Peter Bouckaert, “Emergencies Director” for HRW,38 has a background in research in South Africa. His one-sided approach to the Arab-Israeli context may be the result of drawing a false analogy between the two very different conflict situations of South Africa and Israel. Bouckaert worked at the Constitutional Litigation Unit of the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa 1994-1995 and the South Africa Department of Land Affairs 1996-1996. 39 He holds a law degree from Stanford University and received a fellowship at HRW after graduation in 1997. In his position, Bouckaert “is responsible for coordinating [HRW’s] response to major wars and other human rights crises.”40 An interview with Bouckaert described his “maverick style,” his “urgent headline grabbing activism,” and, as with many other activists at HRW, his anti-establishment approach (Case 2005).
Boukaert has authored a number of tendentious op-eds directed exclusively at Israel during and after the Second Lebanon War. An August 5, 2006 report from Tyre, For Israel, Innocent Civilians Are Fair Game, claimed that “Time after time, Israel has hit civilian homes and cars …killing dozens of people with no evidence of any military objective./My notebook overflows with reports of civilian deaths…” (Bouckaert Aug. 5-6, 2006). Another op-ed in The Guardian described the “carnage in Qana” and Israel’s actions as “war crimes” (Bouckaert July 31, 2006). As noted below in the case study on the Lebanon War, HRW amplified and distorted the events in Qana by publicizing a false casualty figure and repeating claims of indiscriminate attacks.
Bouckaert also wrote HRW’s September 2007 report on the Second Lebanon War, Why They Died. This pseudo-research publication followed HRW’s pattern of highly selective analysis, unprofessional methodology, unverifiable allegations, and grossly disproportionate criticism of Israel that includes 122 pages on alleged Israeli abuses, and just 23 pages on alleged abuses by Hezbollah. This report also reexamines and corrects some of the most blatant errors in the case studies from HRW’s earlier report, Fatal Strikes which Bouckaert co-authored (NGO Monitor Digest Oct. 1, 2007). For example, in Fatal Strikes an airstrike on Aitaroun on July 17 is presented as an example of the killing of civilians at a time when “Hezbollah was not operating in the area.” Yet in Why They Died, the details are changed. Different witnesses report that “The night of the attack, Hezbollah was firing from inside the village. …At 10:15 p.m., they were firing rockets from near our house. We heard the missiles going out.”41
Commenting on Jenin in 2002, following the international campaign to accuse Israel of a massacre and war crimes, Bouckaert alleged that “very serious violations of the laws of war took place” and claimed that Israel “clearly failed in [the] important obligation [to minimize suffering to civilians] by causing the significant loss of civilian life and massive damage to civilian property.” This assertion erased Israel’s decision to send soldiers to fight house to house against terrorist infrastructure, instead of relying on airstrikes, due to the civilian presence in Jenin.