HRW Links with Palestinian NGOs
HRW’s a priori political agenda is also reflected in its close links with local Palestinian and Israeli NGOs which promote the Durban Strategy. HRW relies on local partners to highlight issues and guide research. Information, albeit often unverifiable or inaccurate, and influence flow from local Palestinian and radical Israeli NGOs to HRW, which uses its resources and public relations machinery to target journalists, government officials and the UN. This close relationship of cooperation and mutual influence is evident throughout HRW’s reports and campaigns.
Numerous NGOs are acknowledged in HRW reports, including Al Mezan, Palestinian Centre for Human rights (PCHR), B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Adalah, HaMoked, Al-Haq and LAW.52 However HRW is rarely transparent concerning the details of this cooperation and the degree to which, if any, HRW independently verifies their allegations and information. The credibility deficiencies and ideological biases of these groups are well documented,53 although a comprehensive study is beyond the scope of this paper. As illustrated in this section, reliance on these groups seriously undermines the impartiality and professionalism that HRW seeks to convey.
Despite receiving major international funding, these local groups have minimal or no oversight, display inconsistent reporting standards and are strongly committed to specific political goals.54 Yet their claims are legitimized and magnified by international superpower NGOs like Human Rights Watch. The result is that HRW reports are selective and distorted, representing local NGO campaigns, rather than an impartial human rights analysis.
One particularly alarming example is HRW’s close relationship with Al Haq, a Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO and a leader both in the Boycott and Divestment (BDS) movement55 and NGO lawfare against Israel (Herzberg 2008).56 Al Haq’s co-founder Charles Shamas is a senior partner of the Ramallah-based Mattin Group and a member of HRW’s Middle East-North Africa advisory board. He has “advised the PLO/PNA on IHL-related diplomacy” and led the effort to lobby the EU “into reversing their de facto acceptance of Israel’s administrative annexation of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.”
Al Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin has been denied travel visas by both Israel and Jordan because of his alleged ties to the PFLP terror organization (NGO Monitor Report May 14, 2007). HRW led the campaign to end travel restrictions on Jabarin, utilizing press releases and a letter to the Dutch government.58 This letter omitted any reference to Jabarin’s ties to the PFLP,59 despite the Judge’s conclusion that,
This petitioner is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organization, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organization which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.
Notwithstanding this condemnation, HRW continues to acknowledge Al Haq’s assistance in many of its reports.
Not only have detailed studies unmasked many of these groups’ highly politicized agendas couched in the language of universal human rights, but the basic credibility of their research is also regularly challenged. As examples, HRW’s Marc Garlasco interviewed a child listed as dead by Al Mezan in January 2009; PHR-I reported a patient had died of cancer while awaiting access to Israeli healthcare, when he was in fact alive (NGO Monitor Update May 6, 2008), and B’Tselem and PCHR have been found to list Hamas military commanders as non-combatant casualties. PCHR’s civilian casualty statistics are widely cited, but an in-depth report by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism found that,
by checking the names on the PCHR list against Hamas websites, we found that many of those claimed by PCHR to be – civilians were in fact hailed as – militant martyrs by Hamas. Others listed by PCHR as – civilians killed in Israeli raids later turned out to be Fatah members killed by Hamas, some of them in – execution style killings.60
Key examples include Nizar Rayan (Abu Toameh 2009) and Siam Said (Greenberg 2009), both senior Hamas military leaders who are listed by PCHR as civilians.61