NGO’s attacks following a series of moral embarrassments
Jerusalem – After losing credibility over a number of Middle East-related issues, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is once again leveling false charges against Israel. The claim that there was an “unlawful” attack on “journalists” and buildings containing the offices of news agencies during the recent Gaza fighting is false both legally and factually, and the timing of this release appears to be a cynical attempt to divert attention from many scandals currently plaguing the organization,” stated Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.
“This is yet another example of HRW’s systematic lack of credibility and its biased approach to Israel,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “Calling a military attack ‘unlawful’ is a serious charge, which should not be made lightly. But HRW cannot substantiate these allegations.”
HRW claims, without any military expertise or necessary information, that the targets in the Israeli strikes were “making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations” and were not valid “military objectives.” HRW clearly has no knowledge of the military intelligence possessed by Israeli commanders at the time of the strikes, or the military and moral concerns that guided their thinking. Contrary to HRW’s claims, its employees cannot possibly know the “intent” of the commanders who ordered the attacks. Furthermore, international law is clear that neither the presence of civilians during an attack nor the fact that civilians were tragically killed means that the attack was unlawful. Moreover, NGO Monitor notes that contrary to HRW claims, the targets included four senior Islamic Jihad combatants that were directly involved with the planning, manufacture, and execution of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and other attacks.
“As with most of the NGO’s claims in previous conflicts, HRW’s ‘evidence’ is without substance. The organization presents no proof whatsoever that the targets involved were not being used for military operations or that the ‘journalists’ were not Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters,” noted NGO Monitor legal advisor Anne Herzberg. “HRW’s bogus charges ignore that Al Aqsa TV is a globally designated terrorist by the US government and they appear to be based on self-serving statements by a Hamas official. The Israeli government does not owe this totally discredited and biased organization any explanations. Just because HRW claims something is a war crime does not make it so.” The ease with which some media outlets continue to quote HRW’s long discredited allegations, without any independent analysis or due diligence, is also disturbing.
HRW’s bias has also been seen in its silence about the Syrian bombing of Palestinians in a mosque in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp. Steinberg commented, “Apparently, HRW only cares about Palestinian victims when they can blame Israel.”
NGO Monitor notes that this latest HRW campaign takes place against a background of repeated embarrassments for the organization in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal published a stinging critique of HRW’s silence in the wake of Iran’s genocidal threats against Israel. The NGO was forced to remove Richard Falk from one of its boards, after UN Watch highlighted his antisemitic and conspiratorial ideas.
Previous scandals that show HRW’s lack of credibility, immoral behavior, and blatant bias in violation of the universal moral principles of human rights include its embrace of the Ghaddafi family as “human rights reformers”; fund raising in Saudi Arabia for anti-Israel campaigning; the employment and then secret dismissal of its “senior military analyst” with an obsession for Nazi memorabilia; HRW’s central role in the discredited “Goldstone report”; emotional anti-Israeli statements by Executive Director Kenneth Roth; and a New York Times op-ed by founder Robert Bernstein, denouncing his own organization for the damage it has done to human rights.
For detailed analysis of NGO statements on this issue, see NGO Monitor’s report, “NGO Factual and Legal Distortions on Gaza ‘Media Center’ Attacks” (Nov. 20, 2012)