Release Date: March 6th, 2008

(Jerusalem) – Jerusalem based watchdog NGO Monitor today called on UK based human rights groups and NGOs to end their political use of international law as the violence in the Gaza region continues.  The joint report on March 6 released by eight UK based NGOs, including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Trocaire not only manipulates legal rhetoric, but also includes many false, misleading or unsubstantiated factual claims.

The report criticizes Israeli restrictions, including those on infrastructure and medical care permits. Yet evidence to support the accuracy of these claims contradicts the data and reports of organizations such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization. (See editor’s notes)   

In addition, the report ignores the evidence that Hamas has deliberately exacerbated the humanitarian situation in order to create international pressure on Israel. The German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported February 7, 2008, "[a]t least 10 trucks with humanitarian aid sent to the Gaza Strip by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society were confiscated by Hamas police shortly after the lorries entered the territory;" a further news report added that the aid was "unloaded in Hamas ministry warehouses," and that a similar seizure took place in January, 2008.

Worryingly, the report also includes many distortions of international law, such as the claim that Israeli policy both "constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children" and is "illegal under international humanitarian law".  It also propagates the legal fallacy that Israel is still responsible for Gaza, and "bound by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population." This claim ignores Israel’s total military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, the use of this territory to wage war against Israel, and the complexities of international and humanitarian law.       

This type of rhetoric also characterizes Amnesty International’s March 2 press release, which made the unsubstantiated accusation that Israeli responses "are being carried out with reckless disregard for civilian life". Although some NGOs have included condemnation of Hamas for indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians in Sderot and other communities, they simultaneously create a false moral equivalence with Israel’s responses.  Amnesty called on "Palestinian armed groups" to "immediately stop the barrage of rockets into southern Israel" but falsely referred to Israeli actions as "unlawful attacks", and erroneously condemned "disproportionate attacks and collective punishment in Gaza". These terms are applied arbitrarily, with no explanation of how they are appropriate to this situation under international law.

As reported by NGO Monitor , NGO use of the term "disproportionate" to describe Israel’s military response to rocket fire, lacks any legal or moral foundation.  Indeed a number of experts have shown that under international law, Israel’s responses to aggression are entirely legal, while Hamas is guilty of aggression and war crimes in its unprovoked bombardment of Israeli civilians.  Instead of examining the moral and legal reality, these NGOs employ a highly simplistic interpretation of international law, which legitimizes aggression and the use of human shields by groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah.  

NGO Monitor Executive Director, Prof Gerald Steinberg commented: ‘NGOs and human rights groups must end their irresponsible and immoral use of legal rhetoric.  False claims of disproportionate force and collective punishment by Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam and others make a mockery of international law.’


Editors Notes:

False, misleading or unsubstantiated claims made in the March 6 joint report on Gaza by eight UK NGOs include the following:

  1. "Sufa crossing is only able to deal with a maximum of 45 trucks a day (3). In most cases, this number is barely reached". An IDF report cites 63 trucks going through Sufa on March 5.
  2. "The Israeli government prevents the repair and maintenance of the electricity and water service infrastructure in Gaza by prohibiting the import of spare parts". In contrast, a December 17 World Bank report describes how Israel allowed parts through specifically for this purpose (page 23):  "as a result of coordination with Israel … work [on the lake]…. is expected to be completed by March. 
  3. "According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low." This claim is inconsistent with a WHO report that  permissions  and referrals to  Israeli specialty medical services,  increased by 45% from 4,934 in 2006 to 7,176 in 2007, with approval rates of some 82% of all requests during 2007.

Further evidence of Hamas manipulation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza can be found at "Hamas Manufacture a "Crisis," But Media Blame Israel"

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

Other recent publications and reports by NGO Monitor include:

Analyzing the NGO Campaign on Gaza – Beyond the Rhetoric – Jan 22, 2008

Human Rights Watch’s Cluster Munitions Report: Under the Façade – Feb 17, 2008

NGO Bias in pre-Annapolis Political Statements on Gaza – Nov 26, 2007

NGO Monitor’s Executive Director is, Prof. Gerald Steinberg.

For further information, comment or interviews, contact Dan Kosky

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