Gaza as a "bantustan, internment camp, animal pen."
- HRW extensively relies on Palestinian NGO Al Mezan, thanking them in the report. Among other claims, Al Mezan lists a child as deceased, who was subsequently interviewed by Garlasco in Gaza.
- The report reflects HRW’s inconsistent definition of "human shield." When reporting on Sri Lanka, HRW condemns the LTTE for "deploy[ing] their forces close to civilians, thus using them as ‘human shields.’" Yet in Gaza, HRW claims that it "found no evidence of Hamas using human shields in the vicinity at the time of the attacks" despite the fact that "In some areas Palestinian fighters appear to have been present…"
NGO Monitor’s Executive Director, Prof Gerald Steinberg commented on the release of the report, "This is yet another example of HRW’s disturbing disregard for the evidence. Such reports promote the Durban Strategy by removing the context of terrorism and self-defense, and contribute to a political war based on unsubstantiated allegations and using the language of human rights."
NGO Monitor was founded to promote transparency, critical analysis and debate on the political role of human rights organizations. For more information, see our website at http://www.ngo-monitor.org
Other recent publications and reports by NGO Monitor include:-
Amnesty’s Gaza ‘Report’ and calls for arms embargo: Abolishing Israel’s right to self-defense – February 25, 2009
The NGO Front in the Gaza War – February 5, 2009
NGO ‘Lawfare’: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict – October 8, 2008
NGO Monitor’s Executive Director is, Prof. Gerald Steinberg.
Members of NGO Monitor’s International Advisory Board include Elie Wiesel, Prof Alan Dershowitz, Sir Martin Gilbert and R. James Woolsey
For further information, comment or interviews contact Naftali Balanson
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