Demonization of Israel Using the Rhetoric of International Law
A qualitative analysis of HRW’s use of international legal and human rights terminology to condemn Middle Eastern states adds to evidence of consistent bias against Israel. Annual studies since 2005 repeatedly show that HRW condemns Israel for human rights violations more frequently and more vehemently than it does other countries.118 Terms such as “violation of international law,” “war crimes,” “collective punishment” and “arbitrary/unlawful killing” are applied to Israel significantly more often than they are applied to other countries. This reflects a disproportionate eagerness to condemn Israel and inadequate universality in the application of human rights standards.
The graph below illustrates the results for 2008. Terms were counted when they specifically condemned the country’s government – hence a separate category was designated for Hezbollah, to avoid confusion with the Lebanese government.
Double Standards in Use of language (2008)
In this table, we see that,
- Israel was the only Middle Eastern actor to be accused of “war crimes” by HRW in 2008 (six times).
- Israel was condemned for “violations of human rights law,” “humanitarian law,” or “international humanitarian law” (IHL) 33 times, compared with 13 citations for the Palestinians, six for Hezbollah and five for Egypt.
- HRW accused Israel of “illegal” or “unlawful” activity, or “violating the law” 26 times in 2008, compared to 17 citations for the Palestinians, six for Yemen, and less than four citations for other Middle Eastern countries.
- Accusations of “international law violations” were also primarily directed at Israel: 15 citations for Israel, nine for Iran, and six for the Palestinians.
- The peak in Palestinian numbers in the chart shows a limited attempt at “balance” in HRW treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including partial acknowledgment of Palestinian human rights violations.
- See “Double Standards” section above for details on HRW’s inconsistent and one-sided use of international legal terminology, including “collective punishment.”